Welcome to Turin

Guide to Turin, Italy
“Without Italy, Torino would be more or less the same. But without Torino, Italy would be very different.” Umberto Eco

Turin is often overlooked in the blaze of cultural light generated by Rome, Florence and Venice. But this more subtly successful city has its own talents- since its Roman origins, Turin has been a cauldron of creativity and innovation, attracting scientists, writers and artists with its modern outlook and ancient buildings. Turin is also legendary for being the most haunted city in Italy- some believe its foundations were built over the mouth to the gates of hell, and ghosts and myths throng its palaces and arcades. Legend claims that the city has two souls- one linked to white magic, and one to black.

Nowadays, Baroque buildings, art galleries and museums sit alongside glossy designer shops, Art Nouveau mansions oversee thriving markets and the citizens of Turin go about their business with the quiet confidence of those who never want to be elsewhere. The Alps watch over Turin, but closer still are green hills, parks and gardens- it is one of Italy’s greenest cities and the Piedmont region is Italy’s second largest wine producer. Perhaps that’s why nightlife is so important here- the aperitivo- the free early evening buffet-  was invented here, along with the breadstick. It’s also the birthplace of Italian cinema. If the devil does have designs on Turin, so far, he seems to be doing an excellent job.


Take your time...
Perhaps the city’s most famous symbol, the Turin Shroud is on display in the Renaissance Duomo. There will be queues, so if possible, aim to go first thing in the morning. The Egyptian Museum is over 200 years old, and filled with ancient artefacts including royal papyrus scrolls, tombs, temples and mummies. Its collection is considered second only to that of the Cairo museum. Also excellent is the Mole Antonelliana, the Museum of Cinema housed in Turin’s landmark building. Exhibitions are imaginative and immersive, and include film posters, cinema equipment, and image archives – there is also a glass lift which takes vistors to the top of the temple-like tower, and offers a 360* view across the city to the Alps beyond. www.museonazionaledelcinema.it

Or if time is short, take a stroll around the historic city centre, starting at the Castle Square, the heart of the city where the castle of Palazzo Madama houses an art museum. Three grand arcades surround it, and leading away are the four main streets Via Roma, Via Pietro Micca, Via Po and the pedestrianised Via Garibaldi, one of the longest streets in Europe.


Eat in Turin...

Turin is full of restaurants, and, unlike certain areas of the more tourism-driven Italian cities, prices are very reasonable. For an exceptional Italian meal, try La Gola, near the Porta Susa station. A family business, the chef has worked with legendary French chef Paul Bocuse and the wine is hand-picked by the owner from small, independent vineyards. Daily specials focus on regional flavours and the prices are more than reasonable for the quality. (Corso Matteotti 59, 011 5111012). Also recommended are Osteria Antiche Sere, full of old-fashioned charm, which offers well-cooked, unpretentious food- book in advance as it gets busy. (Via Cenischia 9, 10139,  011 385 4347). For a more glamorous evening out, go to Prima dal 1979 Moreno, which offers a high-quality form of Italian tapas. (Corso Unione Sovietica 244,  011 3179191)


There's always time for a drink...

From Spring to Autumn, the Murazzi- a promenade by the River Po which runs through Turin- becomes the fulcrum of the city’s nightlife- bars and clubs are thronged with drinkers and dancers, so head to this area and take your pick. Alterntively, try Caffe Mulassano- a tiny, wood-panelled antiquity, with marble tables and penguin-suited waiters, it’s often claimed to have the best espresso in Italy. (Piazza Castello 9 10123, 011 547 990). Or try Caffé Al Bicerin, (Piazza della Consolata 5,) which in the 18th century invented the bicerin - a blend of espresso, hot chocolate and cream, later a favourite of Alexandre Dumas. Wood-lined, candlelit and tiny, the café still serves its famous creation. The charming Caffe Roberto, too, is a century old, and offers a fabulous aperitivo, the free buffet that is a Turin speciality. (Via Po, 5 10124,  01 839 0214)


Stay the night...
If arriving at night, the Marriott AC Hotel Torino  just outside the centre, is a good choice, as it avoids any problems with city centre traffic. Smart, chic and efficient, it’s a perfect hotel for a stop-over, with parking, a decent restaurant serving classic Italian dishes, computer terminals in the lobby, and quiet, modern bedrooms that guarantee a good night’s sleep. There’s also a tram stop and shopping mall within easy reach. For a more quirky experience, the 4* NH Lingotto is located in the old Fiat factory, which still has the rooftop test track featured in The Italian Job, and offers spacious rooms and comfortable beds. Or stay at Art Hotel Boston- somewhere between a glamorous hotel and a collectors’ museum.

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