The 19 MUST SEE places in Turin
Tips and ideas for an amazing experience.
The Mole Antonelliana is the architectural symbol of the city and its towering dome dominates the skyline. Named after its architect, Alessandro Antonelli, it can be seen from almost any part of the city. Construction began in 1863, soon after the Italian unification, and was completed in 1889, after the architect’s death. Originally conceived as a synangogue (the Jewish community and the architect are thought to have fallen out over spiralling costs), it is now the home to the National Museum of Cinema. A representation of the building is featured on the 2-cent euro coin.
Antonelli’s original vision for the spire was to top it off with a five-pointed star, but he later opted for a statue instead, depicting a winged genie, or «genio alato», a symbol of the House of Savoy. On its head was a small five-pointed star supported by a pole. When the star was set in its place on 10 April 1889, it broughtthe total height of the Mole to 167.5m – making it the tallest brick building in Europe at the time. Unfortunately, on 11 August 1904, a violent storm caused the winged genie to collapse, but miraculously itstayed suspended against one of the terraces of the structure. Following reconstruction work, it wasreplaced by a 5-pointed star made of copper and measuring 4 meters in diameter. The design was similarto the original one seen on the head of the genie; but it, too, fell, in 1953 and has since been replaced by a smaller three-dimensional, 12-pointed star.
During the Second World War, the Mole largely escaped the bombings of 6 December 1942 that hit manymilitary targets in nearby Via Verdi and destroyed the neighbouring Teatro di Torino. On 23 May 1953 a violent cloudburst, accompanied by a tornado, destroyed the uppermost 47m (154 ft) of the pinnacle, which was rebuilt in 1961 as a metal structure faced with stone. At the end of the reconstruction work, Guido Chiarelli carried out the project for the lighting of the pinnacle. The Mole Antonelliana is today the tallest unreinforced brick building in the world (built without a steelgirder skeleton). During the annual Turin Artist Lights, on one side of the four-faced dome, the first Fibonacci numbers are written in red neon lights: they are part of the artistic work Il volo dei Numeri (Flight of the Numbers) by Mario Merz. According to legend related to white magic, Antonelli’s work is a hugeantenna that channels all the positive energy coming from heaven and earth, thanks to its pyramidal base and its very high spire.
The Gran Madre faces the Vittorio Emanuele I bridge and the central Piazza Vittorio Veneto; and when combined with the nearby Monte dei Cappuccini, it completes one of the most famous and evocative views of the eastern part of Turin’s city centre. On either side of the staircase leading to the church stand two statues, representing Faith and Religion, sculpted in 1828.
The church of the Gran Madre di Dio (Great Mother of God) is one of the most important Catholic places of worship in Turin. It was commissioned by the administrators of Turin in 1814 to celebrate the return of Vittorio Emanuele I of Savoy after the defeat of Napoleon. In fact, the church is adorned with a proclamationin large writing, «ORDO POPVLVSQVE TAVRINVS OB ADVENTVM REGIS» – meaning, “The nobility and the people of Turin for the arrival of the King”. Completed in 1831, it takes the shape of the Roman Pantheon, in the neo-classical-Hadrianic style. According to an ancient myth, a church would rise on the place where there was a temple dedicated to the Egyptian goddess Isis, also known as the ‘Great Mother’. In those times, abandoned corpses awaitingrecognition used to be displayed in front of the church.
Faith, on the left, is represented by a woman with a braided ribbon on her chest. The mantle covers the woman almost entirely, leaving only her face and hands visible – as well as her left foot, wearing the sametype of sandal as the other statue, Religion. In her right hand, she holds an open book, while her left is raised to the sky with a chalice. To her right, a small, half-naked winged angel stands looking up at the woman, and holding a stick in his right hand. For lovers of esotericism, this statue represents none other than the Madonna herself, holding the HolyGrail, suggesting that this precious chalice can be found in this very city.
Religion, on the right, is also represented by a woman with a long dress closed by a ribbon, while a mantlecovers her entirely. Impassive, she looks towards the horizon and does not seem to notice the young man who is kneeling beside her, and who is holding two white stone tablets. With her right hand he holds a large Latin cross, and he seems to have no trouble supporting it. On the forehead of the Religion statue there is a strange triangle. It is generally used to indicate the omniscient eye of God which turns its gaze in every direction. But not only that: it is also considered one of the most important Masonic symbols.
