My top 12 reasons to visit Turin are listed below, but what are yours? The art, history, architecture, bars, food and aperitivi are most likely on everyone’s list!
I can give you my top 12 reasons to visit Turin, Italy, but will it entice you to visit? I should also ask (and let me know in the comments below), are you fortunate enough to have been to Turin? What did you think?
I’ve already told you about The Turin Epicurean Capital Event and Hotel Genio. However, now I want to give you more details about the city itself. To narrow my list down to twelve items was extremely difficult, even though I was only there for five days and had so much more I wanted to see. I simply didn’t have enough time!
Many of the items on my list are interchangeable. For example, the bars hold so much history and the colonnades are an integral part of the amazing architectural style of the city. Of course, I could add shopping, fashion, restaurants, and the style of this royal city to my top 12 reasons to visit Turin, but where do I stop?
I hope you enjoy my photo gallery and are inspired to add Turin to your travels.
Edited August 5, 2017 to add that a reader just informed me that Turin is twinned with GLASGOW! No wonder I fell in love with this city! ? Thank you to Barbara for letting me know!
NB: I put Torino in parentheses to make sure that everyone knows that Turin and Torino are one and the same city. It’s like Rome and Roma, only the latter is much easier for a non-Italian to decipher.
My Top 12 Reasons to Visit Turin (Torino), Italy
1. The Architecture, Art & History
To me, the architecture, art and history of this northern Italian city is what is the most striking to a newcomer. I also feel that they are inseparable.
At each turn, there is a visual feast of architectural gems: columns, inlaid marble, incredible details of wrought iron, glass, paintings and more. Styles of the Renaissance, Baroque and Neo Classical periods abound. It’s not just the exteriors, but also the interiors of buildings which hold these treasures.
There is no shortage of beauty, whether manmade or natural, in the city of Turin. With the Alps nearby, winter is a fabulous time to visit for skiers and snow bunnies. You may recall, Turin was the site of the 2006 Winter Olympics.
Going back much further into history, Turin was the first capital city of Italy and home to the royal House of Savoy. There are so many palaces, or buildings which were originally built as palaces in Turin; for example, the hotel where I stayed, Hotel Genio. Some are now museums, but they are all simply stunning. Much of Turin’s architecture is very uniform due to a historical royal order. The Residences of the Royal House of Savoy and neighborhood are protected as a World Heritage Site. The city simply oozes history and culture. Just take a look at the architecture of these buildings.
There is also evidence of Rome’s influence such as Porta Palazzo. (FYI, we went to a fantastic open air market nearby!)
A believe it was only a year or two ago that I spied a photo of a Bicerin coffee on Instagram. I remember making a mental note that I just had to try this beautiful beverage when in Turin. Not only did I try it, but I had my first Bicerin at the original Caffè Al Bicerin which opened in 1763! My friend, Sanam (My Persian Kitchen) and I were fortunate enough to experience this delicious concoction of espresso, melted chocolate and cream, together. Bicerin are served in many places in Turin, but this is the original location and there’s a plaque where a famous count (a leader in the movement to unify Italy) used to sit everyday for his coffee!
3. Mole Antonelliana and The National Cinema Museum
Such a tall building means that going up to the viewpoint in “La Mole” (la maw-leh) as it’s called in Turin, is definitely a highlight of a visit to this city.
The location of the viewpoint level, at 85 m or 279′, is only about half way up the tower, but the ride in the suspended elevator and the views are both exhilarating!
Sanam and I agreed that the 14 Euros for entry to the National Cinema Museum and for the ride in the elevator and views from the tower was well worth it.
We spent around 20 minutes at the viewing area of La Mole, but over two hours inside the comprehensive museum which made me feel as if I was back in Hollywood! There were so many displays, historical artifacts, old cameras, scripts and memorabilia relating to movie making through the years. It was very interesting and would be a great family outing, too, as there are parts of the museum geared towards children.
The ritual of having aperitivi is so very civilized. I don’t want to jump the gun on my reason #5, but this lovely ritual originated in Turin. Before dinner drinks and little bites meant to whet your appetite is what aperitivi are all about.
However, some bars and restaurants offer a more filling, “apericena” type aperitivo which is more like a buffet of small bites, which, for some, is enough for an entire meal. I don’t mind, as I love lots of antipasti, small bites, hors d’oeuvres, appetizers or whatever you’d like to call them!
5. A City of Firsts
The aperitivo, as I mentioned above, came about due to another creation by Antonio Benedetto Carpano who invented modern day Vermouth. In the 1700s, he used white wine added to an infusion of herbs and spices. He really caused a stir, you might say.
Although I don’t have a photo because it was simply much too hot for this beverage, a regal license and patent was issued in the 1600s for hot drinking chocolate in Turin. Hot chocolate’s birthplace is Turin!
Lavazza coffee was also born in Turin! Sanam, my cousin, Denisa, and I had to have a pitstop one morning at the original coffee shop. The coffee was so good, I had a plain coffee over ice and loved it (I don’t usually drink coffee unless it’s sweet and creamy)!
