I’ve associated Turin, by now, mainly with football (the home of two significant football teams: Juventus and Torino FC), Turin Shroud and 2006 Winter Olympics. However, it turns out that not only is Turin just an important business & cultural centre in northern Italy but it is also ranked second city, after Milan, to be the headquarters of the biggest automobile manufacturers in Italy. There are here, among others, FIAT, Intesa Sanpaolo (the biggest bank in Italy), Sparco, Lavazza, Martini&Rossi, RobediKappa or Caffarel. Turin is also ranked fourth city in Italy as far as the number of inhabitants is concerned. So I seized an opportunity to see this city while going skiing.
Last year I made a spontaneous decision to spend my New Year’s Eve and the beginning of New Year skiing in France in the town of Orelle, situated in the so called Three Valleys Area- Les 3 Vallées. The best way to get there for me was to take a flight to Turin and then a train to Modane where it was just a stone throw from to Orelle.
On my way back I decided to go to the city centre and spend a few hours in Turin. All main attractions of the city are located within 20-minute walk from Torino Porta Nova railway station, so it wasn’t difficult. Bur if you’d like to venture a bit further into the city and, for example, visit famous Basilica of Superga, situated on one of the hills (6€ by rail), the best way is to use underground or a tram. Turin has a very well developed network of public transport. A 90-minute ticket costs 1,5 €.
My city walk might not have been too long but I think it was long enough for me to get to know the history of the city and discover its baroque nature.
At first I decided to have a pizza with my skiing companions. Due to the shortage of time (The group had a plane to catch very soon) we didn’t look for a place far from the railway station and we landed in Della Posta bar (Via Camerana 10). At first glance it looked like some Italian milk-bar. There were only Italians at tables. A waitress neither has a menu nor speaks English. She assures us, however, that they can make us any kind of pizza we want to. We don’t expect much though. The food is fresh and like homemade, however far from being ideal. But what can you can’t expect much for 8 €.
We said goodbye and I went to explore the city. Having walked for 15 minutes and passed by thousands of shop windows offering products on sale, as it is in Italy, I finally reach a beautiful Baroque Piazza San Carlo with two twin churches and the statue of Emanuele Filiberto towering in the middle.
Heading straight and crossing the street we’ll pass by another arcades with shop windows and Egyptian Museum (Muzeo Egizio) until we reach another square- Piazza Castello.
Here stands the 17th century Royal Palace (Palazzo Reale), inscribed in UNESCO World Heritage List, and the palace – Palazzo Madama with the Museum of Ancient Art. San Lorenzo church is also located in this area.
If you have more time, sightseeing Royal Palace is a worth thing to do due to its lavish Baroque interiors. The most impressive places there include the Throne Room and Armoury.
At the back of the Palace there are royal gardens – nothing impressive in winter. A little further, though, stands Turin Cathedral of Saint John the Baptist (Duomo di Torino), the current resting place of Turin Shroud. The cathedral itself isn’t among the most beautiful ones. It’s also hardly possible for you to see the shroud itself as it is not normally displayed to a public view, only once every few years. Another date is probably in 2025. It’s worth looking into a side chapel to say your prayer and then climbing the bell tower where a viewpoint is located.
In the distance stands a major landmark tower of a skewer shape, namely, Mole Antonelliana now housing National Museum of Cinema (one of the most important in the world). The building is 170 meters high and was originally conceived of as a synagogue. A panoramic elevator and a viewpoint located under the dome serve as an additional attraction. Unfortunately I had too little time for it.
Turin is also the capital of coffee. Lavazza was born here and cafés are located basically on every corner. On my way back I decided to drop in to Baratti & Milano café, recommended by my colleague, situated near Piazza Castello. The place is really worth visiting due to the quality of its products and unique atmosphere. This historic and incredibly elegant café celebrates its 160th anniversary this year and belongs to a very small group of Sabaudo coat of arms holders, namely, royal suppliers. Apart from beautiful baroque interiors you’ll be positively surprised by the selection of coffees and cakes. It would be a sin not to get tempted although the prices here aren’t the cheapest – coffee 3,5 € and cake of the day 8 €.
Besides chocolate specialities, the café is also engaged into production of both classical high quality “Baratti” candies and delicate cake so typical for the Ligurian Alps: Soft Amaretti and Canestrellini del Sassello. If your wallet and time permit, treat yourself to this moment of pleasure.
To enjoy the city a bit longer, I pick a slightly different way back. Firstly, I visit University of Turin. Then I head back to the main route where I pass by Piazza Carignano and a beautiful building being the seat of the Museum of Risorgimento.
Time to run to the airport. Buses belonging to Sadem company depart to the airport from two railway stations – Porta Nuova and Porta Susa. The ticket costs 6,50 euro (to be purchased in kiosks near the railway or in tabaccherie) and the journey, provided there’s no traffic, takes about 50 minutes. The bus stop is situated at Vittorio Emmanuelle II street in the building lobby next to the railway station.