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My Piemontese bedroom window is a square of sunlight. It's a lazy afternoon in Torino, an Italian city of one million inhabitants situated in the north western region of Piedmont. The location of the 2006 Winter Olympics, the home of Fiat and the original capital of Italy, Torino is, for me, an unexpected and beautiful city off the foreign tourist's radar of "capital" cities.
Turin retains its majesty from its golden age, the time when it was the capital of Italy. The buildings in the centre really give you this feeling, my favourite place to sit was outside the Palazzo Vittorio - for a gorgeous sunny spot with a book!
For a bit of background information, I lived in Turin for 3 months last year au pairing. My visit coincided with the 150th anniversary of the unification of Italy so it was an exciting time for the city and I really saw it at its best.
* Espressos are drunk three times a day at least! It is common to head into a café bar for an espresso at the bar. Order a cappuccino if you're sitting down!
* Service charges are commonplace in cafes and restaurants.
* If you're a girl, don't respond to "ciao bella" if you don't want to be groped.
* Turin is a fairly safe city to walk around at night, especially if you live in the centre. However, the suburbs are to be avoided.
* "Aperitivos" are literally free food! Head to the Piazza del Vittorio for the best of the free buffets.
* Out of town there are various things to do if you head out on a bus including a large shopping centre and "Eataly" the most amazing cook shop!
* There is a bike rental system called "ToBike" where you can purchase a pass to get around the city but be careful of the awful driving.
* Night clubbing carries on into the early hours of the next morning! There's some brilliant nightlife along the river front, including the indie club Xanax.
* Ignore people asking for 20 euros for a picture in the street - they are fakes in general. There are a lot of money grabbing street vendors out on the tourist hunt - beware!
* People don't really get up til late and go to bed in the early hours!
* The pizza is simply amazing, there are pizzerias and foccaccerias on every corner - lunch for 3 euros!
* You really can spend a lot of money in the designer shops.
* There are various places to learn Italian, I recommend the ASAI language school past the central train station, for a truly multicultural experience with learners from all the continents!
* It is easy to get to other Italian cities from the central train station.
* Kissing on the cheek is considered a friendly greeting.
* Make sure you check out the art galleries and museums in the central piazza.
* The cinema museum is brilliant if you are into film. Also head to the top of the Mole for a great view of the city.
* There are loads of churches - see the fabled shroud in the main cattedrale or cathedral (be quiet in here).
* The countryside surrounding Torino is beautiful with many castles or "castellos".
* Region speciality food is easily focaccia bread, a salty bread topped with whatever you fancy - I like focaccia con pomodoro (focaccia with tomatoes)! Head to the foccacceria on the Via Po for a take away focaccia for two euros fifty!
* Supermarkets are great for reasonably priced food!
*Thoughts I wrote down at the time*
The much-anticipated Notte Bianca meant an all-night celebration for the unification anniversary where the whole city, and indeed inhabitants of every major city of Italy, took to the streets. This was rain, fireworks and people spilling into every nook and cranny of the city centre for a festival, followed thankfully by a national holiday.
Sitting in a sunny square after a hike across town, my pathetic excuse for a map a ragged heap of paper on the rickety café table, the remnants of a chocolate fair (yum!) were cleared from the Piazza Vittorio.
The Piazza Vittorio is the "young persons piazza", a huge square to be found at the end of the Via Po dotted with trendy bars and cafés, criss crossed with tram lines and opposing the Piazza Gran Madre and its domed church on the other side of the river.
Park wise, there are a few main parks which are brilliant for lazy picnics in the sun, or little squares to enjoy every flavour of gelato imaginable! Careful of stalkerish men when you are a group of girls sunbathing!
Torino is carefully put together, just like an Italian lady would dress. It's a thoughtful city: perhaps it's the climate and location backed by the Alps, perhaps it's the culture.
According to one source Torino is supposed to be the city with the most beautiful natural setting. I agree entirely with this, you can be turning the corner of a street, perhaps onto the Corso Vittorio and suddenly, at the end of the road there is not just sky but snow topped mountains and sunshine.
I've said once before, but this thought offers itself to me all the time: Turin seems the kind of city that wants to be enjoyed, from the kindly stranger who stops in the street, to the delicate springtime sun that's hot but not oppressively so, to the conveniently placed water pumps constantly offering a stream of liquid gold to the hapless young tourist with no euros left and little idea where the supermarket is or indeed any café where a drink isn't a ritual of appetisers at 4 euros a pop complete with a complimentary exchange in awkwardly phrased Italian.
A sunny piazza San Carlo and a cappuccino with all the frills is just as nice as a semi-tepid drink of water on the statue complete with a melting, dripping Gianduja and yoghurt ice cream which is friends with gravity.
Artistic touches are everywhere, down to the very last detail of the Baroque-era architecture and the beautifully arranged patisserie shop windows with sumptuous 30 euro gateaux.
From the Michelangelo themed Portaloo on Piazza Solferino's building site to the Palazzo Madama's painting collection, it inspires any mildly creative person to pick up the drawing pencils or accidentally spend forty two euros ninety in a cooking shop off the Via XX Settembre...
