Piazza San Carlo, Turin, Italy

Turin, Italy: A City Full of Surprises


Piazza San Carlo, Turin, Italy


A little wander around Turin

I’m so lucky that my parents-in-law live in the wonderful North-West Italian city of Turin.  OK, I would like them just as much if they lived in some tiny village next to a coal-mine, but it’s definitely an advantage that they come from such a beautiful place! We were there for Christmas to fill ourselves to bursting with a huge lunch. Afterwards, we headed up to the nearby mountains so the kids could ski on the snow-less pistes.  Before we left, we had time for a waddle around the centre of the city to try to burn off a tiny amount of the calories we’d ingested.


Piazza Castello, Turin, Italy


Turin oozes royalty

Turin is beautiful even when it’s not decked out in all its Christmassy finery.  It was once the seat of the kings and queens of the Savoy kingdom, before Italy became, well….Italy, Thanks to the royal presence, it is filled with palaces and ornate buildings. It is famous for its arched, covered walkways which were built so that the royals could take a stroll from their palaces down to the Po River, just over 1 km (1/2 a mile) away, no matter what the weather. You can now do the same thing, without having to wear a crown and be followed by a screed of courtiers; maybe stopping on the way at a café for a cappuccino and fluffy brioche to boost your energy (or just because they taste so good!).


Turin street, Italy


The miraculous clean-up of the city

When I first saw Turin, over 20 years ago, it was a grime covered, car-strangled city. The beautiful pedestrian piazzas that you can stroll through now were a mess of crazily parked cars.  But, behold!  The Winter Olympics came along and the city made a huge effort to clean itself up.  I think that it is now one of the most beautiful and interesting cities in Italy.  It’s perfect for walking around, but if you get tired, the public transport is actually clean and efficient. There are museums everywhere: for cinema, for cars, for art, and one for the third largest collection of Egyptian artifacts in the world after Cairo and London. If shopping’s your thing, there are many tiny shops/workshops set up by artists and craftspeople.  You can spend hours poking around in their shops and go home with all sorts of original stuff that you’ll never find anywhere else.


Christmas Cheer, Turin, Italy


What to eat in Turin: chocolate and coffee a go-go!

When I go there, I like to spend my time wandering around the centre and stopping every so often in cafes and restaurants.  Turin is (rightly) famous for its coffee and chocolate. One of my favourite chocolate shops is called Guido Gobino.   Their shop in the centre of Turin is set up in an old wooden pharmacy.  The chocolates are displayed in the front windows on black velvet, just like in a jewelry shop. You can even taste the chocolates before buying them!  Though if you go in and just start scoffing yourself, they may not be too pleased. Try to restrain yourself a little.  It’s difficult as the chocolate really is that good!

The cafes and coffee in Turin are so important that they’ll be taking up a post all on their own.  Next time, I’ll show you how to make a coffee drink called a Marocchino that was developed in Turin and tell you how to drink a coffee in Italy (you won’t believe how many rules there are!). So, after a whirlwind tour of Turin, it’s getting late and the sun is starting to set over the River Po. Come and sit with me on the terrace of Caffetteria Antonelli in Piazza Vittorio on the side of the river and drink an aperitif while watching the world go by, and feel very Italian for an instant.


Turin sunset


You can read more that I’ve written on Turin on the site Italian Talks run by the Baglioni hotel Group.

By Lisa Watson