Turin, the first capital of the unified Italy in 1861 has a long and noble history interlaced with the Duchy of Savoy
Turin (or Torino in Italian) (pic n°1), the capital of region Piedmont located in the north-western part of Italy bordering France and Switzerland, is an ancient, elegant city full of charm and with an aura of magic. The city boasts many beautiful buildings, large squares, stylish cafes, excellent restaurants (that serve sophisticated dishes accompanied by the famous Piedmontese red wines), and a lively underground-style nightlife.
Torino lies in a favorable location at the foot of the majestic Alps which look like embracing the city. It is said, the Alps here are shy like the beautiful women: only in special weather conditions the Alps let themselves show off, and when that happens it is such a spectacular view that you will never forget it!
River Po cuts the city in one larger and flatter part and in another smaller hilly part from where you can enjoy beautiful views.
Turin was probably founded in the third century B.C. by the Taurini people. Later, in 44 B.C. the Romans built on the ruins of this village a colony called Julia Taurinorum. In 1561, Turin became the capital of the Duchy of Savoy and in 1861, after the unification of Italy Turin was the first capital of the unified Italy until 1865. In the 50's and 60s' the city became an important economic, financial and industrial center of Italy as many historical Italian companies were born here. Just think of FIAT, today FCA: Fiat Chrysler Automobiles.
Now let's start to walk and discover some of the most important monuments of Turin:
GRAN MADRE DI DIO
This church was built to commemorate the victory of Vittorio Emanuele I of Savoy over Napoleon's armies in 1814 and was inaugurated in 1831. Church Gran Madre di Dio is one of the most important churches of Turin. Its dome is considered one of the greatest technical achievements of the neo-classical architecture in Piedmont.
PIAZZA VITTORIO VENETO
After visiting the church, cross bridge Vittorio Emanuele I that will take you to the large square of Piazza Vittorio Veneto. Here, you can get aware why Turin is the city of the arcades. In fact, here you can walk around the city even in a rainy day, you will not get wet thanks to its many pedestrian ways with arcades. In the city center, there are 18 kilometers of arcades, 12,5 kilometers of those are also interconnected. In this way, Turin has the largest pedestrian area in Europe.
From Piazza Vittorio walk down Via Po, then follow the signs and after a short distance, you will get to the symbol of the city: Mole Antonelliana (pic n°1). It was named after architect Alessandro Antonelli, who built it in 1863. It soon became a monument dedicated to the king of Italy, Victor Emmanuel II of Savoy. 167 meters high and featuring a beautiful and imposing dome, it now hosts the Museum of Cinema, a one-of-a-kind museum with lots of interesting exhibitions, and the highest museum in the world.
PIAZZA CASTELLO - PALAZZO MADAMA - ROYAL PALACE
Another short walk will take you to Giardini Reali (Royal Gardens), where you can admire Fontana dei Tritoni, a beautiful fountain with mythological statues. Crossing the gardens you will get to Piazza Castello, the real hub of the city with a great historical importance. The square is home to two imposing and outstanding palaces:
1 - Palazzo Madama (pic n°4), built in the middle of the square, is a masterpiece of the European Baroque style, a majestic palace of Roman origin that hosts the Civic Museum, which exhibits around 70.000 works of art from different styles.
2 - Palazzo Reale (Royal Palace) (pic n°3) is probably the most important palace of the city. It was built between the sixteenth and the seventeenth century by Ascanio Vittozzi, and served as the royal residence until 1865. It has an impressive Baroque-style façade and we suggest visiting also the interiors with the royal apartments, the Hall of the Throne, and many other interesting halls.
CATHEDRAL ST. JOHN THE BAPTIST & THE HOLY SHROUD
Just closed to Piazza Castello, there is Cattedrale San Giovanni Battista which is the main cathedral of the city. Built at the end of the fifteenth century, this Renaissance-style church has a beautiful white marble façade and it is mainly known and visited by Christians from all over the world thanks to Cappella della Sacra Sindone, a breathtaking chapel added in the seventeenth century by architect Guarino Guarini. It preserves the Holy Shroud, the shroud which was wrapped around Jesus' body after his death.
From the cathedral, you can get easily to Porta Palatina, an impressive gate that was built in the first century B.C., during the Roman age.
PALAZZO CARIGNANO (pic n°6)
After visiting Porta Palatina, get back to Piazza Castello and turn to Via Roma, the central street of Turin featuring beautiful shops and elegant cafes. Nearby you will find Palazzo Carignano, one of the most evocative Baroque palaces in Turin and in Italy, which played an essential role in the Italian history because in 1861 the unification of Italy was declared here. It was also the first seat of the Italian Parlament till 1864.
Some blocks ahead there is the Egyptian Museum. A real not-to-be-missed attraction! It is considered to be the most important and the oldest Egyptian museum in the world outside Cairo.
PIAZZA SAN CARLO (pic n°2)
After your visit to the museum is over move back to Via Roma again and stop at Piazza San Carlo, the most beautiful square of Turin and its real heart. On one of the sides, there are two churches, one of Santa Cristina and the other of San Carlo while several aristocratic buildings overlook this large square. In the center stands the equestrian statue of Emmanuel-Philibert, Duke of Savoy.
Also, we like to mention here some historic and elegant cafes located in the square such as Cafe San Carlo, which was opened in 1842, Turin Cafè, and the Pastry shop of Stratta Brothers with the original furnishings of 1836.
We also suggest visiting the main park of the city called Parco del Valentino. Located on the left bank of river Po, it is 2 kilometers long and it was designed in the nineteenth century. A landmark of the park is Castello del Valentino, built in the sixteenth century and declared human heritage by UNESCO. It was built at the request of Christine Marie of France, and today it hosts a university.
Not far from the castle, still in the park, you will find the characteristic Borgo Medioevale (Medieval Hamlet). Built in 1884 in occasion of the International Exposition, it is the reconstruction of a Medieval village, with houses, alleys, bridges, tiny shops and a Rocca (a castle) typical of that time. It is a very pleasant place to wander about.
SUPERGA (pic n°5)
Superga is the name of a hill located east of the city 670 meters a. s. l. and just above Turin. When here, visit the amazing Basilica, the Baroque-style church built in the eighteenth century, and rich in treasures, such as the Royal Crypt. Beautiful views over Turin and the Alps!
TURIN & CHOCOLATE
When your visit is over, do not miss some local desserts: Turin is also the "capital" of chocolate, (the Italian chocolate-making tradition was born in Turin in the 17th century), "gianduja", "bignolini" (kind of cream puffs), eggnog or marron glacé.
TURIN & MAGIC
Turin is considered to be one of the capitals of the word for magic, .... white and black magic areas are distinct in the city ... , it is said, the city is crossed by mysterious energies channeled along specific routes marked by monuments full of esoteric symbols ....
Some pics of Turin:
Turin with the Alps and Mole Antonelliana (pic n°1); Piazza San Carlo (pic n°2); The Royal Palace (pic n°3); Palazzo Madama - inside (pic n°4); Basilica of Superga (pic n°5); Palazzo Carignano (pic n°6);