Image via Sorsillo
Today’s city guide comes from Chelsea Christensen, an American who lives with her Italian boyfriend in Torino, Italy. She owns an online vintage clothing and photography shop called Italian Postcards and blogs about her daily expat life at All Roads Lead to Pecetto. Chelsea was also recently featured on an episode of House Hunters International called “Taking off to Torino.” Today she shares some of the many charming eats, museums and hotels you can find in this historic town. Thank you, Chelsea, for sharing Torino with us! — Stephanie
Read the full city guide after the jump . . .
Torino, or Turin, is a large city perfectly situated in the north of Italy only one hour from the ski resorts of the Alps, one hour from the Mediterranean Sea and the Italian Riviera and two hours from Milan. For its beauty and history alone, it should make your list of must-see cities in Europe, but if you need more convincing, let me add that the Republic of Italy, the Slow Food Movement, the Fiat 500, the Martini Vermouth, the chocolate bar and ice cream on a stick were all invented in Torino.
Torino is a pretty easy city to navigate by foot if you are staying around the city center. I’ve broken the city up into three neighborhoods to make this an easy guide to follow and have also included this Google Map.
Torino is magical place. Its geographic location forms a “white magical triangle” of mystical energies with Lyon and Prague, as well as a “black magical triangle” with London and San Francisco. These two triangles converge right in the center of Piazza Castello, which is an excellent place to begin your exploration of Torino. There are not one but two castles taking precedence in this large square. Both were residences of the Savoia family, a dynasty that ruled this part of Italy for 300 years, and both are UNESCO listed and protected sites.
Palazzo Madama: A hybrid palace with a Roman base, medieval towers and a baroque facade. It became the home of the Madame Royale, otherwise known as the queen. Step inside and find the Roman base at the bottom floor and the queen’s apartments on the upper levels as well as the royal collections of art and furniture. Piazza Castello
Palazzo Reale: Built in 1646, this was the main residence for the royals who lived here until 1865. Tours are given mostly in Italian, but they are still worth a look if you want to see how the Italian aristocracy lived and worked. Piazza Castello
Cathedral of San Giovanni Battista: If you know anything about the shroud of Turin, then you know that it is “shrouded” in controversy and mystery. Many Catholics believe that the cloth that covered Jesus in his tomb is housed in this church. The relic itself is only on display once every 10 years with the last showing in 2010. When it’s not on display, you can view photographs, read about the history of the cloth and find out how it ended up in Torino. The cathedral itself is the only remaining example of renaissance architecture left standing in Torino. Via XX Settembre, 79
Porto Paltina: This wall of arches is all that remains of the west gate into the Roman city then called Augusta Taurinorum. It’s now a public park. Just across the street, toward the castle, archeologists are still working on uncovering the remains of a fairly recently discovered Roman theatre. Via Porta Palatina, 13
Museum of Antiquities (Museo di Antichità): Housing artifacts from pre-historic to Roman to medieval Torino, this museum is an archaeological dream. The section with the ladies’ Roman jewelry is one of my favorite exhibits. Corso Regina Margherita, 10
Caffe della Basilica: Uniquely positioned in front of the church of the shroud and the Roman gate, this restaurant, whose menu changes according to the seasons, is always delicious. It is built atop an ancient Roman wine cellar. If you go downstairs, you can see through the glass floor to parts of that cellar. Via della Basilica, 3
Agnolotti & Friends: Traditional Piemonese fare is served here, including the famous agnolotti pasta, which looks similar to tortellini but with a meat filling and is served in a broth with parmesan on top. Piazza Corpus Domini, 18b
NH Santo Stefano Hotel: Right at the footsteps of the Holy Shroud Church and bell tower, the location could not be more centrally perfect. Plus, the hotel’s contemporary architecture is a pleasant modern contrast against the ancient Roman ruins next door. Via Porta Palatina, 19
Piazza San Carlo: This large 17th-century square was first used as the main marketplace and now has some of the city’s oldest and most historic shops and cafes.
