Surrounded by alpine mountains and located in Piedmont, north-west Italy, Turin is shrouded within a rich cultural and gastronomic history. With a population of nearly 900,000; the biggest city in the Piedmont region, the Metropolitan city of Turin is the region’s capital. Having hosted the 2006 Winter Olympics, nearby mountains prove widely popular for winter sports.
Traditionally famous for football teams Juventus FC and Torino FC, the original home of automobile manufacturers Fiat, Lancia and Alfa Romeo and not forgetting Turin was Italy’s first capital city before Rome; Solo Living spent 48 hours discovering what Turin has to offer the solo traveller. All in all, it proves to be a wonderful choice for a solo city exploration, quietly revealing a strong sense of Italy’s history and long-standing traditions.
Beautifully captivating, Turin is often overlooked in favour of more popular Italian destinations like Rome, Florence and Milan with Turin currently the 10th most visited city in the country. It has been said to be the forgotten food capital of Italy and when you read our section on Food and Drink below you will wonder why.
If you like to travel solo, here are five reasons why Turin should be on your travel list of city break destinations and places to visit.
5 REASONS TO VISIT TURIN, ITALY
1 Magnificent Piazzas
Dating from the 17th Century, Piazza San Carlo is a popular hub and a good starting point for exploring Turin where you will find historic cafes like Caffè Torino and Caffè San Carlo. The piazzas set the tone for what soon becomes familiar as you walk around the city – squares with airy arcades providing all-weather cover and shade that line long, elegant streets.
The piazzas are not difficult to discover. A small city made to feel bigger because of magnificent piazzas, within a short walking time you will soon encounter Piazza Castello – the city’s central piazza and home to the Royal Palace, Piazza Carolo Felice, Piazza Statuto and Piazza Vittorio Veneto.
Connecting the boulevards and small streets of Turin, the piazzas help make the city easier for the solo traveller to navigate. You will discover quirky shops, cafes and restaurants making an afternoon spent meandering through the elegant streets and taking in the sites incredibly pleasant, worthwhile and satisfying.
2 Beautiful Architecture
You cannot help be impressed by the architecture of Turin. Great variety in architectural works from the past and present – roman remains, Renaissance, Neo-classical, Rococo, Baroque and Art Nouveau define the city’s urban landscape punctuated with contemporary buildings. All contribute to the city’s reputation as an architectural hub – well known for eye-catching design and creativity.
A visual feast, the most beautiful baroque buildings include Palazzo Reale, Palazzo Madama, Chiesa di San Lorenzo, Chiesa di San Giovanni, Palazzo Carignano and Superga Basilica.
The architectural symbol of Turin is Mole Antonelliana, a 167-metre tower built to be a synagogue though never used as a place of worship. It now houses Museo Nazionale del Cinema (National Museum of Cinema), where you can take a lift to the top of the tower and enjoy panoramic views of the city. You can buy a combined ticket for the museum and lift experience. Open until 11 pm on Saturday evenings, a solo visit here is the perfect solution to fill a Saturday evening.
Caffè San Carlo
3 Historic Cafes
As solo travellers, we all need places where we can stop off, take a break and enjoy our surroundings and atmosphere. This is where Turin comes into its own. Significant grand cafes boast splendour and an unrivalled sense of history where it is abundantly clear, heritage and tradition continue to ground the city in a rich cultural past.
Arguably, the heart of Italian cafe culture, Turin’s centuries-old cafes are without doubt a destination in themselves, popular with locals and visitors alike. Historic cafes to visit are Caffè Fioro, Al Bicerin, Barratti & Milano, Caffè Mulassano, Caffè San Carlo, Caffè Torino, Platti and Abrate.
We managed to visit most in our short trip given how easy it is to walk around the city, not always stopping off for a coffee but going in at least, to have a look around.
4 Museums and Galleries
Turin is a wonderful cultural hotspot with great art, archaeology, architecture and design museums, galleries and exhibitions. With over forty museums and galleries the choice can be somewhat overwhelming, so make sure you do your research before you go. Tips from locals include Basilica di Superga, Palazzo Madama – Museo Civico D’Arte Antica, Mole Antonelliana hosting the magnificent National Cinema Museum, Palazzo Reale (The Royal Palace) and Museo Egizio (The Egyptian Museum).
Spending around three hours in each, Solo Living managed to visit the National Cinema Museum, The Royal Palace (free on the first Sunday of the month) as well as Camera – the Italian Centre For Photography which offers a modern alternative to the historic museums.