The Church of Santa Maria al Monte dei Cappuccini is a late-Renaissance-style church on a hill overlookingthe Po river, not far from the bridge of Piazza Vittorio Veneto. From here, the view of Turin and the Alps issensational. The Monte dei Cappuccini was led by the Capuchin friars, who carried out memorable deeds during the epidemics that struck Turin, such as that of 1630 when a large portion of the city’s population fell victim.
It is also said that in 1640, during the Siege of Turin, a miracle took place right on this hill, inside the churchof Santa Maria. Given its height and the view of the city, the mountain was a strategic place of considerableinterest in the eyes of the French invaders. Legend has it that, when the soldiers, having overcome the resistance of the population, arrived inside the church to sack it, they were terrified by the sight of a tongueof fire coming from the tabernacle, to protect the consecrated hosts. Thus, the French invaders gave up the conquest of this place, astonished by the Eucharistic miracle. The entire episode is depicted on a canvas,now exhibited inside the church. The Napoleonic era saw the suppression of the monastic orders and, consequently, the convent ceased to exist and the structure was destined for the most disparate uses,subsequently suffering considerable damage due to the bombings of World War II.
The Castle of Valentino is a historic building located in Parco del Valentino. It’s one of the Residences of the Royal House of Savoy included in the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites . Its unique for its horseshoeshape, with four rectangular towers, one at each angle, and a wide inner court with a marble pavement. The façade sports a huge coat of arms of the House of Savoy. Today, it is the central building of the Architecture faculty of the Polytechnic University of Turin.
The celebrated Parco del Valentino is situated in the east side of San Salvario, and although it isn’t exactly in downtown Turin, it’s accepted as the city’s central park. Thanks to its vicinity to the city centre, the park is very popular among locals. From the terraces of Parco del Valentino, many beautiful views of the hills on the other side of the river can be appreciated. The Parco del Valentino was opened in 1856 and was Italy’s first public garden. In addition to the many species of flowers and plants inside the Rocky Garden of the Parco del Valentino, you will also find many sculptures and installations. One of the prettiest and most romantic is certainly the «bench in love» – a sculpture depicting a bench on which two street lamps are seated that appear to be in embrace, with a kitten by their side.
The Borgo Medievale is a characteristic medieval village inspired by the Piedmontese and Aosta Valley castles of the Middle Ages, complete with a visible fortress. Built in 1884 on the southern-most part of Parco del Valentino, the village also includes several craft shops and a picturesque bar.
The Fountain of the Twelve Months in Parco del Valentino is an imposing monument built in 1898 – comprising a large Rococo basin surrounded by twelve statues representing the twelve months of the year.
The Galleria San Federico is the most newest gallery in Turin. Prior to this, the Natta Gallery from the middle of the 19th century was built in an L-shape – but the renovation works of Via Roma in the 1930s, overseen by the architect, Canova, transformed the gallery into its current T-shape. With a ceiling made of glazed windows, light illuminates the precious marble columns. Here you will alsofind antique and jewellery stores as well as one of the oldest cinemas in Turin – Cinema Lux, which was builtas a single theatre with some 1,500 seats, but recently separated into three halls. Galleria San Federico wasthe first site of the daily newspaper La Stampa.
The Subalpina gallery, designed by Pietro Carrera as a commercial gallery for the bourgeoisie, wasinaugurated in 1874. Inside it is one of the oldest cinemas (Cinema Romano) and one of the oldest bars in Turin (Baratti & Milano). The nineteenth-century building, which is a mix of tradition and modernity, is a symposium of architecturalstyles and artistic expressions that gives it luxuries and an atmosphere of ancient times. Today, it features numerous art galleries and antiques.
