Historic cafes, Lavazza coffee, gourmet chocolate, and Juventus: there’s a lot to love about Torino (Turin). As one of Italy’s industrial dynamos—notably the home of Fiat—it’s a rich city of grand museums, galleries, gorgeous piazzas and designer boutiques. It is also home to one of world’s largest food and wine fairs, the Terra Madre Salone del Gusto, which has a focus on Slow Food and runs every two years in September (the next event is due in 2020). As a bonus, the Alps are a short ride away, with snowy peaks visible on the horizon.
Planning Your Trip
It is possible to see Turin’s highlights in one rushed day, but to really appreciate the city you’ll need three days or more. On the tightest schedule, you could spend a morning in the Palazzo Reale and cathedral, grab lunch, coffee and chocolate at Caffè Baratti & Milano, then take in the Mole Antonelliana. End the afternoon with a stroll down Via Roma and a vermouth or Caffe’ Torino, followed with an evening stroll along the River Po and dinner at Del Cambio or Cannavacciulo Bistrot.
With another day you could explore the Quadrilatero Romano (Turin Shroud Museum and Santuario della Consolata), as well as perusing the Museo Egizio and spending a lot more time eating and drinking in Turin’s cafés and chocolate shops. A third day could take in the attractions of Lingotto and the Basilica di Superga (or the Juventus Museum), with a final day dedicated to touring the mind-blowing Savoy palaces outside the city.
For more tips on visiting the country, check out How Many Days Should You Spend in Italy?
When to go
Turin is easily accessible year-round, with a relatively mild climate despite the proximity of the Alps. May, June and July are the best months to visit, with the warmest, sunniest days – this is also the busiest season. Late summer can be very hot. Spring and the fall are also good times to visit, though more rain is likely. October to February can be cold (snow is possible), with correspondingly low hotel rates. For more, see the Best Time of Year to Visit Italy.
Getting there and around
Turin Airport offers flights to numerous cities in Europe, though North American travelers have to fly indirect, usually via Munich/Frankfurt, Rome or Paris. Trains from Rome, Milan, Bologna, and Florence arrive at Stazione di Porta Nuova on Piazza Carlo Felice. Stazione di Porta Susa on Corso Inghilterra links Turin with regional towns and also serves TGV trains to Paris (these zip to the French capital in under six hours).
It’s easy to see the main sights on foot, but local buses are cheap and easy to use; driving within the city center is not recommended, as the road system is confusing and often congested. Taxis are easily available at ranks outside the train stations and around Piazza San Carlo and Piazza Castello. To rent a bike, consider the local [TO]Bike bicycle sharing service (with 116 stations around the city), from just Euros 5 daily.
If you’re planning to visit several attractions, the Torino+Piemonte Card will save you money. Passes are available for 1, 2, 3 or 5 consecutive days (Euros 27 to 51) and allow for free admission to the city’s most important museums, discounted tickets to many other sights and 10% off the City SightSeeing Torino bus. Passes can be bought at the Piazza Castello tourist office or Stazione Porta Nuova.
Turin’s Top Sights
The Roman quarter is the oldest part of the city, just west of Via Roma and Piazza Castello. On Piazza San Giovanni stands Turin’s Duomo, the 15th-century Cathedral of Saint John the Baptist, best known as the home of the Turin Shroud (the piece of linen in which it’s believed Christ was wrapped when he was taken from the cross). The revered cloth is kept in the Cappella della Sacra Sindone and normally off-limits to the public. To learn more about the shroud and its controversial provenance, you’ll have to visit the Museo della Sidone, a small but enlightening museum a few blocks west at Via San Domenico 28.
Just beyond the twin-towered Porta Palatina (Roman city gate) lies vast Piazza della Repubblica, home to the main city market (Mon–Sat). The streets to the north host the monthly Gran Balon antiques market (every second Sun). Further west lies the Santuario della Consolata, Turin’s most opulent church, home to a venerated statue of Mary and elaborate marble décor.
Turin’s central Piazza Castello is dominated by Palazzo Madama and the sprawling Palazzo Reale, the lavish residence of the rulers of Savoy from 1646 to 1865. Today the Palazzo Madama – part Baroque palace, part medieval castle – serves as the Museo Civico di Arte Antica, a museum stuffed with art treasures from Renaissance ceramics to Antonello da Messina’s Portrait of a Man.
The Palazzo Reale is a mini Versailles, replete with throne rooms, ballrooms, Gobelins tapestries, glittering chandeliers, and gilded furniture. Inside, the Armeria Reale contains a gargantuan collection of medieval arms and armor, while the royal art collection is displayed in the Galleria Sabauda (Van Dyck’s The Children of Charles I is here). The Museo di Antichità chronicles city history from Roman to medieval times.
Via Roma and around
Leading south from Piazza Castello, the graceful arcades of Via Roma, Turin’s premier shopping street, were designed in 1714 by Filippo Juvarra. At its heart lies Piazza Carlo Felice, a gorgeous square ringed with cafes. Caffe’ Torino opened in 1903, while the ornate San Carlo was founded in 1842, a patriotic hangout during the Risorgimento (Franceso Crispi and later Gramsci were regulars).
Not far from here, the Museo Egizio is one of Turin’s premier attractions, displaying a phenomenal collection of relics from ancient Egypt. The adjacent Museo Nazionale del Risorgimento Italiano charts the history of Italy’s re-unification movement, which emerged here in the 19th century.
Via Po runs southeast from Piazza Castello to one of Italy’s largest squares, the Piazza Vittorio Veneto, and the River Po beyond. Looming just to the north is Turin’s most iconic structure, once the tallest in Europe. Though its distinctive cupola and spire make it look like a cathedral, the Mole Antonelliana was designed to be a synagogue when it was built in the 1860s. Today it serves as Italy’s absorbing National Film Museum. Tickets are sold separately for a panoramic elevator ride through the roof to the observation platform at the top – the views are mesmerizing.
