“Roman Julia Augusta Taurinorum”, “Automobile Capital of Italy”, “The Detroit of Italy”
Once again on a trip returning to a city long time not been. It was back in July 2012, and this was in fact the very first guide I created in my travel blog. Now 5 years after and almost 400 guides later, it was long due for a full remake and edit in order to bring it to the usual standard clear and neat design, with way much more information and description. There are still around 100 guides to eventually keep updating as I return to the cities or merely to revamp them every now and then, but that’s a great achievement I am very proud of, thinking on the countless days and nights I’ve spent in order to maintain such a vast content, backdated to 2009 when I really started with this travel-bug that has seen myself to already 85 countries as of today, hundreds of cities and constantly on the go pretty much every weekend of the year.
Turin, the capital city of the Piedmont region was once the first capital city of Italy in 1861 and home to the House of Savoy, Italy’s royal family. Today it remains as one of the major cultural and economic poles in the country and a very important tourist destination legacy of its superb architecture and elegance combining all of the styles: Renaissance, Baroque, Rococo, neo-classical, and art-nouveau among the Roman foundation of the city with gates, walls and other archaeological remains. Such a vast collection of constructions, especially the grand palaces scattered through the city and nearby villages was the key point for the UNESCO to list it a World Heritage Site under the name: “Residences of the Royal House of Savoy.”
From the 16th century, when Turin twas made the capital of the Duchy of Savoy, the city was one of the major projects in history with the enlargement of the otherwise small city into a big and elegant, with the construction of Piazza San Carlo and Via Roma the major urban achievements coupled with the strengthening of the city’s walls. A second expansion wave came in the 17th century with farther enlargement of the walls, the construction of the Royal Palace, and the famous Via Po linking the riverside to Piazza Castello. This was the last time the city saw such a revival, and for what it owes most of its nowadays enormous cultural heritage. Only during the 1930’s the latest additions was built, the main thoroughfare Via Roma in the Italian Rationalist style.
Few remains stand from the Roman times. This is definitely not the city you come if you want to see such remains. The new city built over follows exactly the same orthogonal street grid, where the ancient Decumanus and Cardo would meet in the Forum, now the square where the Royal Palace is. The entire old town district receives therefore the name of “Quadrilatero Romano”.
The city guards a treasure in it’s cathedral: the Shroud of Turin. This is the famous face in a linen, “claimed to be the face of Jesus”, although neither formally endorsed nor rejected by the Catholic Church. Recently it’s been tested, concluding to be dating from the Middle Ages anyway.
Also another important fact to mention about the city, it’s home to a very solid automotive industry, with Fiat, Lancia and Alfa Romeo headquartered there. It’s no wonder why one of the city’s nickname is “the Detroit of Italy”, “the Automobile Capital of Italy”, or “the cradle of automobile”. Although all the companies have now moved to their new factories, there is an unique legacy near the city centre, the old FIAT factory now converted to a shopping centre where you will find in its roof the test-track! Yes, believe it or not, due to space constraints, they decided to build the track in the rooftop.
There is something great about generally any city in the north of Italy and it comes towards the afternoon. Dinner time. So while of course you have countless restaurants of any kind anywhere, you also have the “happy hour” places where you buy a drink, and get a food buffet included! They call it apericena. Ok, do not expect having a huge choice of food, but it is great enough. For around 8 Euros for a cocktail as an example, then you can eat until you wish, although the general will be around 10 to 12 Euros. A fantastic alternative to an otherwise expensive business that can be finding a nice restaurant, and a much better way to chill out with friends or rest after a long sightseeing day.
For more information about Turin check Wikipedia and Wikitravel sites. Italy’s currency is the Euro (EUR). Please note that any price reference is true as from when this guide was created, therefore check prices in advance as with the time they change.
What to see and do in Turin:
- South of the city The more traditional residential part of the city. Considered as the neighbourhoods south of Corso Vittorio Emanuele II, the main throughfare aligning the southernmost part of the historic centre.
-The old FIAT factory Located in Lingotto area, is now a mix of concert hall, theatres and shopping mall. You will find from the top floor of the shopping mall that the rooftop test track is there still intact!. The smaller headquarters building itself is still used as such. The easiest way to reach is by metro, Lingotto station.
-The Medieval Castle and village in Valentino park. You can have the best view of it from the opposite side of the river. It was built from scratch for the 1884 Arts & Industry Italian Expo.
-Valentino Castle North from the Medieval village it is one of the Savoy Royal Residences listed a World Heritage Site by the UNESCO. It was built from 1633 by architect Carlo di Castellamonte.
-Porta Nuova Railway Station The main and largest of the three in the city, and so the most historic retaining its great old architecture. The main facade aligns with Corso Vittorio Emanuele II.
- Historic centre The “Quadrilatero Romano”, following a perfect grid of streets legacy from the original Roman urbanism.