The construction of the Palazzo Carignano was ordered in 1679 by Prince Emmaneul Philibert: Guarini designedthe structure in the shape of a square, with a straight and restrained east façade and an elliptical façade on the west. Guarini also added a forecourt at the centre of the palace. The Palazzo was the birthplace of the first King of Italy, Victor Emmanuel II in 1820. From 1848 to 1861, the palace was used as the House of Deputies of the Subalpine Parliament. In 1861, with the creation of the parliament of the newly-unified Kingdom of Italy, the room was no longer large enough to host the House of Deputies, so it was moved elsewhere. You can go from Piazza Carlo Alberto to Piazza Carignano (and vice versa) via a ‘secret’ passage located right in the middle of the west and east entrance of Palazzo Carignano!
The Teatro Regio (Royal Theatre) is a prominent opera house and opera company in Turin. Its season runs from October to June, with the presentation of eight or nine operas – including contemporary works, although in the first years of the new century, financial pressures made the programming somewhat conservative and favored more 19th-century operas.
Several buildings provided venues for operatic productions in Turin from the mid-16th century, but it was not until 1713 that a proper opera house was considered. Under the architect Filippo Juvarra, planning began. However, the cornerstone was not laid until after Juvarra’s death, and during the reign of Charles Emmanuel III in 1738. The work was supervised by Benedetto Alfieri until the theatre was completed. The theatre survived a number of catastrophes and fires. The current design, with its striking contemporary interior but hidden behind the original façade, was inaugurated on 10 April 1973. The new house seats 1,750 and is elliptical in shape, with a large orchestra level and 37 boxes around its perimeter. An acoustic shell was added to improve its sound. The building’s outer façade has a unique brickwork pattern using custom-cut bricks to create a spray of stars, which seems to overlap itself continuously like the scales of a fish. This is an illusion created by the uniquely-designed masonry pattern as the wall is actually straight. The shadows created by the protruding parts reinforce this illusion.
Palazzo Madama was the first Senate of the Italian Kingdom, and takes its traditional name from the embellishments it received under two queens (madama) of the House of Savoy. The Palazzo Madamahouses the Turin City Museum of Ancient Art., a large collection of paintings, statues, church ornaments, porcelain, and decorative art, mostly from the late Middle Ages to the 18th century. The Madama Medieval Gardens are located on the three sides of the building, in the moat, and they are protected by high walls that separate them from Piazza Castello. The gardens, inaugurated in 2011, followed the medieval cards with a hortus (vegetable garden), a viridarium (forest and orchard), a iardinum domini (prince’s garden), and traditional furnishings such as the fence of the hens.
The Real Chiesa di San Lorenzo (Royal Church of Saint Lawrence) is a Baroque-style church in Turin, adjacent to the Royal Palace. The present church was designed and built by Guarino Garini between 1668 and 1687. The dome of the church is one of the features of the Turin skyline. Yet, once in Piazza Castello, it is difficult to locate the entrance. This is because the church of San Lorenzo has no façade. The façade project made by Guarino Guarini was never carried out, as the Savoy family did not want to affect the harmony of the squareand the view of the royal palace – feeling strongly that a symbol of royal power that should not be overshadowed by that of the religious.
The Church of San Lorenzo houses a copy of the Holy Shroud, the controversial religious relic that isbelieved to have wrapped the body of Jesus after the crucifixion. Inside the church, you can also admire the splendid dome taken from Islamic architecture, with an eight-pointed star and the high altar, built in 1680.
An intertwining of structures articulated on three superimposed orders, hidden by the architecture of the classroom, support the vertiginous dome which has pairs of crossed arches that reflect the motif of the octagon and form a large eight-pointed star with the regular octagon in the centre of the lantern. Everything is made airy and light by the light that penetrates from the open windows in the sails of the vault, only broken by the crossed arches that create a surreal optical effect. Guarini focuses attention on the complex, mysterious structure of the dome, which seems to stand in balance like the instant in which the mathematical calculation coincides with the path of the imagination that tends to God.
This church has a little secret: There are some hidden paintings inside the church visible only on certaindates of the year and only under certain weather conditions. Guarini, in addition to being a skilled architect,was also an astronomy enthusiast, and inside this building, he showed his great skills and genius. If you look carefully at the radial chapels of the church, you will notice that there is an oculus in the centre of the six-pointed star of each chapel. The portholes of the chapels were designed to remain in the dark, and it isn’t possible to see inside them.Twice a year, however, on the occasion of the Spring and Autumn Equinox, at around noon, the sunlight(on a clear day) enters the dome from above and hits the porthole of the first chapel next to the altar – and a secret fresco becomes visible. The same play of light with another fresco occurs in the porthole on the opposite side as well. The oculi not affected by sunlight on these particular days were intentionally left without frescos by Guarini. This detail of the Church of San Lorenzo was not conceived by Guarini only to amaze the faithful, but also to focus their attention on the message of faith that is hidden there.
