Turin (Torino) is the capital of Italy's Piedmont (Piemonte) region, in the north-west of the country, surrounded by the charming landscape of the Alps. The town was the residence of the Savoia royal family and the first capital of united Italy. Visiting the historic centre of Turin you'll discover beautiful squares, baroque palaces, royal residences and shopping streets; the town is famous for its 18 km of arcades, built in the 18th century, and under which you can find everything you need, from antique shops to the fashion shops as well as the town's historical café.
The Roman and Medieval City
The oldest part of the city, known as Quadrilatero**, preserves both in its name and in the layout of its streets the memory of the original Roman city of Augusta Taurinorum. This pedestrian area spreads around the north-south axis, “cardo”, nowadays via Porta Palatina, and the east-west axis, “decumanus maximus”, the modern via Garibaldi**. Redisigned by Juvarra, this is nowadays the longest pedestrian street in Torino and a busy shopping district. Even in the past it was an important commercial artery, as the profusion of craftsmen and small shops in the nearby via Barbaroux, via dei Mercanti and via Stampatori show. Via Garibaldi links two important squares, piazza Castello*** (see below) and Piazza Statuto*, the elegant and austere square, the name of which reminds of the Statuto Albertino released by King Carlo Alberto in 1848.
Traces of the squared city of the Roman settlement can be found in the remains of a theatre and the walls of the Porte Palatine**, one of the four original entrance doors of the Roman city, near Piazza S. Giovanni. Next to the archeological park, this square is dominated by the elegant marble facade of the cathedral, a Renaissance building connected to the Royal Palace by the Chapel of the Holy Shroud.
The square and the area around it house a stratification of historic signs, from Baroque decoration to the Medieval windows and arches of the houses which frame largo IV Marzo. One of the most important remains of medieval ages is the Gothic church of San Domenico*. Another perfectly preserved example of medieval art in Torino is the bell tower of the baroque church Sant’Andrea, better known as Santuario della Consolata. A labyrinth of streets fans out from piazza Emanuele Filiberto, in back of Porta Palazzo** market square, the Europe’s largest open-air market. In the bottom right-hand corner of the square the old covered market known as Tettoia dell’Orologio (Roofed-market of the Clock) stands in marked contrast to the futuristic building to the left. On the opposite side of the square the indoor gallery Umberto I looks onto the market, with its elegant boutiques and nice cafes. Until recently considered dangerous and disputable, the area has been upgraded, transformed into the headquarters of young creativity and one of the most effervescent gathering places in town: a variety of restaurants, nightspots, boutiques, wine cellars and cocktail bars lead from one street to the next.
It is suggested to visit in this area the MAO** (Museum of Oriental Art), located in Via S. Domenico 11. The museum is devoted to the most important cultural and artistic traditions of the Asiatic continent and collect about 2200 artworks from different Asian countries.
From piazza Castello to the Po River
Piazza Castello*** is the heart of the city and the perfect location for a journey through the ages. It represents the historical, political and administrative centre of the old capital of the Kingdom of Savoy. Surrounded by porticoes, its center is dominated by the imposing medieval castle that retains two of its original typical corner towers. The building has been built on top of the Roman Western Gate and fortification walls, remnants of which are still visible at the ground level. The west side of the castle was later rebuilt into a magnificent baroque facade and building, serving as the seat of the first Italian Senate and named Palazzo Madama***. The palace houses the Museo Civico di Arte Antica* (Museo Palazzo Madama), a large collection of paintings, statues, church ornaments, porcelain, and decorative art, mostly from the late Middle Ages to the 18th Century. The hall of the palace and the two awesome staircases** ending up in the superior vestibule, extraordinary creation of the architect Filippo Juvarra.
The other famous palace of the square is Palazzo Reale**, the official residence of the Savoy royal family until 1865. In 1946 the palace was claimed by the Italian Republic and turned into a "Museum of the Life and Works of the House of Savoy". Its rooms are decorated with rich tapestries and a collection of Chinese and Japanese vases. In 1997 it’s been placed on the UNESCO World Heritage Site list along with other residences of the House of Savoy. All public museums (the Royal Gardens, the Royal Library, the Royal Armoury, the new Savoy Gallery, the Archaeological Museum and Chiablese Palace) led by Palazzo Reale are connected in a network called Polo Reale*** (Musei Reali Torino). Just face to Palazzo Madama is the church of San Lorenzo** (Guarino Guarini, 1666) with an astonishing baroque interior.
