2019/08/10

What to do on a 3-night stay in Turin/North Italy

Location

How to walk & explore the capital city of Piedmont

Turin, the Piedmontese metropolis, does not get the hype it really deserves in terms of hot Italian tourist spots! When looking for a city trip in Italy, most travelers think of Rome, Florence or Venice, but not of this striking place in the northern part of this country. What a mistake, this city just oozes charm, history and culture and is not overtouristed as the mentioned more popular siblings further south.

After giving tips where to eat as a fine food lover in Turin in my last post (three top gourmet restaurants and three of the best ice cream shop), I take you for two walks and give recommendations where to stay in style in Italy’s fourth largest city.

First, a couple of general remarks to get your bearings in the probably most underrated city in Italy.

General

Turin, the capital city of the Piedmont region in northern Italy, is located mainly on the western banks of the Po river, surrounded by the Alps on the northern and western front as well as by green hills on the eastern side. Its population is about 900,000 and its metropolitan area has about 2.2 million inhabitants. Economically seen, it is part of the industrial triangle along with Milan and Genoa and ranked third for economic strength in Italy.

Why come here?

Until becoming the capital of a European kingdom, the House of Savoy, Turin was still dominated by the Middle Ages (founded by the Romans, the typical Roman street grid can still be seen in the Quadrilatero Romano neighborhood). But then, in the 17thcentury, the city underwent a transformation that lasted into the 18thcentury and produced an appearance of uniformity that is almost unique in Europe.

Turin has exceptionally important monuments of architectural and historical importance, yet its main attraction is the overall urban development of the city center, planned in the Baroque period under the Kingdom of Savoy. This resulted in 18 km (11 miles) long arcades, a rectangular street system and stylistically unified city palaces. It was at this time, when the Piazza San Carlo, the Via Roma, Palazzo Reale and the Via Po were added. The residences of the Royal House of Savoy are even part of the UNESCO World Heritage List (in Turin: Palazzo Reale, Palazzo Madama, Castello del Valentino and Villa della Regina).

In short, Turin has a rich culture and history, which are not only impressive but can be explored by doing the following two walks. While day one includes major sights in the city center, day two goes beyond the Po river to the green hills of the city. I made corresponding Google Maps highlighting the most important stops complete with pictures and the route. Both walks take about five hours each, including stops and short drink/snack breaks.

Day 1: city center 

The starting point of the tour is by the main railway station, Porta Nuova with its monumental façade,
which is the southern end of the main street of the city center, Via Roma. It was built during the Fascist era and features the most fashionable boutiques of the city nowadays.

The first major square that interrupts Via Roma is Piazza Reale.
After crossing it, take a side trip to the Galleria San Federico, one of the most beautiful shopping arcades in town.
After about a 15-minute walk, you reach Piazza Castello, the heart of the city with buildings just as Palazzo Reale (the historic palace of the House of Savoy) with its park and Palazzo Madama (houses the Turin City Museum of Ancient Art).
Take the passage to the left of Palazzo Reale to the Cattedrale di San Giovanni Battista (one of the few Renaissance pieces and the resting place of the Turin Shroud) and a few steps later to the Porta Palatina, the only remaining Roman city gate.

Outside the gates of the city, you find Europe’s biggest open-air market, offering a large variety of goods and which takes place every day except Sunday.
Not much further you reach the Quadrilatero Romano, Turin’s oldest quarter, where the typical Roman street can still be seen. Head to the Piazza Della Consolata with its church, Santuario della Consolata,
and to have a traditional hot drink called Bicerin (a mix of coffee, chocolate and Fior di Latte) at Caffè al Bicerin, a historic coffeehouse.
Next stop is the Via Garibaldi,
a pedestrian shopping zone. Stroll along the road and make a side trip in the quarter south of it
before returning to Piazza Castello where you turn into the arcaded Via Po
that ends in Piazza Vittorio Veneto,
the largest Baroque Square in Europe and today the heart of Turin’s nightlife.

Do not miss the side trip to the Mole Antonelliana,
the not universally loved symbol of Turin. Its construction began as a Jewish synagogue, nowadays it houses the National Museum of Turin.