-Piazza Carlo Felice Right at the front of Porta Nuova train station, the starting point of the main artery through the old town, Via Roma.
-Via Roma The main street on what would be the ancient Roman decumanus, linking all the major squares and most important sights in Turin.
-Piazza San Carlo The second of the squares along Via Roma after Piazza Carlo Felice. An architecture jewel for its symmetry and twin churches Santa Cristina and San Carlo; and the symbol of Turin under the arches on the floor, the bull. Turin means bull.
-Carignano and Carlo Alberto Piazzas Just on the parallel street to Via Roma after Piazza San Carlo, a block before Piazza Castello, one parallel to the other with the Carignano Palace in between.
-Carignano Theatre Aligning the western side of Carignano Square.
-Royal Palace of Carignano Home of the first Italian Parliament, nowadays the Museum of the Italian Risorgimento. It is an entire apple in between both squares. One of the Royal Houses of Savoy UNESCO palaces.
-National Library Along the entire eastern side of Piazza Carlo Alberto, one of the most elegant buildings in the city.
-Palazzo Graneri della Roccia Behind the Library, once one of the most sumptuous residences in Turin, built between 1685 and 1699 for Marc Antonio Graneri by Gian Francesco Baroncelli.
-Galleria Subalpina The northeastern corner of Piazza Carlo Alberto is linked to Piazza Castello by this glass-domed shopping arcade.
-Piazza Castello – Piazzeta Reale The main highlight in the city, surrounded by some of the finest Royal House of Savoy palaces, all of which listed UNESCO World Heritage Sites. The three main roads of Turin meet here: Via Roma, which leads south to the Porta Nuova train station; Via Garibaldi, the pedestrianized shopping high street heading west and Via Po, leading towards the east to Piazza Vittorio Veneto.
-Palazzo Madama The Baroque palace standing right in the middle of the square, where the Roman Decumanus would start (nowadays Via Garibaldi).
-San Lorenzo Church Along the western side of the square, towards the Royal Palace.
-Palazzo Chiablese Home to the very prestigious Egyptian Museum, the second best in the world after that in Cairo. Right after San Lorenzo.
-The Royal Palace Built in the 16th century, in Baroque style, is one of the 13 residences of the Royal House of Savoy inscribed by the UNESCO as World Heritage Site, it faces the northernmost side of the square, creating an imposing view together with both side palaces, Chiablese on the west and the Royal Armory and Royal Library at the east. Behind is the huge Royal Palace Gardens.
-Royal Armory and Royal Library Aligning the entire eastern side of the Piazzeta Reale.
-Turin Government Offices Along the entire northern side of Piazza Castello, attached to the Royal Armory.
-Teatro Regio The eastern side of Piazza Castello follows the very same architectural design as the Turin Government Offices and act as the main facade of the prestigious Teatro Regio (Royal Opera House) behind.
-The Royal Gardens Almost not visible at all by all the palaces aligning at the front. Very big, nicely landscaped full of monuments, statues and water features; next to some Roman remains.
-Via XX Settembre – Piazza Duomo Running west of the Piazzeta Reale parallel to Via Roma.
-Cathedral of Saint John the Baptist (Duomo) Literally attached on the western facade of the Royal Palace, it is stripped of any decoration inside, making it worth only from the outside. As a note, the Shroud of Turin is guarded in the vaults, but you will not come to see it. It will rarely be exhibited.
-Palazzo del Seminario On the southwestern corner of the square.
-Roman Theatre Just a small section is visible at the front of the Museum of Antiquities, northern wing of the Royal Palace.
-Porta Palatina One of the last survivors of the former Roman fortifications. The original Roman pavement is also perfectly visible here.
-Via Palazzo di Citta Heading west from the side of San Lorenzo in Piazza Castello towards the City Hall.
-Piazza Corpus Domini Small square half way to the City Hall, with the Baroque Basilica of Corpus Domini dominating the eastern side.
-City Hall Square Home to the beautiful building at the western side, and the symmetrical constructions on each side.
-Via Garibaldi A street south from the City Hall, is the main throughfare to the western edges of the old town, fully pedestrian, is also one of the most important shopping streets.
-Piazza Statuto This beautiful symmetrical buildings square is at the westernmost edges of the old town. South of this square is the Porta Susa Train Station, the second in Turin, recently revamped with an striking roof.
-Via Po The main throughfare to the eastern edges of the old town, where it meets with the River Po. It is one of the last major urban plan projects within the historic centre.
-Mole Antonelliana The landmark of Turin. A synagogue when completed in 1888, now hosting the museum of the cinema. It’s the highest work of masonry in Europe. You cannot miss to get to the top. You will see the whole city and beyond, and if the day is clear enough, the Alps. While not precise on Via Po, it is just in the perpendicular street Via Montebello.
