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.
Showing the influence of Hapsburg, the city is endowed with ornate 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 Torino and Baratti & Milano is famous for its thick hot chocolate. Mulassano invented the Tramezzino, the Italian take on a crestless triangular sandwich and they still serve around 40 varieties at around 4€ each.
Ice Cream Parlours
Gelateria Pepino was founded by an ice cream maker from Naples but the present shop dates. The grandfather of the present owner, Edoardo Cavagnino, came up with the idea of putting gelato on a stick 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. It originally sold for one Italian Lira 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.
Nearby is the Museo Nazionale with over 200 vehicles from Italy and the rest of the world on display. The museum dates but was extensively refurbished and is imaginatively laid out on three floors, using sound and light to enhance the experience. It’s a journey through of the automobile, from the earliest models to cars of the future. There are also sections dealing with car design and environmental issues.
The elegant 17th century facade of the Palazzo Reale and the splendour of its numerous, richly furnished rooms, reflect luxurious life at court and centuries 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 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 del with over 7,000 films in the library, a collection of 150,000 posters and various bits of cinema, including Marilyn Monroe’s bodice. Five floors document the story and themed exhibitions include Love, 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.