Let there be no doubt, no city can be seen in just two days. Especially Turin. This may come as a surprise, but the old capital of the Duchy of Savoy is a city brimming with cultural museums, squares in which to while away the day, porticoes in which to enjoy a pleasant stroll, especially when it rains, historical cafés waiting to be sampled, and unique fountains for quenching your thirst. And that's without mentioning its stunning surroundings. Just an hour away from Turin lie vineyard-dotted hillsides, alpine villages, mountain lakes, consecrated and de-consecrated churches, mountain resorts, and the sea isn't that far off either. A weekend in Turin is hardly enough, it's true, but if you feel like doing some exploring, you can still see plenty. And I'm sure you'll soon be planning a return visit.
A weekend in Turin: how to organise a two-day itinerary in Turin
If you're planning your first weekend in Turin but would like to stray beyond the city centre, I suggest you dedicate one day to the stylishly sumptuous historical centre, with its stately buildings, elegant squares and noble porticoes, and the other to a day-trip outside Turin.
First day in Turin
A weekend in Turin: must-sees
Let's start with those absolute must-sees, the sights you simply cannot leave the city without having visited on your first trip to Turin.
The Egyptian Museum
The obvious starting point is Turin's Egyptian Museum. This is not only the oldest in the world, but also the most important, after the museum in Cairo, in terms of the quantity and quality of its exhibits. Having been completely restored and having reopened to the public in April 2015, it is sure to intrigue visitors of all ages, and is an unforgettable experience for families.
A weekend in Turin: Egyptian Museum
The National Museum of Cinema
Perhaps one the museums most popular with the locals, the National Museum of Cinema stands in one of the city's most striking buildings, the Mole Antonelliana, the quintessential symbol of Turin and the most recognisable landmark on its skyline. The museum comprises a unique exhibition, an interactive museum and a transparent lift leading to a panoramic terrace offering a sensational birds-eye views of Turin, right as far as the Alps.
Returned home and already missing this architectural jewel? I have just the film for you: Dopo Mezzanotte (2004), a story about a night watchman working in the Mole Antonelliana, was filmed entirely in the National Museum of Cinema.
Second only to Bologna, the city of Turin features 18 kilometres of porticoes. Beautiful, refreshing on a hot summer's day, and indispensable on a cold rainy day, when we think of Turin's arcades the mind instantly turns to Via Po, the long street connecting Piazza Castello and Piazza Vittorio Veneto. Lined on both sides with porticoes, these feature numerous characteristic book stalls, some of the city's best independent bookshops, fresh flower stands, historical cafés and magnificent churches. The porticoes along this street were built in 1720 by King Victor Amadeus II of Savoy. A century later, Victor Emanuel I of Savoy added a number of pedestrian passageways, so as to allow the sovereign and his court to reach the Chiesa Gran Madre di Dio from the Royal Palace without getting wet when it rained. So, if you don't have an umbrella, you know where to go.
A weekend in Turin: the arcades
I could write entire books on the squares of Turin, and still have plenty more to tell. These large, elegant squares are the heart and soul of the city. Walked by men and women who have made history, here are buried the city's successes and defeats. Here, also, resound the city's cries of joy when Italy won the World Cup. Turin's squares enclose the city's true yet often misunderstood essence. They are magical, like a juggler's soap bubbles. The squares of Turin come top on our list of must-sees: the huge Piazza Vittorio Veneto, the crossroads of Piazza Castello, the little known Piazza Carlo Emanuele II, which the people of Turin refer to fondly as Piazza Carlina, the stately Piazza San Carlo, the dainty Piazzetta Corpus Domini, the historical Piazza Carignano, the Parisian-style Piazzetta IV Marzo, and Piazza Carlo Felice, home to the station of Porta Nuova.
The historical shopping arcades
Here, time seems to stand still. You will feel like you are in Paris, or in the nineteenth century, or perhaps in Paris in the nineteenth century. Turin has three historical shopping arcades: Galleria Subalpina and Galleria San Federico, which house two of the city's oldest cinemas, respectively Cinema Romano and Cinema Lux, and Galleria Umberto I, close to the Porta Palazzo market, on the site of the old Ospedale Mauriziano. One thing these three arcades have in common is that they have all been used as movie sets, and you just need to set foot inside one to understand why.