Egyptian Museum (Museo d’Egitto): Torino doesn’t just have an Egyptian museum; they have the largest and most comprehensive collection of Egyptian artifacts outside of Cairo. How did that happen? Most objects in the museum came from a 19th-century private collection. It was quite fashionable at the time to buy artifacts from Egypt. Now it’s open to the public. One of the many highlights in the museum is the room of Kha and Merit. Everything in this exhibit was taken from a complete tomb of a husband and wife who had been mummified there with all they could ever want in the afterlife, including food, complete cosmetic kits, styled and beaded wigs and perfectly preserved shoes. Exactly what I would have taken to my tomb. Via Accademia delle Scienze, 6
Piazza Carignano: Hands down my favorite piazza in the city. It’s also the prettiest and full of history. The large, seemingly undulating brick building taking up most of the attention is called Palazzo Carignano. It was a Savoia palace, but it is also home of the very first Italian Parliament, making it the birthplace of Italy as a united country. You can take a tour inside if you would like to know more about the history of the republic. Another notable favorite in this square is the corner gelatoria called Pepino’s. This is the place where, in 1935, the ice cream on a stick was invented. At the time, they called it “walking gelato.” It was made to be eaten while taking your traditional evening stroll or passeggiata. It’s now called the “pinguino.” Piazza Carignano
Via Roma: If you are in the mood for some luxury or window shopping, this is the place for you. Via Roma is where you will find shops like Salvatore Ferragamo and Hermes.
Arcadia: A beautiful Italian restaurant that makes unique dishes, such as pumpkin ravioli in a sage butter sauce and fried zucchini flowers stuffed with mozzarella, ricotta and pesto. They pour you a glass of sparkling Spumante the moment you sit down, plus they have an extensive sushi menu if you need a break from Italian and want to mix it up. Galleria Subalpina, Piazza Castello
Cafe Neuv Caval d’Brons: This is my favorite of the historic cafes in Piazza San Carlo. Try a local favorite caffeine fix, the Bicerin. It starts with a thick hot-chocolate base, then a shot of espresso and a layer of cream on top. Local tip: Don’t stir your Bicerin; it’s meant to be drunk in layers. Piazza San Carlo, 155
Guido Gobino Chocolate Shop: Chocolate is big business in this city. There are more master chocolatiers in Torino alone than in France and Belgium combined. The most famous chocolates made in Torino are giandujotto (prounced: jan-do-yo-toe). They are a smooth and creamy blend of milk chocolate and hazelnuts that are wrapped in shiny gold papers. If you are in the city in early March, you can catch the ChocolaTO festival where all of those chocolatiers show off their best products. Otherwise, you can pop into Guido Gobino’s for a chocolate . . . or two. Via La Grange, 1
Grom: If you see a long line at a gelatoria, it’s most likely Grom. Torino’s most popular and eco-friendly gelatoria has a rotating seasonal menu of flavors and each seems to be better than the one before. My recommended flavor: Crema di Grom, a vanilla base with graham-cracker biscuits and dark-chocolate chunks. Local tip: If asked whether you want the cream, say yes! Although the average ice cream eater does not add whipped cream to their cone, this is a specialty of Grom’s, and you won’t be sorry. Via Accademia delle Scienze, 4
Ata Hotel Concord: A four-star hotel located just steps away from the Egyptian Museum and a bustling neighborhood, which will make you feel thoroughly immersed in the city. Via Lagrange, 47
ALONG THE PO
Via Po is the street that goes directly from Piazza Castello to the River Po. Its long sidewalks were built in the 18th century completely covered in porticos. This was the express order of King Vittorio Amedeo II di Savoia so that he could take his daily walk to the river without getting wet from the rain or snow. Luckily, today we all get to enjoy the coverage. Via Po is full of shops, cafes and gelatorias.
Mole Antonelliana: You can’t miss this building; it is the symbol of the city and the tallest structure in Torino. The Mole is located right off Via Po. It was originally built as a synagogue but now houses the Museum of Cinema (Museo Nazionale del Cinema), which is worth a visit. Make sure you use your ticket to board the glass elevator that goes to the top where you will get a stunning view of the city including the two rivers that cross through Turin and the surrounding Alps. Via Montebello, 20
Piazza Vittorio Veneto: Via Po ends at Piazza Vittorio and the River Po. The square, river and Gran Madre Church straight ahead are quite picturesque, but I also think it is the best place to stop for an aperitivo. Aperitivo hour usually takes place around 7 pm, as a traditional after-work drink. I recommend Cafe Vittorio to have locally made Vermouth, or try a Piedmont wine such a Barolo, Dolcetto, or Asti Spumante. Your drink purchase comes with a delicious appetizer buffet, which really hits the spot when waiting to have an Italian dinner, usually not eaten until 9 pm. Piazza Vittorio, 187