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The ultimate guide to Turin

For a few years now, my old schoolfriend and I have made it our mission to visit a new Italian city together each summer. This June, we travelled to Trieste together (read about our trip here and here), but last year, the northern business and cultural hub, Turin, was our holiday destination. We didn’t really know what to expect of the place, but we were blown away upon arrival by its extraordinary beauty and by all the fantastic sights it had to offer. Keep reading to find out what we got up to on our trip, and what you should do, too, if you ever get the chance to visit this city.

The ultimate guide to Turin

When to go

Anna and I went to Turin in mid-July (an unusual decision, since we usually travel together in June), and were very surprised to find that, despite it being the high tourist season, there were relatively few crowds. If you want to avoid queues, however, I’d recommend you go just before or after the Italian school holidays: in late May or early September.

Where to stay

As usual, I’d recommend that you stay as near to the city’s historical centre as possible. This way, you’ll be close to all the sights, as well as the main supermarkets and restaurants. Having said this, Turin is a very walkable place, so you won't have to go far if you want to save a bit of money and stay slightly further out, as we did. Just make sure to check reviews when booking accommodation, as some areas of the city are considered a bit dodgy.

The ultimate guide to Turin

What to do

See the Turin Shroud

I’ll preface this by saying that the actual Turin Shroud is not currently on display – it has to be kept in very particular conditions in order to ensure its preservation – but it’s still worth paying a trip to the impressive Cathedral of Saint John the Baptist to see a replica of it. For those who, until now, were unaware of the existence of this famous linen cloth, some believe that it is imprinted with an image of Jesus Christ, and therefore an object of great holiness. Whether you’re convinced by this, I’d still recommend seeing this sight, and popping into the Museum of the Holy Shroud next door to find out more about the history behind it.

The ultimate guide to Turin

See the city from above

If you’ve read some of my past ultimate guides, you’ll know that I love seeing cities from above, and Turin certainly has some great observation points from which you can do this! The first one is the Mole Antonelliana, originally a synagogue, but now home to the city’s National Museum of Cinema. Ride up to the top of the tower in the suspended glass elevator, and enjoy fantastic views over the city!

The ultimate guide to Turin

If you want a bit more of a unique experience, why not also (or instead) go on the Turin Eye, a hot air balloon that's connected to the ground at all times, but still rises high above the city. Book tickets online in advance to ensure that you get a spot on one of the rides!

The ultimate guide to Turin

Go to the National Museum of Cinema

As I just mentioned, the Mole Antonelliana is home to the National Museum of Cinema, and it would be a shame to enter this building without seeing the fascinating displays it has to offer.

The ultimate guide to Turin

Walk through the institution’s many galleries (I’d recommend setting aside at least two hours to do this), and find out everything you need to know about the history of film production. The many exhibits and interactive displays will keep you occupied all afternoon!

The ultimate guide to Turin

Visit the Egyptian Museum

Another museum you’ve got to visit while in Turin is the Egyptian Museum, a set of galleries spread across several floors, each absolutely packed with ancient artefacts. This place, too, will take at least a couple of hours to get through – it’s the second largest museum in the world of its kind – but if you haven’t got that much time to spare, must-see exhibits include the longest fully preserved Book of the Dead, and the Sphinx in the Hall of Statues. Make sure also to look out for some mummies and sarcophagi!

The ultimate guide to Turin

Wander round the Castello di Rivoli Museum of Contemporary Art

The highlight of our trip, Anna and I both agreed, was a trip to the incredible Castle of Rivoli, a former Residence of the Royal House of Savoy, which has since been converted into a museum of contemporary art. Located just outside Turin (easily accessible by metro, then bus), this institution is home to many fascinating permanent exhibits – among others, a taxidermied horse suspended from one of the ceilings – as well as a few temporary pieces.

The ultimate guide to Turin

Once you’ve reached the top floor of the museum, walk out onto the jutting glass observation point, and get some Instagram-worthy shots!

The ultimate guide to Turin

Visit the Museo del Carcere Le Nuove

The last Turin’s museum that I’d recommend visiting is the Museo del Carcere Le Nuove, a former prison – mostly for partisans during the Second World War – which can now be visited on a private tour (No need to book: just rock up on the day! ). I’ve always been rather fascinated by prisons, so I was mesmerised as we wandered through the various rooms of the establishment: cells, torture chambers, and even a small chapel. I was, however, truly shocked to learn about some of the horrific treatments inmates were forced to undergo.