While the English culture is roads that don't disintegrate into chaos whenever there is a "no left turn" sign, the Italian culture is very much stylish dress sense and a slice of pizza on every corner; it is almost like being given a friendly hug, enveloped in warm, Meditteranean heat.
So if you visit Torino, I can offer you a few tips for the bemused English tourist: green men at the traffic lights translate as "make a run for it", take the tram for free armed with the phrase "Sono inglese" and when you have a small, excitable six year old who wants you to buy her a squishy, water-filled, flashing, smiley-faced yoyo from the street vendor, just don't leave five euros poorer! Did I mention the food?
Torino, like is written in spray paint on the walls of the basement of ASAI language school, TI AMO!!
Being my first trip to Italy I was very excited about the prospect of good food, good wine and of course good sights. Considering that I first thought that I was being asked to go to Truro in Cornwall imagine my delight when I discovered it was actually Turin, Italy (Geography isn't a strong point of mine). I was only in Turin for 2 nights so only got a taste of the area, but it left me wanting more. ********* History of Turin **************** Describing Turin is not an easy task; the city is known for its cold, greyness and large industries. On the other hand, it is also a fascinating, interesting city. It is a city of charm, rich in historic monuments with the entrepreneurial spirit of a place in continual economic growth. It is very ordered, I was told this is because it was built to an urban plan from the roman period with linear streets that are clearly set out. It's an elegant city that does not flaunt its "regal" past, traces of which I'm told can be found in its artistic, historic and museum heritage. Plus the world famous 'Italian Job' with Michael Caine was filmed in Turin. Turin or Torino (as it is locally known) is located in the Piedmont region of Italy which is at the 'thigh' of the country ie. the North West, bordering the French alps. Turin is reputed to be a magical city and it can only be by magic that a city, considered to be the capital of Italian heavy industry (FIAT is based here), is also one of the main tourist attractions of Italy and the fifth largest city in the country. Turin used to be the Capital of Italy, until Rome took over in the 19th Century. Over time Turin became more and more industrialised and it was therefore heavily bombed during the Second World War by the Allies and later subjected to terrible destruction by the retreating Germans. In the 1950's Fiat played an essential role in the re-development of the city, and, after a period of recession in th
e 1980's, it gained importance in the 1990's as one of the most developed technological regions. Thanks to Turin's new image, the city will host the winter Olympics in 2006. *************** Attractions ******************** Of course, there are good reasons why it attracts so many visitors. In the cathedral of Turin is kept the Holy Shroud, the ancient linen winding-sheet in which, according to the tradition, the body of Christ was wrapped after his crucifixion. There is also the Egyptian Museum, which contains an extraordinary collection of art from Ancient Egypt, and the Sabauda Gallery, full of masterpieces by great European artists. Finally, at Turin there are some great monumental testimonies to the important role played by Piedmont in modern Italian history. There are too many attractions to mention plus, because I mainly spent my time in the shops and only got time to read about them, they will of course be visited on my next trip. ***************** Areas *********************** Centre: The physical, historic and cultural centre is the symbol of the ancient capital of kingdom of Savoy. Turin would not be the same without its "palaces", such as the come Palazzo Madama or the Palazzo Reale. These make up an extraordinary walk which winds around the centre for 18 kilometres, and were built to protect the royal family and their court from bad weather. The centre is a maze of what I can only describe as arcades which contain shop, after shop, after shop ranging from Gucci to Bennetton. Crocetta-Cenisia: This is a mostly residential area which is popular with tourists for its elegance. The famous Crocetta market offers a wide variety of quality products. This is the place to take a deep breath of good Turin air amongst distinguished buildings and sophisticated shops. Mirafiori: This area is mainly associated with Fiat, which has its enormous factories here. In the last ten years,
this working class area has been revamped and it is now one of the most popular places for people looking to buy a new house. There are many green areas here, including the famous Park, Parco del Valentino, and the Superga's Park North Turin: This area is highly populated; there are many shops here, but the large number of crowded buildings darken the atmosphere. There are a number of wholesale shops in the area, such as Revedi, but tourists generally prefer to shop in the centre of town. Turin is one of thirty three international official centres for witchcraft. Their focal point is either the astrological sundial on the right side of the Cathedral or the Egyptian Museum which has the second best collection of Egyptian cultural and traditional material and documentation in the world. San Salvario: The multi ethnic area of Turin extends from Porta Nuova train station to Porte Palatine. The large number of immigrants that have poured into Turin in the last few years have settled in this area. Tourists have partly abandoned this area which is one of the districts that is most in need of rehabilitation. ****************** My trip *************** I flew to Turin from Stanstead and was lucky enough to be picked up by my friend's work colleague, it was about a 10 mile journey into the centre. We stayed at the 3 star Gran Mogul which was a Best Western. To be honest I wasn't expecting that much but it was fantastic, it was a suite with everything we could of needed ? air conditioning, trouser press, posh marble bathroom, hairdryer, chaise lounge, a mini bar etc. Plus it was only about a minute walk from Via Roma, a street which is the main shopping strip and the start of a long walk around the cities cafes, restaurants and attractions. The first thing that struck me about the Italian's was how well groomed everybody was. Even though the men did wear incredibly tight jeans / trousers and how do the
