- One must be a fox in order to recognize traps, and a lion to frighten off wolves. Machiavelli Niccolo
Visit Turin, Italy
Situated on the mighty Po river in the far northwest of Italy, and surrounded by stunning alpine scenery, Turin offers visitors a feast of baroque architecture, ornate art nouveau cafés and museum collections covering everything from Egyptology to contemporary art.
Once little more than an industrial city, recent urban regeneration has transformed Turin into one of Italy’s more interesting outposts.
The symbol of Turin is the Mole Antonelliana, whose needle-like spire bursts unmistakably from the city skyline. Completed in the late 19th century, it today houses the Museo Nazionale del Cinema, but was originally conceived as a synagogue. There’s also one of the country’s most famous relics here, the Holy Shroud, said to be a section of the cloth that wrapped Christ's body after the crucifixion. It still attracts thousands of pilgrims.
Turin is also great for drinking – there are many café-bars in and around the city centre, so don’t forget to have a glass or two of Vermouth, which was born here. You’ll also find that Turin has a long history in chocolate and several old, traditional chocolatiers can still be found under the city’s handsome grey porticoes; be sure to scoff a few squares of Gianduja, the hazelnut chocolate created here under Napoleon.
Here are at least ten reasons why this bubbling and inspiring city definitely should be on your Italy bucket list.
Turin is Italy’s only true royal city
While Rome is associated with Antiquity and Florence with the Renaissance, Turin is Italy’s regal city per excellence. Other Italian cities did have their noble dynasties, but these reigned as princes over city-states or as emperors, before the country was unified into the State bearing the name Italy. Only Turin can lay claim to being the first capital of unified Italy, when the Kingdom of Italy was founded in 1861.
The city is also the birth town of the first King of Italy, Vittorio Emanuele II of Savoy. Also born here were some of the major political figures and influential thinkers of that time, among whom Cavour, a leading figure in the movement toward Italian unification and Italy’s first Prime Minister. Nearly all of Italy’s history leading to the unification was centralized in Turin.
The grandeur of Turin can be witnessed all over the city: in the Palazzo Reale, Palazzo Madama, Palazzo Carignano, the large, majestic boulevards and the arcaded shopping streets, and, of course, in La Venaria, Turin’s equivalent of Versailles.
Turin’s historic cafés
The city counts the greatest number of cafés per capita, many of which are historic cafès. About every second or third house on Via Po, Turin’s famous promenade, is a café, confectionery or pasticceria. Piazza San Carlo, one of the main squares of Turin, alone counts three of Turin’s historic cafés.
There is probably no other city in the world with as many historic cafés still in operation, where you can soak up the revolutionary and literary atmosphere of the 19th century. Turin was a literary center for many centuries, from the establishment of the court of the Duchy of Savoy to the period after WWII. Nietzsche, but also Alexandre Dumas, Puccini, Rossini, Cavour and Cesare Pavese were all habitués of these famous coffee houses.
Birth place of the aperitif
Even if you don’t have a sweet tooth, you’re still going to love Turin, as it is here that the concept of aperitivo was born. It was in Turin that Gaspare Campari, the inventor of the eponymous drink, did his apprenticeship as maître licoriste in the mid 1800s. The many historic cafés are actually not just caffeine hubs. After work, people gather on the delightfully busy terraces of the cafés, chatting and enjoying a “Slow drink” with tasteful toasts and appetizers. Remember the tapas from your travels in Spain? Well, this is their Italian ancestor.
World’s most important Egyptian museum outside Egypt
Turin boasts the world’s second most important Egyptian museum after Cairo, not necessarily in terms of number of artifacts (as, when comparing collections, every single minute statuette or small piece is being counted), but because of its outstanding quality.
At one time the grandeur of a royal family was measured by the number of Egyptian mummies they counted in their collections of archeological trophies and the House of Savoy counted among Europe’s most active collectors of Egyptian treasures.