Via Po** leads off from piazza Castello to the Po River and offers a perfect opportunity to enjoy a stroll down the wide porticoed street characterized by antique shops, bookstores and some of the most historic premises. Buildings of particular interest include Palazzo dell’Università erected in 1720 (via Po 12) and the elegant building of 1624 housing the Museo di Arti Decorative* – Fondazione Accorsi (via Po 55), home to the collection of Italian and foreign furniture and furnishings of the late antique dealer and art connoisseur Pietro Accorsi. Via Po ends in Piazza Vittorio Veneto**, a spacious square, originally used for military training and parades, surrounded on three sides by porticoed buildings and by the Po river on the fourth side. The bridge built during the Napoleonic period crosses to the church of Gran Madre di Dio. The square is also popular for the cafés and wine bars open all hours of the day.
Not far from Via Po stands the symbol of Torino, namely the Mole Antonelliana**, so named after the architect who built it, Alessandro Antonelli. Construction began in 1863 as a Jewish synagogue. Nowadays it houses the National Museum of Cinema** (Museo Nazionale del Cinema) and it is the tallest museum in the world (167 metres), with sections dedicated to the historical origins of film making, the history of photography, and collection of posters, advertising material and props. Take the fast panoramic lift inside the Mole to enjoy a dazzling bird’s eye view of the city and the Alps from 85 meters up.
Around via Roma
Another direction from piazza Castello heads towards via Roma*, the city’s most famous shopping street with arcades 750 meters long, lined by boutiques, famous brands and labels. Half way to Porta Nuova railway station, via Roma opens to piazza San Carlo***, the so-called drawing room of Torino, a wide pedestrian square animated by the dehors of some historically famous cafés. At the southern end are the churches of Santa Cristina and San Carlo, built in the 1630’s. At the center of the square is a 19th century statue of Emanuele Filiberto that has become an emblem of the city. Called Caval ëd Brons in local dialect ("Bronze Horse"), the monument depicts the Duke sheathing his sword after the Battle of St. Quentin.
Parallel to Via Roma, other two popular pedestrian streets, namely Via Lagrange (a second shopping street with luxury brands) and Via Carlo Alberto, cross the city center from Via Po to Corso Vittorio Emanuele II. Via Lagrange crosses Piazza Carignano**, well known mainly for the undulating “concave - convex - concave” Baroque façade of Palazzo Carignano designed by Guarino Guarini (1679) for the Carignano branch of the Savoy family. In 1820 Italy’s first king, Vittorio Emanuele II, was born here. The unification of Italy was here announced in 1861 and the building became the venue of the first Italian Parliament. Nowadays the palace houses the Museo Nazionale del Risorgimento (Museo del Risorgimento) devoted to the 19th century unification of Italy, with a collection of curious personal items documenting the life and work of the leading figures in the struggle for Italian unity (1861).
In via Lagrange, close to Piazza Carignano, the austere 17th century Collegio dei Nobili Palace built by the architect Guarino Guarini hosts the Accademia delle Scienze (a scientific Academy founded by the mathematician Louis Lagrange in the second half of the eighteenth century) and the Egyptian Museum*** (Museo Egizio). Opened in 1824, the museum shows the most important collection of Egyptian treasure outside Cairo. Among its many highlights are a statue of Ramses II, the world's largest papyrus collection and over 500 funerary and domestic items found in 1906 in the tomb of royal architect Kha and his wife Merit (from 1400 BC).
Turin also makes a good base for exploring nearby mountains and valleys. From Turin is also very easy to reach the famous vineyards of Langhe Roero and Monferrato , the regional area recently included in the World Heritage List of UNESCO where you can taste the most famous Piedmontese wines: Barolo, Barbaresco, Nebbiolo, Roero, Barbera, Dolcetto and Arneis.
Some useful links:
Torino turist information, Turismo Torino e Provincia
Turismo Torino e Provincia is the Convention & Visitors Bureau for the city of Turin and its provincial territory. It is the organisation for promoting the province of Turin as a tourist destination for leisure, sport, nature, culture, individual and group trips, conferences, conventions, incentive travel and business travel.
Discounts and benefits will be available for conference participants, including for example:
- Turin + Piedmont Card: discounted purchase of the Card which allows free entry to the main cultural sites of Turin and its surroundings, in the Royal Residences of Piedmont, as well as monuments, castles, fortresses and exhibitions from all over Piedmont.
- City Sightseeing Bus: 10% discount on the scheduled service.
- Eco Turin Eco City Tour: € 1 discount on the ticket price.
Torino sightseeing, Torino sightseeing
Public transport in Turin, GTT website
Piedmont turist information, Piemonte Italia