Turin is Italy’s fourth-largest city, yet it feels surprisingly under-touristed. Here are 10 things that might inspire some travels!
1. Visit the Museo Egizio (Egypt Museum)
Turin is home to one of the best Egyptian collections outside of Cairo, and it’s truly amazing what you can see here: sphinxes and sarcophagi, gods and pharaohs, mummies and books of the dead.
Want a mummfied cat? They have one!
This museum is incredible — you could spend many hours here and still not take it all in.
2. Get High!
Turin isn’t a tall city, so if you go up just a little ways, you can have a fantastic view of both the town and the Alps. You have three good choices for this. My favorite was the eighteenth-century bell tower next to the cathedral (torri campanarie) (cost: 3 Euros plus 210 steps), which offers these views:
The second option is walking up, up, up a hill across the Po River to the parking lot and wall of the Church of Santa Maria al Monte dei Cappuccini (cost: free plus a lot of walking). From here, you can see the whole city spread out before you:
The final option is to take the Panoramic Lift up to the top of the tall building toward the right in the photo above — the Mole Antonelliana, built in the late 1800s as a synagogue (cost: 8 Euros plus a lot of waiting in line). I did this one a night:
3. Admire a Baroque Villa
There are several options for this — the Savoy rulers built all sorts of giant homes in the early 1700s — but an easy option is a trip to Villa Della Tesoriera. Off the beaten path at the Monte Grappa Metro stop, it’s a jewel of a space.
4. Gape at a Baroque Palace
If you want to go all-in on Baroque finery, there’s no better place to visit than the Palazzo Reale (Royal Palace) of Turin. Built in the 16th and 17th centuries for the Dukes of Savoy, this place is massively impressive, from the throne room …
… to the ballroom:
A ticket to the palace will also gain you entry to the Royal Armoury, which houses what I’m told is one of the finest collection of armor in the world …
… all set in a hall that’s too spectacular to describe:
5. Hunt for the Shroud of Turin
The Shroud of Turin, famous for being the maybe-real/maybe-not-real cloth that covered Jesus when he was removed from the cross, is supposed to be somewhere on the palace grounds. But while I made it to the Chapel of the Holy Shroud (this is the interior of the dome)…
… and admired the chapel architecture from above …
… I only found the part of the Shroud that is purported to have covered Jesus’s face:
I’m still not sure where the main shroud is hiding — this early 17th-century painting by Gerolamo della Rovere is the closest I came to seeing the whole thing:
6. Drink Hot Chocolate
The residents of Turin have turned hot chocolate into an art, and you can get it at just about any coffee shop.
Tiny pastries also abound, so you can have a bite-sized treat along with your beverage.
But in truth, you don’t really need extra sweets — this hot chocolate is so rich and thick that you can practically stick a spoon upright in the cup. My very favorite hot chocolate was at the Pasticceria Dulcinea near the Villa Della Tesoriera — the chocolate was nearly as thick as custard. This is stuff that’s best drunk with a spoon!
7. Stroll, Shop, and Snack Under the Arcades
Turin has 18 kilometers of arcades, giant covered walkways that feature columns, arches, and everything from painted ceilings to tiled floors.
You can walk all around town under cover, admiring the architecture, window shopping, and picking out the trattoria or pasticceria for your next snack!
It’s also lovely to admire the arcades from the many public plazas — this is a town of seemingly endless archways.
8. Make a Pilgrimage to Eataly
Eataly is a giant Italian marketplace, a food hall with restaurants that’s been crossed with an all-Italian-food-products shopping center.
You can now go to Eataly branches in New York, Boston, and Tokyo, but the very first one is in the Lingotto district of Turin. It’s amazing — you can look at beautiful produce …
… then buy olive oil, pesto, capers, cheese, and fresh pasta …
.. and then sit down to have a perfectly lovely pizza and a glass of wine.
9. Spend Time With the Old Masters
The House of Savoy amassed a significant art collection over the years, and many of its most important pieces are now on display in the Sabauda Gallery (which you access with your ticket to the Royal Palace). There are famous names here — Reubens, Botticelli, Lippi — mostly from the 16th through the 18th century. There are also people I’d never heard of, like the remarkably-named “Master of the Female Half-Lengths,” an unknown artist or group of artists who painted The Player:
The Sabauda boasts a large collection (at least a quarter of which seemed to be inaccessible during my visit), but here are a few of my favorites:
10. Look Up … And Look Down
There’s art everywhere in this city, and you just need to look up to see it. Raise your eyes, and you’ll find stunning ceilings in villas (above, at the Villa Della Tesoriera), in churches (here is the the dome of the Church of Santa Maria al Monte dei Cappuccini) …
… in restaurants (here is a section of the golden ceiling of Baratti & Milano, a “Cioccolateria Cafetteria“) …
… and even in private homes (this is the painted ceiling of my fabulous Airbnb apartment):
There’s plenty to look at if you look down as well, from elaborate wood flooring to mosaics. Here is the hallway outside of my apartment:
11. Be Surprised
You can certainly plan a visit to Turin, and there are plenty of things to see that I haven’t listed here (including, most notably, the National Cinema Museum, the National Museum of the Italian Risorgimento, and the GAM, the Gallery of Modern Art). But one of the most exciting things about visiting a new city is stumbling on the unexpected (like the cupola’s shadow on the perfectly round church above). I found my way — entirely accidentally — to palaces …
… a Christmas market …
… public art …
… the River Po …
… stunning doorways …
… and countless beautiful churches:
One of the most surprising things I saw was at the The Santuario della Consolata (The Church of the Virgin of the Consolation), where they have a whole wall of hand-drawn and hand-painted art thanking the Virgin for her intercession in various illnesses, troubles, and accidents:
It’s generally very clear what’s happening in these pieces, though some (like umbrella lady and cage guy) left me mystified:
There’s so much to find around every corner — Turin is a great city, and I’d highly recommend a visit for all of this and more!