A weekend in Turin, Italy
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Soak up the aristocratic atmosphere of the
ancient capital of Savoy with its sophisticated shops, grand boulevards and
baroque palaces, but you won’t be seeing that famous Shroud – it only comes out
a few times a century.
With direct flights from the UK, taking
around two hours, Turin is a convenient destination for a long weekend. Originally
laid out by the Romans, the streets still follow the same grid pattern, and the
centre is compact enough to explore on foot. This was a Royal city, first the
capital of the Kingdom of Savoy and then, briefly Italy’s first capital, before
becoming an industrial powerhouse in the 20th century. These days the factories
are silent and the pedestrianised centre is full of museums, galleries, cafes
The elegant 17th century facade of the Palazzo
Reale and the splendour of its numerous, richly furnished rooms, reflect luxurious
life at court during the reign of the House of Savoy. Don’t miss the Armeria
Reale, the Royal Armoury, with a long gallery of armoured knights sitting on
full sized stuffed horses, including King Carlo Alberto’s favourite animal.
Adjoining the Reale is the chapel where the Shroud is kept, but it was closed
for repairs when I visited.
The Museo Egizio has the largest collection of Egyptian artefacts outside Cairo. King
Charles Emmanuel III started acquiring objects in 1753, but it was King Carlo
Felice who established the present museum in its 17th century Palazzo. There
are three floors exhibiting over six thousand objects. Highlights include a
granite statue of Rameses II and the 3500 year old Ellesija Temple, saved from
Nile flooding and moved here in 1966. The Tomb of Kha is the museum’s centrepiece, containing sarcophagi,
statues, furniture and food for the afterlife, including salted meat and bowls
with remains of tamarind and grapes.
The pagoda-like spire of the Mole
Antonelliana stands out on the Turin skyline and it was originally built as
synagogue in the 19th century. These days it houses the Museo Nazionale del Cinema
with over 7,000 films in the library, a collection of 150,000 posters and
various bits of cinema history, including Marilyn Monroe's bodice. Five floors
document the story of the movies and themed exhibitions include Love and Death
and Horror and Fantasy, all with film sets, photographs, designs and sketches.
Take the glass lift up 87m to the top of the spire for great views of the city,
the river and the Alps.
Showing the influence of Hapsburg Empire,
the city is endowed with ornate historical cafés similar to those in Vienna.
Their interiors are a riot of gilded upholstery, chandeliers, wooden panels and
long mirrors. Ava Gardener and James Stewart were regulars at the Café Torino
and Baratti & Milano is famous for its thick hot chocolate. Café
Mulassano invented the Tramezzino in 1926, the Italian take on a crustless
triangular sandwich and they still serve around 40 varieties at around €4 each.
Ice Cream Parlours
was founded in 1884 by an ice cream maker from Naples but the present shop
dates from 1929. The grandfather of the present owner, Edoardo Cavagnino, came
up with the idea of putting gelato on a stick in 1935 but it was sloppy and
difficult to eat. He solved the problem by coating it with chocolate to keep it
cool and the first Pinguino or Penguin went on sale in 1939. It originally sold
for one Italian Lira, the price of a cinema ticket, and claims to be the
world’s first choc ice. Of course it was a tremendous success and they are
still making it today in five different flavours.
If you really want to get an idea of the
quality of the region’s produce, then you won’t be disappointed at the Porta
Palazzo Market, located in Piazza della Repubblica. With over 800 stalls, it’s
one of the largest open air markets in Europe and is open Monday to Saturday.
There are also three market halls dedicated to fish, meat, cheese and bread and
a farmers’ market with around 100 stalls selling fresh produce.
A short metro ride away, in the suburb of
Lingotto, is the massive former Fiat factory, now tastefully converted by
Italian architect Renzo Piano into a complex of shops, cinemas, restaurants and
hotels. There’s also the Pinacoteca
Giovanni e Marella Agnelli, a small gallery housing a selection of pictures
from the private collection of Fiat founders, the Agnelli family. You’ll find
25 gems from the likes of Canaletto, Picasso, Dali and Matisse plus temporary
exhibitions. From here you can access the rooftop and walk around the 2.5km car
test track, made famous as a location for the Italian Job with Michael Caine.
Just across the street, in another disused
factory, an extraordinary food hall opened in 2007. Eataly now has
branches all over the world and the concept is part supermarket, part farmer’s
market and part wine cellar. They offer the best local produce and there’s a
whole section devoted to Slow Food. It’s not just a shop as there are also
restaurants and cafes serving dishes of the day at reasonable prices.
Nearby is the Museo Nazionale dell’Automobile
with over 200 vehicles from Italy and the rest of the world on display. The
museum dates from 1932 but was extensively refurbished in 2011 and is
imaginatively laid out on three floors, using sound and light to enhance the
experience. It’s a journey through the history of the automobile, from the
earliest models to cars of the future. Don’t miss the 1892 Peugeot and a 1980
Ferrari 308. There are also sections
dealing with car design and environmental issues.
has information about the city.
has information about the region.
Card, from the tourist office in Piazza Castello, gives free entry to the
most important museums. €35 for 2 days. (Included in the Kirker package above.)
di Savona is one the city’s oldest restaurants and serves typical Torino
Defilippis is a shop and restaurant, offering every shape and size of
Silver Travel Advisor recommends Kirker Holidays.
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