Weekend in Turin: Galleria Subalpina
Parco del Valentino
Turin boasts numerous diverse parks, in which to run, do sport, go cycling, stroll, have a picnic, or read a good book. If you only have one day at your disposal, I suggest you visit the Parco del Valentino, which can be reached via a pleasant stroll, heading in the direction of Murazzi from Piazza Vittorio Veneto, along the River Po. Inside the Parco del Valentino stand the Castello Valentino, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and the nearby Botanical Gardens. Two other interesting sights are the Fontana dei Dodici Mesi, a fountain featuring twelve statues depicting the months of the year, which is shrouded in a veil of legend and mystery, and the Borgo Medievale, a faithful replica of a medieval village.
A weekend in Turin: off the beaten track
Rarely included in a weekend exploration of Turin, here are a few interesting sights offering a more personalised travel experience; something extra that will enable you to take a look at the more hidden aspects of Turin.
The Number 6
Close to Piazza San Carlo, at number 6 of Via Alfieri, stands the most beautiful house in the world. “The Number 6”, housed in Palazzo Valperga Galleani di Canelli e di Barbaresco, was ranked the best renovation of 2015 by Archdaily, the world's most famous architecture website. The Number Six is best seen in the evening, bathed in romantic lighting.
Villa della Regina
This is a veritable baroque jewel, perched on a hill behind the Chiesa Gran Madre. After a period of neglect and prolonged restoration works, partly still in progress, Villa della Regina has finally reopened its doors to the public and to the city. It may be reached on foot, crossing Vittorio Emanuele I bridge and walking up the hill. The interior, with its beautiful trompe-l'oeil decorations, and the gardens, including a vineyard which produces excellent Freisa, are well worth a visit.
Weekend in Turin: Villa della Regina
The “pierced” palace
In the sumptuous yet austere city of Turin stands a shamelessly “pierced” palazzo. This work of modern art, dating to the 1990s and initially intended as temporary, is actually entitled “Stolen Kisses”. Today, it can still be admired in Piazzetta Corpus Domini, with drops of red and (royal) blue blood gushing down the sides of the palazzo.
The Slice of Polenta
In Via Giulia di Barolo 9, situated in the Vanchiglia area of Turin, which looks set to steal the night life scene from San Salvario, stands a rather unusual sight. Casa Scaccabarozzi, more commonly known by the locals as the Slice of Polenta, is a historical building of Turin (and one of the most eccentric). Built in the early 19th century by Alessandro Antonelli and later named after his wife, Francesca Scaccabarozzi, the building measures just over 4 meters in width on one side, and is triangular in shape. The best view of the palazzo is from Via Giulia di Barolo or Corso San Maurizio.
Second day in Turin
You can dedicate the second day of your weekend to a day-trip outside the city, discovering at least one of the Residences of the Royal House of Savoy, added to the UNESCO World Heritage Sites list in 1997. If you have a car, you could drive to the nearest of these royal residences, choosing between Castello della Mandria, Castello di Rivoli, Castello di Caccia di Stupinigi or Reggia di Venaria. Instead, if you wish to continue exploring the city centre, you could opt for Palazzo Carignano, Musei Reali or Palazzo Madama.
Weekend in Turin: Reggia di Venaria Reale
A weekend in Turin: where to sleep
Not far from one of the green lungs of the city of Turin, the wonderful Parco del Valentino, close to its medieval village and castle, but also to one of the city's busiest night life districts, in San Salvario, stands the DUPARC Contemporary Suites, a winning choice both for couples and families due to its spacious rooms, quiet suites, rich continental breakfast and the possibility of relaxing in a hot spa after a long day's walk.
From here, you can reach the city centre on foot, by public transport or on the rental bikes provided by the hotel.
SCRITTO DA: Elisa Midelio, Viaggiare con Serendipità