If you think of Turin only as the large industrial city which is home to Juventus and Fiat motors, or as the gridlocked location for 1969 Michael Caine crime caper The Italian Job, then you’re in for a pleasant surprise.
Tucked in the north-west corner of the country 30 miles from France and Switzerland, Turin was established as the capital of the Savoy territories in France and northern Italy in the 16th Century and, briefly, of a newly-unified Italy in the 19th. Turin still looks and feels like a capital city, despite having fallen some way behind Rome and Milan in terms of wealth and influence. Wide avenues are flanked by austerely elegant palazzi and grand piazzas framed by ornate Baroque public buildings.
The city’s tourist attractions include the lavish Palazzo Reale, built for the Savoy king Carlo Emanuele II in 1646; the biggest Egyptian museum outside Cairo; the cathedral that houses the Shroud of Turin, which is either the image of Jesus Christ or a very clever fake; the museum of cinema underneath the iconic Mole Antonelliana in the city centre; and the Automobile Museum, which is well worth a visit, even for non-petrolheads.
There is also much that’s new and cutting-edge about the city, from its underground electronic dance music scene – the Piedmont Groove – to the work of contemporary artists in private galleries like Maze or the Merz Foundation.
In recent years the local council has tried to reclaim the city centre for pedestrians, making it a far more enjoyable place to wander around.
The area known as the quadrilatero, around Via Garibaldi, has become the place to hang, shop, drink and eat, while the murazzi, an arcaded strip by the River Po, is home to a row of clubs which cater for all tastes, from reggae to grunge.
Turin became the focal point of the whole of Italy when it hosted the Winter Olympics & Paralympics in February 2006 but, although skiing and associated winter activities remain popular, football is without question paramount.
Even if you wanted to, there’s really no escaping the Old Lady. With almost 30 league titles and an estimated 10 million supporters in Italy alone, Juventus – despite the scandal of recent seasons – tower over Italian football in a way that has no equivalent in Britain. To get even close, you would have to imagine Manchester United and Liverpool combined – Juventus are simply addicted to success.
Despite not winning the title since 1976, city rivals Torino remain one of Italy’s best-loved clubs. The ‘Grande Torino’ which won five successive scudetti in the 1940s is considered by many to be the finest team the country ever produced, but the entire side was tragically wiped out on May 4 1949, when the plane bringing them back from a friendly match in Portugal hit the hillside of Superga, just outside the city.
Turin's Caselle airport is located 15km north of the city centre and connected by buses which go straight to the Porta Susa and Porta Nuova central train stations.
The main tourist office is on the corner of Piazza Castello and Via Garibaldi. Ask about the Torino card, which gives you entrance to 84 museums and access to all bus services for 48 hours. Telephone: 011 535 181.
Most of Turin's sights are within walking distance of Porta Nuova station, although if you're pushed for time, the tram and bus network provides a fast and efficient way of getting around.
Turin's nightlife is more sedate than that of Milan, but there is a reasonably varied mix of clubs and bars with the liveliest spots down on the Murazzi, the embankment bordered by the Parco del Valentino. There's a heavy police presence, due to the area gaining a recent reputation for drug use and theft, and you're advised to watch your wallet. Also be aware that you'll need membership cards, costing up to 10 Euro, to get into some clubs – but you usually get the first drink free and the bar staff often aren't stingy with the measures.
Jumping Jester, c/Via Mazzini 2. Old-style interior with huge TV on which football matches are shown live. Serves a very nice pint of cold Caffreys or Tennants if you're homesick.
Nuev Caval Brons, c/Piazza San Carlo 157, bar (and restaurant) with a help-yourself canapé selection that Henry VIII would have been proud of.
AEIOU, c/Via Spanzotti 3, telephone: 011 385 8580. Fancy a dance? This is a large, modern club with a wide selection of cocktails and music.
Tre Galli, c/Via Sant'Agostino 25. Busy viniera with tables on the piazza in summer. Laidback atmosphere and it's open till 2am.
La Contea Corso Quintino c/Sella 132. Features live jazz and other styles under a trompe l'oeil fresco of a square.
The Museo dell'Automobile at Corso Unita d'Italia 40, Italy's only motor museum, is well worth checking out. You'll spot models you haven't seen since your childhood and others familiar from films, as the museum traces the development from the early cars to the mass-produced family version. Look also at the gleaming Isotta Fraschini driven by Gloria Swanson in Sunset Boulevard, still with the initials of Norma Desmond, the character she played, on the side.
SOMETHING A LITTLE DIFFERENT
If you're on a budget holiday, treat your better half to a visit to the Crocetta market near the Via Cassini and Via Marco Polo, which sells designer clothes at much cheaper prices than the shops. Alternatively, if you're in the money and don't mind spending it, take a stroll down the Via Roma, which is good for designer labels.
A worthwhile trip west is a journey to Rivoli and its Museo dell'Arte Contemporaneo for a bit of high culture. Housed in the baroque Castello di Rivoli, one-time residence of the ruling Savoy family, the museum displays the most important collection of post-war art in Italy, ranging from works by Jeff Koons and Claes Oldenburg to Arte Povera artists such as Mario Merz and Alighiero Boetti.
Explore Turin with the interactive map below. Click a club badge for a club guide.
For regular updates on the crazy world of Italian football, see our blog Serie Aaaaargh!
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