The Historic Charm of Turin
For almost two full years, I have happily been calling Turin (Torino), Italy home! I have a cozy little apartment in a building that dates back to the late 1800’s. It is comfortably situated in the heart of the city. Every morning, I take the dog for a walk, and still every single time I step outside I marvel at where I live.
Turin has an unique charm unlike any other Italian city I have visited. It’s architecture is reminiscent of France, and shows its ties to Northern Europe. The streets are lined with “portici” huge awnings/arcades that cover the sidewalks so regardless of the weather (Turin unfortunately gets quite a bit of rain), you can wander through the city. I adore living in Turin, not just is it beautiful and lively, it is also well connected for travel, with an airport just a half an hour from the city center and two large trains stations.
*(for a little travel perspective: Cinque Terre is a two hour train ride, Paris is only five hours by train, and under an hour flight, Milan is an hour and a half away by train or car, Rome just a four hour train ride. I would highly recommend a stop in this city for those backpacking through Europe).
Brief History of Turin:
Turin has a long and extensive history, dating back to the Roman Empire. I could probably write multiple books on Turin’s history, however I will try and be brief and only highlight some of the main events that formed the Turin I know and love. You can still see the ancient Roman ruins that have left a skeleton upon which Turin was built; Via Garibaldi was constructed by the Romans and remains one of Turin’s main streets, as well as one of the longest pedestrian only walkways in Europe, if you love shopping Via Garibaldi will be your go to destination while in Turin. There are also the ruins of the ancient city walls that still stand and a park has been constructed there. I often spend summer days in that park with my puppy dog! Augusta Taurinorum was the Emperor who lead the Romans north into the Piedmont region, it is from Taurinorum that the name Turin is derived.
During the Middle Ages the University of Turin was founded. This still boggles my mind, one university has a recorded history longer than my own country’s!
Later, Turin became the capital of the Duchy of Savoy (a state which was made-up of parts of modern day Italy). By 1800, the Piedmont region was taken over by France. This explains not only some of the architectural details, but also the dialect and accent that is heavily influenced by the French, the accent is very nasally and reminds me quite a bit of French. When Napoleon fell, Turin returned as the capital of an ever changing state. Only in 1861 did Italy final become united under King Vittorio Emanuele II of Sardinia, the capital of Italy soon changed to Florence and then finally Rome. The government buildings and palace from the Kingdom of Italy remain iconic well preserved symbols of the city.
In the early 1900 Mussolini left his fascist mark on Turin, creating one of the tallest buildings that dominates the skyline nicknamed “Mussolini’s finger”. By WWII like most European cities, parts of Turin were destroyed, luckily it was rapidly rebuilt and the economy boomed as industry such as the Fiat factory took over the city and employed people from all over Italy, greatly increasing the population and size of Turin.
In 2006 Turin hosted the Winter Olympics. Thanks to the games, the city gained its metro. I am thoroughly impressed by the metro here. It is always fairly clean and very punctual, running almost every 10 minutes throughout operating hours, punctuality is a lovely surprise in Italy! (On a side note the public transportation is super pet friendly!!) The city now-a-days has a young population of students and workers who come from all over Italy and the world. There is always so much to do and see. Turin is truly worth a visit, check out my list of reason why below!
A to-do list while in Turin:
1.Check out the Mole! If you’ve ever wondered what the building was on the Euro 2 cent coin, it’s the Mole Antonelliana! It once was a synagogue, now turned into the National Cinema Museum. If you’re willing to pay 7 Euros (5 Euros for students), you can go to the top to check out views of Turin.
2.Go to Porta Palazzo and shop for literally anything! This is a huge outdoor market that sells fresh fruits and veggies, cheeses, meats, fish, clothes, shoes, and almost anything you can think of!
3.Walk down Via Roma from Porta Nuova to Piazza Castello. This is such a beautiful stroll in a very elegant part of the city, you’ll pass tons of shops, the elegant Piazza San Carlo and churches. It is guaranteed that you can enjoy street music and performers during this walk.
4.Check out the Egyptian Museum which holds the largest collection of Egyptian artifacts outside of Egypt (second to the museum in Cairo).
5.Take a walk along the River Po and see the biggest piazza in Europe, Piazza Vittorio
6. Climb to the top of Monte dei Cappuccini to see a view of the whole city and get some great photos!
7. Go shopping on Via Garibaldi
8. See a replica of the Shroud of Jesus and awe in the beauty of one of my most beloved churches San Lorenzo!
9. Enjoy Turin’s typical hot chocolate drink “Bicerin” at the historic Caffe al Bicerin dating back to 1763. Here is the address Piazza della Consolata, 5, 10122 Torino. Don’t miss this delicious treat!!
10. Have a picnic in Valentino Park, then wander to Borgo Medievale where you can pretend to be royalty! Borgo Medievale is a castle and replica of a medieval village created in 1884 as a birthday present from the King to his son.
If you’ve ever been to Turin share some of your favorite things to do with us. Happy traveling and make sure to put Turin on your vacation destination list!