What can we do When Being in Turin, Italy

With direct flights from the UK, taking around two hours, Turin is a convenient destination for a long weekend. Originally laid out by the Romans, the streets still follow the same grid pattern, and the centre is compact enough to explore on foot.

This was a Royal city, first the capital of the Kingdom of Savoy and then, briefly Italy’s first capital, before becoming an industrial powerhouse in the 20th century. These days the factories are silent and the pedestrianised centre is full of museums, galleries, cafes and restaurants.

Grand Cafes

Showing the influence of Hapsburg Empire, the city is endowed with ornate historical cafés similar to those in Vienna. Their interiors are a riot of gilded upholstery, chandeliers, wooden panels and long mirrors. Ava Gardener and James Stewart were regulars at the Café Torinoand Baratti & Milano is famous for its thick hot chocolate. Café Mulassano invented the Tramezzino in 1926, the Italian take on a crustless triangular sandwich and they still serve around 40 varieties at around 4€ each.

Ice Cream Parlours

Gelateria Pepino was founded in 1884 by an ice cream maker from Naples but the present shop dates from 1929. The grandfather of the present owner, Edoardo Cavagnino, came up with the idea of putting gelato on a stick in 1935 but it was sloppy and difficult to eat. He solved the problem by coating it with chocolate to keep it cool and the first Pinguino or Penguin went on sale in 1939. It originally sold for one Italian Lira, the price of a cinema ticket, and claims to be the world’s first choc ice. Of course it was a tremendous success and they are still making it today in five different flavours.

Markets

If you really want to get an idea of the quality of the region’s produce, then you won’t be disappointed at the Porta Palazzo Market, located in Piazza della Repubblica. With over 800 stalls, it’s one of the largest open air markets in Europe and is open Monday to Saturday. There are also three market halls dedicated to fish, meat, cheese and bread and a farmers’ market with around 100 stalls selling fresh produce.

Car Museum

Nearby is the Museo Nazionale dell’Automobile with over 200 vehicles from Italy and the rest of the world on display. The museum dates from 1932 but was extensively refurbished in 2011 and is imaginatively laid out on three floors, using sound and light to enhance the experience. It’s a journey through the history of the automobile, from the earliest models to cars of the future. Don’t miss the 1892 Peugeot and a 1980 Ferrari 308. There are also sections dealing with car design and environmental issues.

Palazzo Reale

The elegant 17th century facade of the Palazzo Reale and the splendour of its numerous, richly furnished rooms, reflect luxurious life at court and centuries of history of the House of Savoy. Don’t miss the Armeria Reale, the Royal Armoury, with a long gallery of armoured knights sitting on full sized stuffed horses, including King Carlo Alberto’s favourite animal. Adjoining the Reale is the chapel where the Shroud is kept, but it was closed for repairs when I visited.