Turin, or Torino, is a BIG deal in the history of Italy, but it isn’t the giant tourist destination that cities like Milan and Rome have become. Not to say that it isn’t a delightful tourist destination; it’s still in the top 10 most visited cities in Italy and for good reason. Turin was once a hot-spot for European politics and the birthplace/gathering place of many political heavyweights back in the pre-unification days. It prides itself for being the first capital of unified Italy from 1861 to 1865 and is home to the former rulers, the House of Savoy. Because of this historical and political fanciness, Turin is just chalk full of lovely palazzos, piazzas, and cafés. Obviously, all of those famous politicians and great thinkers needed places to gather in their preferred city!
Nowadays, these are still very popular places to gather but for normal people like you and me. And this is good for us because Turin is absolutely beautiful. My husband and I had been staying in the very international and bustling city of Milan, and when we got off the train in Turin, it was the first time he felt that he was in a truly Italian city (no offense to Milan, you know I love a bustling city, really). Ben, my husband, describes it as, “quaint, historic, and authentic.” Turin has enough to visit for a few days, but my preferred method is to take a nice day trip to Turin as a little break from Milan. Depending on the type of train, it’s a 1-2 hour trip, and we paid about 10 euro ($11.76) each for our tickets. In preparation for your trip, I’d suggest sneakers. Our main mode of transportation was our feet! Without further ado, here’s my suggestions on what to do when you arrive:
What to do:
Egyptian Museum (Museo Egizio) – I was surprised to learn that Turin actually hosts the largest museum dedicated solely to Egyptian art/history/culture outside of Cairo. I wasn’t really a big Egyptian history buff before going here; however, I couldn’t help but be intrigued from what little I did know about the ancient civilization. This museum does not disappoint. It features three floors filled with genuine Egyptian artifacts and the story behind the artifacts, allowing you to imagine life as anyone from a peasant to a pharaoh. Tickets are €15,00 ($17.87) per adult, and you can find more information about the museum and purchase tickets here.
Royal Palace of Turin (Palazzo Reale di Torino) –Italian royalty follows the European trend of being not at all subtle. The Royal Palace of Turin is a beautiful tribute to Baroque style. Inside, visitors can enjoy rooms decorated with grand tapestries, as well as an array of 16th and 17th century arms within the Royal Armoury (Armeria Reale). Tickets are € 12,00 ($14.11) for adults (more information found here). Just behind the Palazzo Reale is the Giardini Reali, the Royal Gardens, a breathtaking green area open to the public and probably one of the most beautiful walking paths in the country.
Mole Antonelliana – A mole refers to a monument of epic proportions, and the Mole Antonelliana certainly fits that description. The original plan was to make it into a synagogue, but when that did not work out, the people decided to make it into a landmark and museum for the city of Turin. Currently, the monument houses The National Cinema Museum, but my personal reason for visiting would be to go up the panoramic lift. The lift takes visitors up to the Panoramic Terrace, 278 feet high, offering a gorgeous skyline view of the city. Ticket prices are € 16.50 (19.41) for adults tickets (more information here).
Palatine Towers (Porta Palatina) – This is an ACTUAL Roman city gate that is still standing in Turin! It is one of the best preserved 1st-century BC gates, though historians are not 100% sure which palace the gate’s name refers to (Palatine = palazzo = palace). The towers are located in a public park area that is free to the public! My suggestion would be to enjoy the view of the beautiful towers while sitting on one of the benches within the nearby park, possibly enjoying a delicious gelato or panino.
Honorable Mention: Sindone Museum (Museo della Sindone) – This is the museum dedicated to the Shroud of Turin, the cloth placed upon Jesus pre-crucifixion as described in the Bible. The church that houses the shroud has a historical museum that takes visitors through the history of the shroud and the reasons why they believe it to be THE shroud. Since they can’t actually put the real shroud on display, they use a lot of replicas and other historical artifacts to keep museum-goers interested. Because this is a very subject-specific museum, I’d suggest only visiting if you already have an interest in the Shroud of Turin.
Where to Eat:
Caffè Mulassano – This adorable little café is a beautifully preserved jewel hidden between the many shops near Piazza Castello. Founded 150 years ago, it was once the meeting place of the members of the House of Savoy and others within the super elite class. The tiny café has not expanded beyond it’s four tables, but not to worry, the gorgeous marble bar is where most gather for a quick aperitivo (basically like a happy hour) of espresso, alcohol, and/or a sweet or savory pastry. Yum!
Tre Galline/Tre Galli – These two restaurants make up sort of a big sister/little sister relationship. Positioned right next to each other, the big sister, Tre Galline, is perfect if you’re looking for the big Italian, specifically Piedmontese, lunch with all the dishes being rooted in the tradition of the region but given a modern twist. Tre Galli, the little sister, is a cute little Italian bistro with somewhat more casual fare, such as a simple pasta or even a burger — but always keeping the Piedmont region in mind.
Mood Libri E Caffé – Ben and I stopped into this little bookshop/lunch restaurant for a quick bit before seeing the sights. This is a bookstore with an adorable little sit-down restaurant inside that serves some simple treats for lunch. This restaurant was perfect for what we needed because we were crunched for time (only in Turin for a day) and wanted to get some city exploring done.
Caffè Torino – In Piazza San Carlo sits this lovely and elegant spot, established in 1903. If you haven’t caught on, Turin’s royal roots still remain strong and heavily influence the city. Caffè Torino has the luxury of the aforementioned Caffè Mulassano but is larger and more like a full restaurant than a little café. You could, and possibly still can, find a number of famous Italians and international celebrities stopping by to grab a coffee, including Ava Gardener!