Next to the Turin Cathedral stand the Palatine Towers, an ancient Roman-medieval structure that served asone of four Roman city gates along the city walls of Turin. This gate allowed access from the north to the cardo maximus, the typical second main street of a Roman town. The Palatine Gate represents the primaryarchaeological evidence of the city’s Roman phase, and is one of the best preserved 1st-century BC Roman gateways in the world. On the ground near the gate stands a part of the guardhouse that was added in the Roman period. From there, one can see the furrows on the stones caused by the transit of wagons. A pair of bronze statues depicting Augustus Caesar and Julius Caesar are not originals, but copies from the last major restoration of 1934. However, their placement continues to be a topic of discussion – as some historians believe they were incorrectly placed in the internal area, instead of outside the gate where theywould likely have greater relevance and significance.
Mercato Porta Palazzo is the largest open-air market in Europe. Located in Piazza della Repubblica (or simply Porta Palazzo), the market sits within a large octagonal square in the heart of the city, just a hundred metres or so from Piazza Castello. The food market has hundreds of stalls, including fresh fish and meat sold in large covered halls. It’s frantic, fabulously multicultural, and fun. Turin, a city with a thousand faces and a thousand secrets on the surface, has one of the most mysterious underground areas imaginable. In one of the buildings at Porta Palazzo, some of the 19th century underground rooms are still visible. The complex consisted of two rectangular buildings, an annular corridor and two circular rooms – evidence of a bygone time, when electricity was still a distant dream. These rooms were made for the processing required in preservation of ice and foodstuffs.
The network of narrow, cobbled streets between Porta Palazzo and Via Garibaldi was the site of the ancient Roman city, called Quadrilatero Romano. Now a pedestrian area offering a wide array of wildly popular night-spots, it has become one of Turin’s trendiest areas. The hub of the Quadrilatero is Piazza Emanuele Filiberto. One of the street is called Via delle tre galline (Street of the three hens) and here you will find the restaurantof the same name, one of the oldest of Turin. According to an old story, the name comes from the threesisters who used to own the restaurant in the 17th century and attached a pciture of three hens on the door, just to make the place recognizable.
Piazza della Consolata can be reached from Piazza Emanuele Filiberto, recently restored along with the surrounding district. The square takes its name from the baroque church to be found here, designed by Guarino Guarini and Filippo Juvarra.
The Intesa SanPaolo skyscraper is the third-tallest building in Turin. At 167.25 metres, it stands just behind the skyscraper of Lingotto and the Mole Antonelliana in height. It serves as the office of more than 2,000 employees of the most important Italian bank and includes leisure facilities that’s accessible to everyone. At its rooftop is a greenhouse and roof garden that also hosts Piano 35, a restaurant open to public, with a panoramic terrace that offers far-reaching views of the city. The skyscraper was built between 2011 and 2015 by the architect, Renzo Piano, who described it as a “bioclimatic building”. It’s naturally ventilated and cooled with a substantial amount of its power that’s generated from photovoltaic panels that cover the southern façade.
The Parco Dora post-industrial park is one of the largest green areas of the city, covering an enormous 456,000 square metres. Characterised by its industrial past, the park has five separate areas where itsaesthetics and functions are designed around the industrial remains. The different areas of the park, as wellas its surrounding areas, are connected by bridges, stairs and ramps.
The Vitali area, the largest in the park, covers and impressive 89,000 square metres. It takes its name from Fiat ironworks factory (of the same name) that stood in the area. Its design is dominated by the imposingstructure of the stripping shed, of which the tall steel pillars – made distinctive by its red paint – and part of the roof have been preserved. Under a large canopy, there is a multifunctional space equipped with playinggrounds for football, basketball, tennis, and volleyball, as well as a skate ramp. This area of the park alsohosts music festivals such as the Kappa FuturFestival, a famous electronic music festival; and sportsactivities. Next to it, a vast garden grows around the pillars of the dismantled steelworks, alternating with flower beds, play areas, and an elevated walkway of galvanized steel.