-Piazza Vittorio Veneto One of the must see in the city and one of the symbols of the city. The largest square in Turin imposing for the symmetry of all the buildings around it. The views from across the River Po where you get to see the Mole Antonelliana and square is your postcard-perfect.
-Ponte Vittorio Emanuele I Across the River Po, natural border of the historic town with the newer neighbourhoods beyond.
-Church of the Great Mother Across the bridge, modeled upon Rome’s Roman Pantheon.
- Outside of the city Where you can find further incredible palaces from the Royal House of Savoy and the best vantage viewing point in the entire city.
-Cathedral of Superga At the northeast, from here you will get the best views of Turin. To reach the top get the old rack railway from Sassi bottom station, 6 Euros return. The tram number 15 will drop you at Sassi from the city centre. This is also the place of the unfortunate 1949 plane crash with the whole Turin football team, with the loss of 18 players.
-Rivoli Castle Located 15 kilometres west of the city, pretty much all the way along the Corso Francia that starts at the Piazza Statuto. Another of the Royal Houses of Savoy UNESCO listed building.
-Stupinigi Palace In the small locality of the same name, 11 kilometres southwest from Turin downtown is home to this spectacular hunting lodge designed by architect Filippo Juvarra for Vittorio Amedeo II from the House of Savoy. Another of the 13 properties listed under the UNESCO “Residences of the Royal House of Savoy.”
-Racconigi Castle 40 kilometres south of Turin, near border with Cuneo province, another impressive House of Savoy Royal Palace, listed by the UNESCO.
-Cuneo and Fossano Two beautiful cities, southwest of Turin, surrounded by the world famous (and UNESCO World Heritage Site listed) vineyards landscapes of Piedmont, containing castles and historic old towns. A separate guide for both is available here.
Photo album from this trip:
Photo album from 2012 trip:
The city has two airports, being the largest Sandro Pertini, commonly known as Caselle the nearest one at 16 kilometres noth of the city. The secondary smaller airport, Levaldigi, is in the locality of Cuneo, 75 kilometres south of Turin and serves majority the low cost carriers.
From Caselle there are trains towards Porta Dora station, north of the city hence not too convenient as there is not even a metro connection there, however, there are buses departing towards Turin Porta Nueova and other cities nearby. A single ticket when bough in the machine or kiosk inside the terminal is 6.50 Euros, else if bough from the driver it is 7 Euros. From Cuneo the only option are buses.
Within the city there is a metro line covering most of the sights within the historic core; and trams and buses through every area in the city and beyond. A single ticket will cost you 1.70 Euros, allowing you to transfer to other mean of transport for free during the next 90 minutes. Distances within the city centre and in between the sights are not too big, and should you need it I would strongly recommend you the trams in order to speed up your visit or if feeling tired. However it does not matter if you are planning to visit all the city on foot, there will be the moment in which for sure you will need the tram number 15 which will bring you to Sassi where you can take the rack railway to the Superga mountain.
A city that is becoming with the years more and more popular and not only in tourism, but also a strong economy and industrial motor of the country, the amount of hotels keep growing constantly. 5 years after our first time here and the difference is enormous. There is a huge choice of hotels and accommodation of any kind, from the top luxurious to the more modest. A good and reasonable point to start your search is by checking some of our preferred affiliate hotel search engine such as Hotels.com, Booking.com, Expedia, Otel.com, Agoda, Opodo, Hotels Click, LateRooms or Ebookers.
In our most recent trip we chose to stay at a hotel near the airport, in the north of the city. The reason was simple, we were planning a wider tour visiting not only Turin (actually revisiting it) but also the cities of Cuneo and Fossano, for what we rented a car hence the flexibility of being anywhere we wanted or wherever we would find the best deal. That always works great! The difference between staying in the city centre of Turin was double the cost than near the airport, for a property of the same characteristics, 4*, breakfast included. We stayed at the Pacific Hotel Airport, in Viale Martiri Della Liberta 76, Borgaro. Right in between the airport and the city centre. Let’s start by wondering from where they got the 4* because it is looking and feeling as a 3*, however, very nice. The staff was incredibly friendly, polite and enjoyably to speak to. The bedroom although dated, was good in size, with a comfortable bed and most important, it was quiet at night so we could have a great rest both days. As last, the breakfast. Comparing to similar properties this was great, medium to large in options and good in quality. Definitely a good choice I recommend for anyone who don’t mind location. However for someone planning in visiting Turin, I would then recommend you to stay somewhere in downtown.
As for our experience back in July 2012, we booked just 2 days before going without any trouble and found a great deal at the Pacific Fortino, in Strada del Fortino 36. A 4* property near the metro station and next door to many of the tram lines. A great location, quiet and clean, very comfortable a nice room with a large bed and a nice breakfast too. This is for sure a 4* property, not like it tends to happen in Italy with the hotel standards where sometimes it is a mystery how they even get 4* because they feel 3 or even lower, however you still pay the extra as if a truly 4*.