women get all of that shopping done in 5 inch heeled stilettos? Secondly it was so friendly - especially as I'm blond so I got a lot of kisses blown at me! I felt very at ease stopping at the various cafes on my own just watching the world go by. Although because I didn't know virtually any Italian when I got there I did feel a little isolated in the beginning because I felt like the only English speaker in the city. After quickly learning hello, please, thank you etc I felt a lot better. We had two meals out but the first night we were taken to a very authentic Italian which was booked for us by a colleague and a lot of Chianti was consumed therefore I can?t remember to name of it. The second night we were recommended a pizzeria called 'La Fila' which was on a side street off the via Roma just in front of the palazzo carignano, this was fabulous, I had a selection of salami's, cheeses, olives and then a steak to follow which was cooked to perfection. The other place that I would recommend to go to is the Café Torino, this was in the main square in front of the Palace Reale. It is an old fashioned type of café that reminded me of Maxims in Paris - a touch of glamour with real Vodka Martini's, Pimms and little tiny patisseries. It wasn?t cheap but it was a lovely place to watch the world go by. **************** In Conclusion ********* My only regret is that we didn't have longer to explore this fabulous city which is perhaps over shadowed by the other famous cities of Italy. I will be going back to explore further!
Turin had been the capital city in Italy for some time when , in 1861, Italy became a real Nation. So no surprise to find so many museum and great palace to visit. Not only italian history, also egyptian with a great important museum on it. Shopping is not so expensive as in Milan or Rome, not too much pollusion, clean city and good public transports. Turin is also the city of one of the most important football team: Juventus, but if you want to take a look at the "Delle Alpi" stadium, be aware and visit it only during the day. The Delle Alpi zone is a new part of the city..work in progress....and often some criminal problems. Turin I think two days visit worth.
Surrounded by various hills and mountains on three sides, Turin has potential to be a city of great beauty. And if all goes according to plan, Turin, or Torino to use it's Italian name, will be something of an awesome city of sights by the time the Olympic games comes round in 6 years time. Right now though, it's a bit like one huge building site dotted with a number of interesting museums and attractive piazzas. You can buy a museum card which lets you into all of them over a two day period for about £8, and is worth it if you have more time after those two days to see the rest of the City. Everywhere you go, construction workers are restoring and rebuilding, and the guided "Touristic Bus Tour" (not recommended) sounds a bit like a broken record, with the multi-lingual guide telling you how each building you pass is very interesting and beautiful, but is currently under reconstruction after some fire or erosion or blah blah (I was asleep by that time). The tourist office, located on the main square at the top of via roma has extremely helpful staff, who speak excellent English and will give you a clear free tourist map, pointing out all the attractions. If you're a sucker for labels check out the rest of Via Roma - however the cheaper alternatives can be found on Via Garibaldi. If you can, visit the Egyptian museum, which is the second (or is it third?) largest collection of Egyptian artifacts in the world. The opening times of all the museums may throw you - this one's open late on Tuesday through to Saturday, and closed on Monday. Get a list of all the opening/closing times from the tourist office. Actually, most things are closed on Monday, so bear that in mind when you decide to visit Turin. Sunday can be quiet too, although things wake up at night - especially along the River Po, where numerous bars and clubs keep people dancing into the wee small hours. The River Po itself has
been the root of several flooding problems quite recently, after its banks burst. It's right inside the city, so if heavy rain is forecast, you may want to detour to Lake Garda (actually, that's probably not the best alternative in such circumstances). The people who walk the streets of Turin are beautiful and skinny and very fashion concious - you can see them checking you out as you walk by, so if you're prone to paranoia, stay away. However, the small number of Italians I actually met in Torino were wonderfully friendly and hospitable, so don't be put off by the whole street cred attitudes. There is an abundance of cafes, restaurants and gelateria, where you can buy rich smooth ice cream piled high, and often made on the premises. Prices for food are cheap, and for clothes are high. A plethora of Statues, fountains and stunning architecture make for endless photo opportunities - there are piazzas every few streets, some of them are nicer than others, but a fairly easy walk will take you round most of them in a day. The train station is right in the centre of town, and has a number of shops for groceries and tourist tat. However it's not the safest place to hang around, especially in the evenings. There are cheap hotels and guesthouses nearby which are mostly clean and hospitable, despite their seedy surroundings. If you're there on a Sunday don't miss the Grand Balon flea market - it's great fun with loads of bargains hiding in amongst loads more junk! Hang on to your wallet though, and don't be persuaded by insistent salesmen. If you plan to visit Turin, make sure you do it properly - you'll need at least three days just to check out the centre of town. If you want to do it properly, take a couple of weeks. And you're best to leave it a few years, till all the good stuff is ready for you.
A cultural city in north west Italy, capital of Turin Province