The park is accentuated by various works of street art, decorating the towering vertical spaces in a fascinating juxtaposition of the old world and the new.
The Basilica di Superga is a church that was built by Duke Victor Amadeus II in 1706. Before a decisive battle, the Duke had climbed to the top of the hill for a clearer vantage point of the rival’s army. As he prayed, he promised to erect a church dedicated to the Virgin Mary if he was victorious. The Basilica was completed in 1731 and inaugurated in the presence of King Charles Emmanuel III. It holdsthe tombs of many of the dukes of Savoy, as well as the kings of Sardinia.
There are several ways to get to the top of Superga hill, but none more quaint than the Superga Rack Railway. The journey begins from a station at the foot of the hill in the Sassi suburb, and takes visitors on an unforgettable and picturesque 18-minute ride up the hill – starting with a scenery of the woods along the hillside before opening up to urban views that stretch to the surrounding Alps. The railway still uses its classic original carriages, offering visitors a trip through time for a total of 3,100 metres and a total climb of 425 metres – at an average gradient of 13.5% that peaks to 21% at the final stretch.
Situated on the top of Superga hill and surrounded by panoramic views of the city and the Alps, the Basilica is 75 metres high and visible from all over the city of Turin. On 4 May 1949, an airplane returning from Lisbon and carrying the Torino football team crashed into the back wall of the Basilica. All 31 people losttheir lives, many of whom were players from the all-conquering Il Grande Torino football team, in what hassince become known as the Tragedy of Superga.
On 4 May 1949, Torino Football Club was set to win a fifth consecutive Serie A title. With four matches of the season remaining, the team had flown to Lisbon to play a testimonial match for a Benfica player – and amida thick fog on the way back to Turin, the plane collided with the back of the basilica wall. There were no survivors. Later, it was determined that malfunctioning equipment led the pilot to believe he was well clearof the building, realising he was too close only when it was too late. Two days after the crash, half a million people lined the streets of Turin as the funerals were held. At the request of their rivals, Torino Football Club was awarded the Serie A title – and it was said that «only fate could beat them». That Il Grande Torino team passed into legend, not just as the Invincibles, but the Immortals. In one of the greatest tragedies of Italian sport, mourning of that Torino team moved and united all Italians. During a difficult era for the nation, Torino was seen as more than a football team – they were the pride of a country on its knees and suffering after 20 years of fascism and war with Hitler. Players from Torino made up almost all of the Italian national team, and Torino’s flag was a symbol of rising from the ashes. Even today, there isn’t an Italian city that doesn’t have a stadium, a sports centre, a street, or a park named after a Grande Torino player.
The legendary Stadio Filadelfia, home of Torino, was an impregnable fortress where the team didn’t lose in 100 consecutive matches, and scoring at least one goal in 76 consecutive ones. In the season following the Tragedy of Superga, each Serie A club was asked to donate a player to Torino to help them rebuild the team. The Superga disaster is central to the identity of not just the team, but the city of Turin. It legacy is notforgotten, and every year, on the 4th of May, thousands congregate at the site where the plane came down. The back wall of the Basilica di Superga, the site of the accident, became a memorial wall and football fans from all over the world have come for years to pay their respects and leave scarves of many differentcolours and teams. A museum dedicated to Il Grande Torino used to be housed in the Basilica itself, but ithas since moved to a larger space in Grugliasco, a suburb of Turin. A movie that tells the story of the times leading up to and following this tragedy, called Il Grande Torino, was released in 2005.
Turin is a city of two famous football teams – the other being the most glorious football team in Italy, Juventus Football Club. It was founded on 1 November 1897 by a group of students from the Massimo D’Azeglio high school in Turin, who used to meet on a bench in Corso Re Umberto near their school. The first outfit worn by the Juventus football team comprised a pink shirt with a black tie. The famous black-and-white stripes – giving rise to the team’s Bianconeri nickname – was not adopted until 1903. Tired of seeing the pale pink of their shirt fade with each wash, the players commissioned their English teammate, John Savage, to buy a new set of jerseys when he went back to England, and he returned to Turin with the black-and-white-striped jerseys used by Notts County, the oldest club of the English first division. Since 1923, the ownership of Juventus has been kept within the Agnelli family – making Juventus the ultimate family-owned club in the world.
