Published by Avis, December 2016
Often overlooked by visitors, Turin is one of Italy’s greatest cities. The movement to unify Italy was born in Turin, as was the Fiat, Nutella and many of Italy’s most famous chocolatiers. Turin offers uncrowded boulevards lined with elegant cafes, delicious Piedmontese cuisine and high culture – all on the banks of the River Po. It’s the perfect destination for a reﬁned weekend break.
Day One: Morning
Start the day in typical Torinese style with a sweet breakfast at Caffè Cioccolateria Al Bicerin (Piazza della Consolata, 5). The tiny cafe has been a popular meeting place for over 200 years, and you should not leave Turin without trying it’s eponymous drink. The bicerin comprises indulgent layers of coffee, chocolate and cream – the ultimate modern luxury in 18th century Italy and just as tempting today.
Get to know the geography of the city from the lofty vantage point of Mole Antonelliana (Via Montebello 20, 10124 Turin). Originally built as a synagogue, the landmark now hosts the cinema museum. Glide skywards in the glass elevator for breathtaking views from the observation platform – it’s especially magical at sunset.
Back at street level, wander towards Piazza Castello at the heart of the ancient Roman neighbourhood (il quadrilatero romano), and along Via Garibaldi, which was built on the ancient Roman decumanus maximus. The city is easy to navigate with it’s grid-like layout, and the peaks of Alps helpfully mark north. Stop for a simple, hearty lunch at Da Cianci Piola Caffè (Largo IV Marzo, 9/b, 10122 Torino), where the chalkboard menu is tiny and changes daily. It’s always packed but it’s excellent value for money and the food is fantastic, so it’s worth waiting for a table.
The royal house of Savoy was based in this industrial town, and the mixture of nobility and industry gives the city a unique atmosphere. Around 10km outside of Turin is the Palace of Venaria (Piazza della Repubblica 4, 10078 Venaria Reale) – the rural escape of the Savoy family.
Not unlike Versailles in it’s pompe and grandeur, the ornate interior has been wonderfully restored, and the castle grounds are spectacular against their dramatic mountainous backdrop. The 17th century palace is best experienced during summer, when you can enjoy gondola rides and royal themed buffets. Expect to spend at least 2 hours exploring here.
Cocktail hour is something to behold in Turin. The sumptuous aperitivo scene rivals that of Milan, where the culture was born, with extensive buffets and canapés to savour over a pre-dinner drink. Many are an ample replacement for dinner, and students certainly make the most of this.
Begin the evening under the arches of Piazza San Carlo. Locals have been sipping their aperitivo under the twinkling chandeliers of Caffe San Carlo (Piazza San Carlo 156, 10123 Turin) for almost 200 years, and today it’s still one of the most grandiose spots in town. Drinks cost around €8, including plate after plate of mouthwatering canapés and a platter of local meats and cheeses.
Piedmont is home to the Slow Food movement, which celebrates locally sourced and sustainable produce. Ristorante Consorzio (Via Monte di Pieta’ 23, 10122 Turin) is a stylish new restaurant with a fantastic set menu that celebrates this philosophy. It’s a popular spot, so be sure to book a table well in advance. Stay overnight in one of the beautifully designed rooms at B&B Viastampatori (Via degli Stampatori, 4, 10122 Torino) on the fourth ﬂoor of a palazzo in a leafy, frescoed courtyard.
Day Two: Morning
Back in the day, the Fiat factory in the Lingotto district was at the heart of Italian car production, and the area has since become a powerful symbol of innovation and prosperity. As you emerge from the steps of the metro in Lingotto, you’re faced with the tremendous façade of the old factory, astonishing in its vastness and now home to a shopping mall, concert hall, convention centre, hotel and art museum.
Nearby, Museo Nazionale dell’Automobile (Corso Unita’ d’Italia 40, 10126 Turin) is a fantastic museum that walks you through the evolution of the Italian automobile and the history of its neighbouring factory. It’s equally fascinating for non-enthusiasts, and well worth a visit. The museum is a short walk from Eataly (Via Nizza 224, 10126 Turin). Eataly has become a foodie institution in Milan, Rome and New York City, but this is the original. The enormous food hall has a fabulous selection of Italian ingredients and produce, while numerous counters serve up mouth-watering local dishes. Pull up a stool for a tasty bite to eat over a glass of Piedmontese wine before picking up some gourmet gifts and souvenirs to take home.
After lunch, hop back on Line 1 of the metro and get off at XVIII Dicembre to visit one of the city’s most important attractions. Some say that the Shroud of Turin was used to wrap the body Christ – a claim that has been venerated and contested for centuries. The relic is under lock and key at the Duomo, but the theories are explained at Museo della Sindone (Via San Domenico 28, 10122 Turin), and the church next door has a replica on display behind the altar.
There are notably fewer churches in Turin than other Italian cities, but the shroud has certainly helped to mark the city as a holy place. The best gelato in Italy is to be found at Grom (Piazza Pietro Paleocapa, 1/D) – join the queue and ogle the incredible, colourful display behind the counter. The classic pistachio and nutella ﬂavours are particularly divine here. Amble toward the river and enjoy the view from the banks while you indulge.
For aperitivo this evening, head to Floris House (Via Cavour, 16, 10123 Torino). With a gorgeous shop selling luxury perfumes and gifts, and a salon/bar, it’s the perfect spot to wile away a couple of hours before dinner. The staff are friendly and efﬁcient, offering generous snacks on a three-tier stand to devour over big crystal glasses of spritz, laden with fruit garnish.
Sit down for dinner this evening at one of the city’s oldest restaurants. Porto di Savona (Piazza Vittorio Veneto 2, 10123 Turin) is a 19th century tavern on the beautiful Piazza Vittorio with a menu rich in seasonal ingredients from the Piedmont region. Longer trip? Visit the incredible exhibits at the Egyptian Museum, the contemporary art museum at Castello di Rivoli or hop on a train to the medieval town of Asti.
(All images iStock.com)