You probably already know that Turin is where Nutella was born–the worldwide famous chocolate hazelnut spread created by Pietro Ferrero. Although, the Torinese (people from Turin) had been adding hazelnuts to their chocolate to make it go further during times when chocolate was scarce, creating gianduia.
Fabbrica Italiana Automobili Torino (FIAT) was born in Turin.
Cabiria, is the first long running silent film which was shot in Turin.
Tramezzini were invented in Turin (little triangular, crustless sandwiches) at Caffè Mulassano. The photo above of Sanam and I enjoying our aperitivi, was taken there. And yes, we tried a tramezzino which was delicious!
The original ice cream on a stick: Pinguino! Read all about it on my friend Lucia’s site. Don’t go there hungry as the photos of gelato will only make you more hungry.
Turin was Italy’s first capital city.
6. The Bars
Oh, the bars of Turin are wonderful! No, not the type of bars that we have in the US and UK, but drop dead gorgeous bars, that look nothing like we’d expect. Beautiful bars which are buzzing for breakfast (espresso or cappuccino and a pastry), and don’t close until almost midnight. The spaces look like they belong in a palace.
One bar we went into had a massive Murano glass chandelier! It was stunning, but then again, so was the rest of the room! I would venture to visit Turin simply to enjoy the bars, and I’m not talking about the alcohol.
When Sanam and I were going to pay when we were at Caffè Mulassano, in the photo below, we started arguing over who was going to pay. The cashier then told us one of us had a choose an even or odd number, but we were confused. She then explained that they have a clock-like contraption on the wall, and whenever there is such a disagreement, she pushes a button to activate the device (sort of like a roulette wheel). If the person who chose the number is correct the other party pays, if not, they pay! What a fantastic idea, don’t you agree? By the way, I chose odd and it landed on odd so Sanam paid for me. I owe her an aperitivo here in LA!
7. The Arcades, Colonnades & Piazze
There are 18 kilometers of arcades in Turin. I can testify to how much these are appreciated when walking in the blazing sun in record-breaking temps! The beautiful arcades provided much needed shade almost everywhere we went.
Meanwhile, the piazze are more enjoyable in the evenings when it’s cooler. Events are often held in the piazze, such as bonfires, parades or watching fireworks at La Festa di San Giovanni (The Festival of St. John).
I also loved the way the churches and buildings are lit at night. Central Turin is very walkable, morning, noon or night.
8. The Chocolate
Turin is very famous for its chocolate in regard to its history and its quality. There are so many chocolate shops throughout the city. In fact, since 2011, Turin has hosted a chocolate festival in Piazza San Marco each November. I would love to attend that festival! All the chocolate in this city is top quality; the standards are impeccably high. Chocolate is definitely one of my top reasons to visit Turin.
9. The Churches & Cathedrals
The churches and cathedrals in Turin are honestly mind-boggling. Sometimes, there just are no words.
I didn’t add the Shroud of Turin to my list, simply because it won’t go on display again until 2025. There is a replica to see at the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist, if you are interested.
10. The Egyptian Museum
Although I wasn’t able to go to the Egyptian Museum, I had really wanted to go. My cousin Denisa, Sanam and I had it on our to do list for our last day in Turin, but we simply ran out of time. Outside of Egypt, this museum is the best Egyptian museum in the world. I had really been looking forward to seeing the displays and artifacts, but sadly, we didn’t make it.
UPDATED Oct 1, 2017: I returned to Turin with my mother in September and managed to go to the Egyptian Museum. I highly recommend it, but will say that it was the most confusing museum to navigate. Despite this, we thoroughly enjoyed the exhibits and were very impressed.
11. The Gelati
I’m simply not an ice cream girl. At least when I’m at home. Something happens when I go to Europe, and especially Italy. Oh dear, I was a bit naughty with gelato on this trip! We were turned onto a gelateria (which happens to have shops across Italy and Spain) called La Romana and I fell in love! It was so incredibly good, but then the others weren’t actually bad!
12. The Lack of Tourists/Crowds
If you go back through all of the photos you just viewed, I think you’ll find a surprising theme. Do you see it? Each of the photos are missing throngs of tourists jamming the streets as they do in places like Rome, Florence and Venice. With the exception of the piazza when we were watching fireworks, you’ll see that there were no crowds (these photos were taken mid June). This is one of my top reasons to visit Turin again; it was lovely!
Seriously, I felt as though I was traveling back in time, the way places used to be when I was in my twenties. It just seems that so many popular places are getting so overrun with tourists, that they are being ruined, literally. Think of the woman who destroyed the irreplaceable candelabra in the Pantheon, and the fact that Venice is changing laws to protect its city from the ravages of tourism.
One place where I did spot some tourists was when I was passing Mister Hot-Dog which is the reason I took the photo. If you are going to get on a plane and spend a substantial amount of money, please eat the food that the place you are visiting is well known for. Hot dogs and nachos are not on Turin’s list of culinary accomplishments.
I hope you enjoyed my top 12 reasons to visit Turin! Now the million dollar question: are you intrigued? Adding it to your bucket list? What entices you the most? Let me know in the comment section below!
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