What to see in Turin
If you plan on visiting several Turin tourist attractions, you should consider investing in the Torino + Piemonte Card, a good-value ticket giving you free entry to over 120 museums and attractions in the Turin and Piedmont area. It also offers various other reductions and free travel on public transport. The card comes in 2-day, 3-day, 5-day and 7-day versions, and you don’t need to visit many of Turin’s sights before you’ve made a saving. Cards can be purchased at Turismo Torino information points (the main tourist information office is in a pavilion in the centre of Piazza Solferino). A handy brochure gives details and opening times. Visitors are likely to be amazed at the range of museums and activities on offer, from boat trips to underground tunnels.
Also included in the Torino Card are the seasonal tourist bus and boat services, which make an interesting and convenient way to travel around the city.
Mole Antonelliana and Museum of Cinema
One of Turin’s most conspicuous tourist attractions is the Mole Antonelliana. Originally intended as a synagogue, the Mole is a tall nineteenth-century brick building topped by an aluminium spire; a strange edifice celebrated on Italy’s 2 cent coins.
The building is home to the Museo Nazionale del Cinema, Italy’s National Cinema Museum, which has many interesting displays and clips to watch and is well worth a visit. Little themed ‘booths’ around the central space are great fun when not over-run with schoolparties: you can watch romantic clips reclining on a bed, or comedy while sitting on toilet seats. A long spiralling walkway leads up the walls of the building: it doesn’t go anywhere but you can appreciate the architectural space and the light-shows.
A lift (ascensore) takes those with a good head for heights up to a lofty roof terrace. The glass lift ascends through the open central space of the building’s cinema museum before reaching the pinnacle. There are stupendous views over Turin from the open-air platform. Be prepared to queue for the lift.
Piazza Castello is the hotspot of tourist Turin, home to grand palaces such as Palazzo Reale, the royal palace of the Savoy dynasty, and Palazzo Madama, previously a castle, prison, barracks, senate house, and now a museum (under restoration). The piazza is an attractive central spot, and are lots of benches around the square, making it a good place to rest from the sightseeing.
Palazzo Reale can be visited on guided tours (book ahead at the information office) – there are information boards to read if you’re stuck with an Italian language tour. The palace is a gilded and grand memento of the Savoy family who, having ruled this area for generations, rose to become monarchs of the united Italy. After the Second World War they were exiled from the country, and have only recently been permitted to return. Their former home is well worth a visit.
Duomo and the Turin Shroud
One of the only disappointments for visitors is that you can’t see the Turin shroud. Although it is housed in the city’s Duomo – when not being subjected to testing – the shroud is currently kept safely locked up. A large photograph is the nearest you can get to examining the shadowy impressions. The charming cathedral itself comes as a refreshing Renaissance surprise after all the ‘Liberty-style’ grandeur of Turin, while from its steps you can see the ruins of Roman Turin.
One of Turin’s best museums is the Museo Egizio (Egyptian Museum), reckoned to be the best collection of Egyptian artefacts outside Cairo. Some displays are extremely well-presented, with texts in English, but other parts of the museum await modernisation. There are fascinating reconstructions of burial chambers, and plenty of mummies to delight the macabre imaginations of children.
A popular destination for Turin’s visitors, Superga is the basilica on the hill which dominates views from the town. Built to celebrate successful deliverance from siege, the church became the resting place for the Savoy royals and achieved greater notoriety in the twentieth century as the site of the tragic aeroplane crash which killed the great Torino football team.
Monte dei Cappuccini
For a pleasant stroll from the city centre, visitors can cross the Po and ascend the little hill of Monte dei Cappuccini. This was once the site of a fort, later becoming a monastery and later still the home of the Club Alpino Italiano, who set up a Museum of the Mountains here. Fittingly, there is a great view over the city to the snow-capped Alps. You can visit the monastery’s church, scene of vicious fighting in the seventeenth century, or simply sit and enjoy the view in a peaceful break from the hubbub of the city.
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