National Cinema Museum
Further afield, outwith Turin’s city centre is the world famous Museo Dell’Automobile hosting a collection of over 200 cars from eighty automobile brands and eight countries.
5 Food & Drink
Turin appears on the culinary radar of many foodies as the surrounding hills, plains and mountains provide a rich source of natural produce. This and neighbouring influences from Liguria and France has helped create a vibrant and varied gastronomic tradition, synonymous with the city and region. Therefore, it may not come as a surprise to know Turin is home to Europe’s largest open-air market, where locals go to buy their weekly food shopping.
A city of invention
There is much to note when considering Turin’s contribution to the eating traditions of Italy – it was the city where serving Italian dishes as separate courses evolved, presenting antipasto to dolci; the aperitif originated, vermouth was created and grissini was invented. Lavazza coffee also originates from Turin.
Regionally, Ferrero Rocher and Nutella originate from Piedmont, while Nutella is still produced there. While we’re talking, in 1678 Turin was the first city to sell hard chocolate. Latterly, during the Second World War due to a shortage of chocolate imports, a chef created gianduiotto (guindujo) – chocolate made from cocoa and hazelnuts – a sublime combination considering hazelnut trees grow in the Piedmont countryside. Guindujo became the inspiration behind Nutella.
A visit to Turin can be a gastronomic tour in itself where artisan bakeries, chocolate shops, cafes, bars and restaurants uphold the region and city’s culinary traditions as well as offering new perspectives. The omnipresent undercurrent of natural, vegetarian and vegan food are finding a place of focus in Turin and ultimately, on Italy’s food map.
Another long-standing tradition – aperitivo hour, ensures eating out in Turin need not be expensive – aperitivo bars offer appetisers and in some places full buffets when you buy a drink, usually between 5 30pm and 9 30pm, although times and offerings vary depending on the establishment.
Negroni, grissini and appetisers during aperitivo hour
WHAT TO EAT AND DRINK IN TURIN
Bicerin – created in Turin at Caffè Al Bicerin, Bicerin is a hot drink layered with coffee, chocolate and whipped cream
Negroni – a cocktail made with vermouth, campari and gin
Barolo and Barbaresco wines – famed regional wines from Alba, Piedmont
Grissini – one of their specialities, this artisan bakery is a great place to buy or try grissini – Perino Vesco
Gianduiotto (guindujo) – chocolate with hazelnuts
White truffle – another regional speciality from Alba, Piedmont
Risotto – Arborio and Carnaroli rice are grown in Piedmont
Pasta with braised beef – try dishes like pasta with ragu or beef braised in Barolo wine
Vitello Tonato – what may seem like strangers on a plate, cold thinly sliced veal and tuna sauce harmonise in this popular piedmont dish
ARRANGING YOUR TRIP
When to go
For a solo city break, we recommend September to April to beat the busy crowds of summer months. We found it to be a fabulous winter escape.
There are reasonably priced daily, direct flights from London throughout the year. British Airways and Easyjet fly out from Gatwick. Ryanair fly to Turin from Stansted.
TUI and Jet2 fly from other UK airports but flights may coincide with the ski season. Also check Edinburgh, Bristol, Manchester, Newcastle and Belfast for direct availability.
Otherwise, airlines like Flybe, KLM, Air France and AlItalia offer flights from UK airports with one connecting stop. Booking 6-8 weeks in advance could be sensible if connecting flights are the only option.
Airport to Turin city centre
From Turin-Caselle Airport you can get to the centre by taxi, two trains or by direct bus. Solo Living recommends taking the bus which takes around 50 minutes to one hour.
Getting around Turin
Walking or using public transport – buses, trams and underground
Turin Tourism Office
The centrally located tourist office is worth a visit on arrival, where you can buy a weekend visitors pass to participating museums and galleries while also offering discounts on public transport. You can also buy a Coffee Card which allows you to enjoy a coffee in five of Turin’s historic cafes. Remember on the first Sunday, Tuesday and Wednesday of every month, entrance to select state visitor attractions is free.
Free walking tours
Organised by volunteers – http://www.freetourturin.com/
Where to stay
There is accommodation to suit every budget. Solo Living stayed and would highly recommend Grand Hotel Sitea due to its location and proximity to visitor attractions, its comfort and traditional style. For the best rates, book around five to eight weeks in advance by searching hotel comparison sites.
The hotel also offers room and breakfast rates for the solo traveller directly from their website but when we booked around four weeks in advance, the offer was sold out for the two months ahead. However, our deal found on Expedia proved to be very good. It is reassuring and worth noting the hotel welcomes solo travellers.
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