Did you know that the city of Turin boasts the highest number of cafés per capita? Better yet, majority of these cafés are the elegant, historic kind. In fact, about every second or third house on Turin’s famous promenade, Via Po, is a café, pasticceria, or confectionery. Furthermore, the sophisticated Piazza San Carlo (one of the important piazzas in Turin) alone houses three of Turin’s incredible historic cafés. Even Paris with all its patisserie culture and fresh croissants doesn’t have as many historic cafés still in operation. So, Turin gives you a unique opportunity to soak up the revolutionary and literary vibes of the 19th century. After all, the city has been a literary center for centuries. In fact, Famous authors the likes of Nietzsche, Alexandre Dumas, Rossini, Puccini, Cavour and Cesare Pavese were regulars in these lovely cafés. So, simple “going for a coffee” is a great option of what to do in Turin.
What to see in Turin? Perhaps something Egyptian? Sounds strange but it’s true. After Cairo, Turin boasts the second most important Egyptian museum in the world. This is not necessarily because of the sheer number of artifacts but for its outstanding quality and importance. How did so many Egyptian artifacts end up in the north of Italy? Well, at one point, the status of a royal family was judged by the number of Egyptian mummies in their collection. No wonder, the House of Savoy was so enthusiastic about gathering as many Egyptian treasures as possible. Turin’s Egyptian museum was created in 1833 by combining the collection of the House of Savoy with that of other museums. Today, having grown over the year, the museum contains a an array of priceless artefacts and displays including statues of Seti II, Sekhmet and Ramesses; a Sarcophagus of Ibi; Papyrus scripts full of hieroglyphics and more.
While Rome goes hand in hand with Antiquity and Florence with the Renaissance, Turin is Italy’s royal city. True other city’s also had noble dynasties but none of them ended up unifying italy and becoming its first capital. The Royal House of Savoy enjoyed proving their power and wealth by building palaces defined by grandeur and opulence. As a result, Turin along with the rest of Piedmont, is peppered with Residences of the Royal House of Savoy. They make for a true sightseeing treat. Take, for instance, the Royal Palace of Turin in Piazza Castello has been the ultimate symbol of power for hundreds since the 16th century. Also in the square stands Palazzo Madama which roots go as far back as the Roman Empire. Other palaces include Palazzo Carignano (Prince of Carignano residence) and Castello del Valentino (today home of the Architecture Faculty of the Polytechnic University of Turin).
For a long time, Turin has been a very well kept secret. Most tourists headed for the internationally renowned beacons of Italian culture and history the likes of Rome and Florence. The world only realized what it’s been missing when this elegant city with royal past hosted the Winter Olympic games of 2006. Since then, the city kept growing and improving its infrastructure, creating a lush royal oasis of the north.
Today, Turin invites visitors to explore its ancient and recent history boasting with palaces, museums, parks, broad tree-lined avenues, elegant restaurants, historic coffee houses, colonnaded streets, and multiethnic neighborhoods. The city has a long history but unlike other Italian cities, it doesn’t dwell on it. Here, the history is respected while life keeps moving forward. In fact, Turin is home to many innovations including the successful Fiat cars or the revolutionary Slow Food movement and supermarket (housed in an old Fiat factory).
So, after you are done inspecting ancient artifacts and admiring baroque architecture, flee to the funky new bars hiding in the cobblestone streets of the old Quadrilatero Romano. Don’t forget to indulge in a glass of local vermouth which, by the way, was born right here. Those too young to enjoy alcoholic beverages can nibble on Gianduja, local hazelnut chocolate created during Napoleon’s rule.
As far as the savory treats are concerned, Piedmont’s cuisine is quite different from the usual Italian stereotype. Look for expertly prepared game, rich risottos and dishes flavored by local white truffles.
So, now you know what to do in Turin? Yes. It’s simple. Indulge in the aristocratic atmosphere, sophisticated shops, elegant boulevards, fancy palaces, lush parks, contemporary art, and innovative vibes.