Turin, or Torino, is a city with a rich cultural history in the Piedmont (Piemonte) region of Italy between the Po River and the foothills of the Alps. Famous for the Shroud of Turin, an important Christian artifact, and Fiat auto plants, the city was Italy's first capital. Turin remains a hub of business activity within the country and the European Union.
Turin doesn't have the tourism industry that Rome, Venice, and other parts of Italy have, but it's a great city for exploring nearby mountains and valleys. And its Baroque cafes and architecture, arcade shopping promenades, and museums give Turin plenty to offer the adventurous tourist.
Location and Transportation
Turin is served by a small airport, Citta di Torino-Sandro Pertini, with flights to and from Europe. The closest airport for flights from the United States is in Milan, a little over an hour away by train.
Trains and intercity buses provide transportation to and from Turin from other towns. The main railway station is Porta Nuova in the center at Piazza Carlo Felice. The Porta Susa Station serves trains to and from Milan and is connected to the city center and the main station by bus.
Turin has an extensive network of trams and buses that run from early morning until midnight. There are also electric mini-buses in the city center. Bus and tram tickets can be bought in a tabacchi shop.
What to See and Do
- Piazza Castello and Palazzo Reale are at the center of Turin. The square is a pedestrian area with benches and small fountains, ringed by beautiful, grand buildings.
- The Via Po is an interesting walking street with long arcades and many historic palaces and cafes. Start at Piazza Castello.
- Mole Antonelliana, a 167-meter tall tower built between 1798 and 1888, houses an excellent cinema museum. A panoramic lift takes you to the top of the tower for some expansive views of the city.
- Palazzo Carignano is the birthplace of Vittorio Emanuele II in 1820. The Unification of Italy was proclaimed here in 1861. It now houses the Museo del Risorgimento and you can see the royal apartments Royal Armory, too.
- Museo Egizio is a large Egyptian museum housed in a huge baroque palace. The palace also holds the Galleria Sabauda with a large collection of historic paintings.
- Piazza San Carlo, known as the "drawing room of Turin", is a beautiful baroque square with the twin churches of San Carlo and Santa Cristina as well as the above museum.
- Il Quadrilatero is an interesting maze of back streets with sprawling markets and splendid churches. This is another good place to wander.
- Elegant and historic bars and cafes are everywhere in central Turin. Try a bicerin, a local layered drink made with coffee, chocolate, and cream. Cafes in Turin also serve other interesting trendy coffee drinks.
- Borgo Mediovale, or medieval Borgo, is a recreation of a medieval village with a castle, created in 1884 for the International Exposition in the city of Turin. It's by the river in the Parco del Valentino.
- Turin was one of the first cities in Italy to embrace a cafe society. Besides hot drinks, ice cream, pastries, and alcoholic drinks, many cafes serve food appetizers with the evening aperitive. Since you pay more to sit down, either inside or outside, make it worthwhile by spending some time at your table enjoying the scene.
- Shroud of Turin Museum: The Shroud of Turin, or the Holy Shroud, is housed in the Turin Cathedral but is only put on display for certain periods. The Museum of the Holy Shroud is open daily.
The Piedmont region has some of the best food in Italy. More than 160 types of cheese and famous wines like Barolo and Barbaresco come from this area, as do truffles, which are plentiful in the autumn. You'll find outstanding pastries, especially chocolate ones, and it’s worth noting that the concept of chocolate for eating as we know it today (bars and pieces) originated in Turin. The chocolate-hazelnut sauce, gianduja, is a specialty.
Turin celebrates its patron saint of Joseph in the Festa di San Giovanni June 24 with events all day and a huge fireworks display at night. There's a big chocolate festival in March and several music and theater festivals in summer and fall. During the Christmas season there's a two-week street market and on New Year's Eve, Turin hosts an open-air concert in the main piazza.