Juventus is famously known as ‘Vecchia Signora’ (Old Lady), but another curious nickname, reserved mainly for its players and fans is ‘gobbi’; or in the Piedmontese dialect, ‘goeba’. For one season in the fifties, the players’ jerseys would hold in the air as they ran, creating an optical illusion of a sort of hump on their backs. While the nickname is believed to have been given by fans of the rival Torino Football club – meaning a hunch-backed person – Juventus fans saw the opportunity to turn the insult into a term of affection.
The Derby della Mole, played between Juventus and Torino twice a year, is named after the Mole Antonelliana, the architectural symbol of the city. Until after World War I, the match was seen as a battlebetween two opposing social classes – Juventus representing the aristocracy of the Agnelli family (who are, with their ownership of Fiat, also the city’s major employers); while Torino identified with the workerssynonymous with the early-industrial world. The first Derby della Mole was played in 1907, and it was also Torino’s first competitive match after itsfounding. The game was played at the Umberto I Velodrome in the Crocetta district, and Torino won 2-1. The fierce rivalry between the two teams was fuelled by the fact that Alfredo Dick, former Juventus president, broke away to form Torino Football Club – and prior to this inaugural derby, he was locked inside the changing room, causing him to miss the game and having to listen to updates via players and staff.
On the pitch, Juventus has won 38 Serie A titles, 13 Coppa Italia titles, and 8 Supercoppa Italiana titles, making them the record holder in all of these competitions. The Juventus trophy cabinet also includes 2 Intercontinental Cups, 2 European Cups / UEFA Champions Leagues, 1 European Cup Winner’s Cups, 3 UEFA Cups, 2 UEFA Super Cups, and 1 UEFA Intertoto Cup. The club’s fan base is the largest at national level and one of the largest worldwide. Among its players are 8 Ballon d’Or awards, 4 of these in consecutive years (1982–1985), which remains an overall record. The club has also provided the most number of players to the Italy national teams that won the 1934, 1982, and 2006 FIFA World Cups.
Just behind Piazza Castello stands the Turin Cathedral, one of the landmark churches of the city and dedicated to St John the Baptist. Built between 1491 and 1498, it’s adjacent to a bell tower erected in 1470. Annexed to the cathedral is the Baroque-style Roman Chapel of the Holy Shroud, the current resting place of the Shroud of Turin, one of most famous and controversial religious relics in the world. The chapel, designed by Guarini, was added to the structure between 1668 and1694 and is connected to the Royal Palace of Turin.
In 1997, the chapel was severely damaged by a massive fire, the cause of which is still a mystery. Firefighters managed to save the Shroud, allegedly by smashing through its bulletproof glass case. Subsequently, the chapel was closed to the public and it took over 21 years to repair and restore to its original splendour. The chapel finally reopened to the public on 27 September 2018.
The Shroud of Turin, also called the Holy Shroud, is a length of linen cloth bearing the negative image of a man. Some claim the image depicts Jesus of Nazareth and the fabric is the burial shroud in which he waswrapped after crucifixion. However, the Catholic Church neither formally endorses nor rejects the Shroud, and in 2013, Pope Francis referred to it as an “icon of a man scourged and crucified”. The Shroud has beenkept in the royal chapel since 1578, and continues to be intensely studied and a source of controversy.
La Pista 500, the artistic project of the Pinacoteca Agnelli of Turin on the iconic test track for FIAT cars on the roof of the Lingotto, was recently enriched new site-specific installations. The works on Pista 500 embrace the different languages of sculpture: environmental installations, light or sound works, expanded cinema projects, sculptures that interact with the architecture of the building. With the idea of continuing to deal with the architecture of the former FIAT factory, the spectacular installations of the Pinacoteca Agnelli on the roof of the Lingotto accompany visitors on a poetic journey along the circularity of the track, which from a closed circuit becomes an open garden.