Lingotto: Fiat land
South of the old center, Lingotto district is home to the original Fiat factory, completed in 1923. Today, the Lingotto building serves as a plush shopping mall with a small but stylish art gallery designed by Renzo Piano, the Pinacoteca Giovanni e Marella Agnelli. Michael Caine and crew drove their Minis around the rooftop track in the Italian Job.
Opposite the Lingotto building (at Via Nizza 230) is the original branch of Eataly, the gourmet Italian food emporium, founded here by Oscar Farinetti in 2007. A few blocks east at Corso Unità d’Italia 40, the Museo Nazionale dell’Automobile (MAUTO) is the nation’s premier car museum, featuring plenty of Alfa Romeos, Maseratis and Ferraris.
Basilica di Superga
Northeast of the city center, this 18th-century church is a popular half-day trip, not least as it involves a 4-mile ride on a narrow-gauge railway through lush, hilly countryside. The façade is one of the city’s most elaborate, with colonnaded portico, elegant dome (with 131 steps to the balcony) and delicate bell towers. The adjacent crypt houses the Savoy Royal Tombs, while the Royal Apartment is a small residence built for Victor Amadeus II.
Italy’s favorite coffee brand was founded here in 1895 by Luigi Lavazza. Learn more at the Museo Lavazza (Via Bologna 32), and visit the original Lavazza café at Via S. Tommaso 10.
Turin’s premier soccer team is Juventus F.C., who play their well-supported home games at the Allianz Stadium. Fans should visit the on-site Juventus Museum (you can also tour the stadium).
The Savoy Palaces
Make time to visit some of the extravagant Savoy royal palaces in the countryside around Turin. One of the most enticing is the 18th-century Palazzina di Caccia di Stupinigi, technically a hunting lodge but more like a gargantuan castle-come-palace, crammed with art, frescoes and original furniture. Even more impressive, the Reggia di Venaria Reale is one of the world’s largest palaces, a 17th-century baroque wonder that includes formal gardens, chapels and extensive grounds.
Where to Stay
Hotels tend to be more expensive during the busy summer months (June–Aug), but can also get booked up during trade shows such as A&T (Feb), Salone dell’Auto Torino (June), and Terra Madre Salone del Gusto (Sep). Turin’s premier grand hotel since the early 1900s, the Grand Hotel Sitea (Via Carlo Alberto 35) boasts period-style rooms and the Michelin-starred Carignano Restaurant.
Good deals in Turin can be had at Starhotels Majestic, set in a charming 19th-century property near the station (Corso Vittorio Emanuele II 54), and Townhouse 70, a stylish boutique near Piazza Castello (Via XX Settembro 70). For the independent-minded traveler, apartment rentals abound on sites like Airbnb.
Where to Eat
Turin isn’t short of gourmet restaurants. Vintage 1997 on Piazza Solferino offers authentic old-fashioned Piedmont dining (think fresh porcini mushrooms, chickpea puree with cod and shrimp, or lamb with artichokes).
Showcase for Italian celebrity chef Antonio Cannavacciuolo, Cannavacciuolo Bistrot (Via Umberto Cosmo 6) serves exquisite pastas and secondis such as red mullet with lemon and potatoes. Minimalist Magorabin (Corso S. Maurizio 61) specializes in beautifully presented small plates. Del Cambio, overlooking Piazza Carignano has been open since 1757, and still knocks out high-quality (and pricey) Piedmont cuisine.
For something a little cheaper head to Flower Burger (Via Antonio Bertola 29c), an Instagram favorite thanks to its rainbow-colored veggie burgers. Trattoria Coco’s (Via Bernardino Galliari 28) also offers well-priced, home-cooked food, while trendy food hall EDIT (Via Cigna 96) contains a bakery/cafe, pub, cocktail bar, brewery and restaurant in a converted factory.
Visitors with a sweet tooth will love Turin. This is the home of gianduiotto, ingot-shaped chunks of hazelnut milk chocolate. Visit venerable Gobino (Via Giuseppe Luigi Lagrange 1), for a sample. Historic Caffè Baratti & Milano (Piazza Castello 27) is a refined spot to try chocolate desserts, while Stratta (Piazza San Carlo 191) is also known for extraordinary pastries and cakes.
Local favorite “bicerin” (a blend of espresso, hot, bitter chocolate and whipped cream) was invented at Al Bicerin, an incredibly atmospheric coffee-chocolate house founded in 1763 on Piazza della Consolata (Alexandre Dumas, Puccini and Nietzsche were all regulars). Global gelato chain Grom was founded in Turin in 2003 (visit the original branch at Piazza Pietro Paleocapa).
Turin by Night
Vermouth was invented in Turin in 1786, with the Martini (not the cocktail) and Cinzano brands still made here. Kick your evening off by ordering a glass in one of the city’s historic cafes, which morph into elegant bars come sundown. Top choices include the Art Nouveau Caffè Mulassano at Piazza Castello 15, or venerable Caffè Fiorio (Via Po 8), founded in 1780 – Piedmontese statesman Cavour was a fan.
Caffè Platti (Corso Vittorio Emanuele II 72) is another gorgeous bar once frequented by intellectuals and writers such as Cesare Pavese. For cocktails and tapas try La Drogheria (Piazza Vittorio Veneto). Cheap local wines and snacks can be had at tiny Caffè Vini Emilio Ranzini, a traditional piola (“local bar” in Piedmontese dialect) with a garden (usually closes at 8.30pm, however). For dancing and a more glamorous crowd, try Kogin’s Club (Corso Sicilia 6).