Make your way back in the direction of Piazza Castello, taking the other side of Via Po and turn left at the Via Accademia Albertina passing the Pinacoteca dell’Accademia Albertina (art collection of the state art academy) before heading to the Piazza Carlo Alberto with the national library, the Galleria dell’Industria Subalpina and the Palazzo Carignano.
If you want to make a short break, cross the before mentioned Galleria,
one of the most beautiful ones in town, and have a coffee or tea in the Caffè Mulassano,
another historic coffeehouse, this time a tiny jewel box with an art nouveau interior.

For the way back to the Porta Nuova main railway station, opt this time for the traffic-calmed smart shopping street of Via Lagrange.


Tour: Stazione Porta Nuova - Via Roma - Piazza San Carlo - Galleria San Federico - Piazza Castello - Cattedrale di San Giovanni Battista - Porta Palatina - Mercato Porta Palazzo - Piazza della Consolato - Via Garibaldi - Piazza Castello - Via Po - Mole Antonelliana - Piazza Vittorio Veneto - Piazza Carlo Alberto - Galleria dell'Industria Subalpina - Via Giuseppe Luigi Lagrange

Day 2: along river Po & in the hills

Tour 2 starts also at the main railway station of Porta Nuova, from where you go in the direction of the Parco Del Valentino, Turin’s most popular park housing Castello del Valentino, one of the palaces of the Royal House of Savoy. Make a stroll through the park before heading to the bank of river Po to walk along the Murazzi del Po, the walls built to protect the city center from flooding of the river.
The walk along the river Po to the bottom station of the Sassi-Superga railway lasts about an hour. If that seems too long to you, you can take tram No 15 from Piazza Vittorio Veneto as an alternative. Once here – check out the railway’s timetable before, it does not run very often –, board one of the historical cars and reach the summit in a 20-minute drive. A ten-minute walk brings you to the Basilica of Superga
at an altitude of 672 m (2,205 ft), where you can enjoy a splendid panorama of Turin against a backdrop of the Alps, weather permitting.
Take the same way back to the city center – in case you want to walk it again, do this along the other board of river Po. Back in town, head to Chiesa Gran Madre di Dio, located at the western side of river Po, in a Neoclassic-style, before walking up the hill towards Villa della Regina.
This palace was built by the House of Savoy in the 17thcentury and was used as a summer residence for some members of the Royal family. Make a self-guided tour through the palace, located in the greenery of Turin’s hillside, leading you through the residence’s interiors
and the expansive garden.
There is even a vineyard on site with sweeping views of the city.

When you are done here, head to the last sight, the Monte dei Capuccini, another great viewpoint,
this time a bit nearer to the city center, before you hit Turin’s core again!


Tour: Stazione Porta Nuova - Parco del Valentino - Murazzi del Po - Sassi-Superga railway - Basilica di Superga - Piazza Vittorio Veneto (Tram No 15) - Chiesa della Gran Madre di Dio - Villa Della Regina - Monte dei Capuccini

Stay and dine in style

In case you are wondering where to stay in style, my advice is to choose either the Turin Palace Hotel just opposite the main railway station or the Grand Hotel Sitea, situated a ten-minute walk from the heart of the city, Piazza Castello. As the latter was fully booked on our visit (we were here when The Turin Motor Show took place in Parco Valentino), we opted for Turin Palace Hotel
and were satisfied with our choice – however not truly excited about it.

We liked our room (Deluxe Room: spacious and recently updated),
the friendly staff and the stylish roof top bar with great views
but were not so enthusiastic about other things. On the one hand, I was not a fan of the breakfast here (quite a couple of tourist groups, buffet was not as well assorted as I would have wished it). On the other hand, I found the air-condition in our room dysfunctional (did not cool enough, our complaints did not produce any improvements).

In terms of where to dine as a fine food lover, have a look at my last post where I went into three of the best gourmet restaurants in town.
If you love ice cream, I also made three suggestions where to head for exceptionally tasty gelato.
Date of visit: June 2019



Pin it for later

No comments:

Post a Comment