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Torino, ciao bella!
Member Name: joey92
Date: 23/07/12, updated on 24/07/12 (28 review reads)
Advantages: Beautiful underrated city in north West Italy.
Disadvantages: Quite pricey in the centre!
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!!
Summary: Visit la bella Torino!!