Turin city guide

Turin (Torino) is all tailored suits, aristocracy and… chocolate. They say it’s a blend of new and old, but I don’t see any new, it’s old and older. And it’s beautiful: it’s one of those cities that are better off without all the „new”. It’s a very unique Italian city. The mountains to the north combined with the Baroque architecture give off a special aura. They say there are so many arcs around the city because the king didn’t like rain. Turin was the first capital of Italy after the unification. That role only lasted for four years from 1861 to 1865 but it’s still known as „the cradle of Italian liberty”. There is one place that will give you a general idea of what this place is all about. The Basilica of Superga is located on a hill on the eastern edge of Turin. The basilica is huge but the best part is the view: you see most of the city and the Alps from up there. The Royal Tombs below the baroque church are the burial site of a large part of Italian royalty.

Carignano square with facade of the Carignano palace in Turin

Carignano square: the most beautiful square of Turin, on which the Palazzo Carignano is located, a magnificent palace in the Baroque style

There is one thing more important to Italians than the kings of the past: football. The Torino football team, hailed by some as the best team this country ever had, crashed into Basilica on their flight back from Lisbon. There were no survivors. I’d wager that more people come to pay their respects at the memorial than to see the actual church. That’s how obsessed Italians are with football. With all respect for Torino F.C., but the most famous club of the city is without doubt Juventus, or just Juve. It is record holder when it comes to titles in the Serie A, the highest football league of Italy. Until 2019 it has won 35 titles including 8 in a row. It is amazing. With Ronaldo, who seems to be immune for aging, and the fortuned Agnelli family, that founded Fiat, as main sponsor the prospects look also good for the near future. This legendary club has a huge fan base all over Italy and goes also under brilliant nicknames such as “The Old Lady” or “The Girlfriend of Italy”. Due to the vertical black and white stripes on their shirts they are also called “The White-Blacks” or “The Zebras”. It is an iconic jersey and I was shocked to learn they have changed the design lately. I think some traditions should never change.

You can take a vintage cart down the hill if you don’t feel like walking. The views from the ride are also stunning. Sacra of Saint Michele is located on the opposite side of the city and it’s a real treat. Have you read The Name of the Rose? Or seen the movie? This abbey served as an inspiration for that timeless piece of art. It’s a bit ruined and it had skeletons of dead monks sticking out its walls until recently. But holy shit, the atmosphere of this place is a once in a lifetime experience. The view on Piedmont on one side and the Alps on the other is nothing short of extraordinary.

Torino is a mysterious city where religion and myth coexist in a fragile balance. The Shroud of Turin (also known as the Holy Shroud) is on display in the Chapel of the Holy Shroud. Jesus was supposedly wrapped in this linen cloth after crucifixion. It’s bulletproof, fireproof and people-proof. It’s surrounded by the Royal Palace of Turin, which adds even more security. All that for a piece of cloth that was scientifically identified as a medieval fabrication. Silly science will never get in the way of true faith. Some even say that the Holy Grail arrived in Turin with the Shroud. According to “knowledgeable people” it’s buried between two statues at the entrance to Gran Madre di Dio church. Other “knowledgeable people” claim that it’s actually inside one of those statues. The third theory is that the statues point in the direction of Grail’s resting place, which would be the Torino City Hill. Interesting, but unlikely. I think there’s more of a chance of it being hidden in one of the sarcophagi stored in the Egyptian Museum. Museo Egizio houses over 30 000 artefacts from ancient Egypt, making it one of the greatest collections in the world.

Sacra di San Michele on top of a green mountain near Turin

Sacra Michele castle shows off at the top of a Pirchiriano mountain, which you can reach both on foot and by car; all this beauty is only 40 km away from Turin

In my opinion, the real treasures of Turin are far from the realm of fantasy and history. Piedmont is home to Ferrero Rocher, as a matter of fact, the chocolate industry has always been huge there. One could say that Turin started the European chocolate craze that lasts to this day. It was brought to Italy by the Spaniards towards the end of the 16th century and took the rest of Europe by storm. You probably thought that the Swiss were the first country to become famous for chocolate. Nope, they got it all from Turin. My favourite kind with hazelnuts was also invented in Italy, during the Napoleonic wars. Forget about Nutella and try the local specialty: bicerin (bitcherin). It’s an espresso layered with chocolate and milk or whipped cream sometimes. The Fiat Factory is another thing Turin is known for. I had a Cinquecento once; we called it “a coffin on wheels”. Let’s say it wasn’t the best period in Fiat’s automotive history, but their new stuff is solid. The main factory used to be in Lingotto building, they even had a rooftop racetrack where they could test drive their new projects. They turned it into an ice-skating track for the 2006 Winter Olympics. Cool stuff.

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