Just so you know: at the moment, tours are only run in Italian, so if you’re not familiar with this language, you will, unfortunately, miss out on rather a lot of the explanations given about the place. You will, however, be given a booklet with brief descriptions of the main rooms, and I would argue that this place is worth seeing, with or without a detailed commentary.

Walk around Turin’s piazzas

There are many piazzas dotted around Turin, some of which are really rather magnificent. The biggest and most famous of these is the Piazza Castello, home to two exquisite palaces (both open to visitors), as well as cafés, theatres, and fountains. Also worth visiting is the Piazza San Carlo, where you’ll find a number of designer shops (Gucci and Prada, among others), as well as two beautiful churches.

The ultimate guide to Turin

Visit the Allianz Stadium

If any of you are football fans, you won’t want to miss the Allianz Stadium, home to the Juventus Football Club. Visit the museum to find out more about the history of the organisation, or book a tour of the stadium, itself. Who knows? You could bump into Cristiano Ronaldo!

See some Roman ruins

Like many of Italy’s metropolises, Turin was once a Roman city, and some ancient ruins still remain there today. The most impressive of these is the Palatine Gate, which was a former portal built into the walls of the city. Millennia later, it’s still looks as good as new, and you certainly won’t miss it when you turn into Piazza Cesare Augusto! Nearby, and also worth seeing, are the remnants of a first-century amphitheatre.

The ultimate guide to Turin

Go shopping

If you fancy engaging in a bit of retail therapy, Via Roma is where to head. Located bang in the centre of Turin, this street is a shopper's heaven, with its many high-end stores, as well as an architectural wonder, with its magnificent arcades. If you want to minimise the risk of draining your bank account, make your way, instead, to the nearby Via Garibaldi (pictured below), where you'll find all your favourite high street brands.

The ultimate guide to Turin

In the mood for a bit of haggling? Wander round the stalls of Porta Palazzo, the city's biggest open-air market. Here, you’ll find everything from succulent fruits to knock-off designer shoes, and you’ll really get the feeling of mixing with the city’s locals. Just make sure not to buy so much that you can’t fit it all in your suitcase!

The ultimate guide to Turin

Explore commercial Turin

Turin is one of Italy’s business centres, so if you’re heading to the Porta Susa railway station at any point, make sure to look up on your way and admire the skyscrapers in the area. The Grattacielo Intesa Sanpaolo (pictured below) is a particularly spectacular structure, and a great contrast from the old buildings in the centre of town.

The ultimate guide to Turin

Go on a day trip

You’ll probably have more than enough to occupy you during your time in Turin, but if you do find you have a free day, why not go and explore another town or city? Milan and Genoa are the nearest metropolises, but if you’re looking for tourist attractions within Piedmont, the Sacra di San Michele, a mountaintop abbey, is your best bet.

The ultimate guide to Turin

Where to eat

Anna and I did a big grocery shop when we arrived in Turin, so we had the majority of our meals in our Airbnb apartment. However, there were one or two dining spots we tried during our trip, and which we'd recommend that others try, too.

Sfashion Cafè

The first of these was Sfashion Cafè, a typical Italian restaurant where we each enjoyed a large pizza. One of the best things about this place was that, unlike other eateries in the area, tables didn’t have to reserved – we walked in, tired and hungry, and within a minute, we’d been seated. Also commendable was this restaurant’s quirky interior design: its neon signs, hanging mobiles, and old-fashioned posters.

The ultimate guide to Turin

Caffè Al Bicerin

Another place we tried and loved was Caffè Al Bicerin. ‘Bicerin’ is the name of a typical Torinese drink – a bit like hot chocolate, but much thicker and with a dash of espresso in it – and we’d heard that this was the best place to try it. We certainly weren’t disappointed, although if I go back, I'll make sure to order a drink without whipped cream: mine was too rich to finish!

The ultimate guide to Turin

Getting around

When it comes to public transport, Turin is very well catered-for, with its bus, tram, and metro networks. Make sure, if you make use of the latter option, to sit at the front of the train: you’ll get a driver’s view as you whizz through the tunnels. If you’re planning to travel outside the city, Turin also has multiple railway and coach stations.

The ultimate guide to Turin

That’s all, folks!

So there you have it: my ultimate guide to Turin! I was very pleasantly surprised by this city, and really hope I’ll be able to go back again soon, not only because I’m dying to return to the Castle of Rivoli. Get booking your tickets today, and have a great time tourin’ Turin!

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