When my client said their office was in Turin, Italy and that they’d need me to come onsite, I smiled and nodded in the video conference and immediately had to look up where this place was! It sounded familiar and the reason being was the Winter Olympics were hosted there in 2006 before Vancouver - IT WAS ALL COMING TOGETHER. Not really but upon further research I found this place is the capital of Piedmont: famous for its cuisine, architecture and some neighbouring delicious wine regions (Barolo and Barbaresco to name a few.) I have loved all the other places I’ve traveled in Italy so I was excited to knock another place off my list and see what really made this place Paris-like.
The office we were visiting was outside of the city center which required a car rental, which meant I got to drive in Europe and the void in my life of driving stick would be filled - what can I say, put me behind a wheel in the small side streets in Europe and I turn into Jason Bourne. In all honestly though, I drive aggressive and fast (I’m told) but I quickly learned the way to get by driving in Italy is being confident and to only loosely follow the street signs.
I wanted to be in the city so we could enjoy our non working hours as much as possible - we stayed in an adorable Air BnB central to great restaurants, a market across the street and short jaunt to the nearest river and row of bridges - it’s Europe after all, that’s a staple in every city.
What we did
Arriving on Sundays in Europe is always good and bad - primarily because very little is open. But we made sure to have a plan to fight the jet leg when we arrived and that was the The National Museum of Cinema. I immediately fell in love. It’s housed inside the Mole Antonelliana tower - a famous landmark Turin is known for (so checking two things off the list!). The museum was started in 2008 and has quickly become one of the most popular museums in Turin. It showcases the history and evolution of film through cinematographic devices, light boxes, movie posters, artwork, film reels and movie books. In the center there are loungers you can watch movies on a big screen (Breakfast at Tiffany’s was playing - for me, I imagine) and walk the circumference of 5 levels looking at film from movies, to music videos to live concerts and short films. My love of film made this such a special memory - I’d highly recommend it!
We also visited the Museo Egizio which interestingly enough is the oldest museum that is devoted entirely to ancient Egyptian culture. Found in the city center, it was probably one of the most beautiful museums I’ve ever been to. There is A LOT to get through, not Louvre level but we opted for the 1.5 self guided tour and I felt it captured just the right amount of history in between my coffee stops. The level of detail that went into the design of the tombs was incredible; we learned how the tombs were buried with food, wine and water to help them through their travels into the after life. I would definitely visit again given the opportunity.
Turin is also home to a plethora of piazzos. A piazza: defined as a central plaza or marketplace and most commonly found in small Italian towns. I dragged my colleague to the Piazzo San Carlo which was 30 minutes in the wrong direction we were going, while also ruining a new pair of heels - stilettos are not friendly to the cobblestone streets. Regardless, we both appreciated the illuminated piazzo that was filled with surrounding shops (30% gelato), kids running around and a few photo ops.
Where we ate
Eataly (derived from the words EAT and ITALY): Our Air BnB hosts recommendation, I was surprised to learn you can find Eataly’s all over the world including New York, Boston, LA, Chicago etc. Eataly started with the idea of one place for people to eat, shop and learn about delicious food. You could pick out your food fresh to be cooked and then wander the store sampling all the cheese, cannelloni, and then visit the wine cellar to get a bit tipsy.
Laleo: A great option for brunch on the weekends but we enjoyed a lovely lunch on their patio. Found in a quiet neighbourhood with surrounding businesses, but you can immediately tell it’s a local favourite and the food is prepared from scratch with love. The women walked us through the menu making recommendations and genuinely wanted us to enjoy the meal - we went with a few items but the stand out choice was definitely the “Golden One” which was kind of like a rissotto rice ball? That’s probably butchering the description but just order it.
Il Camaleonte Piola: Another small, warm and welcoming spot with a limited Italian menu featuring only what’s fresh for the season. The anti pasto misto as a starter was delicious and I couldn’t tell you the rest of what we ordered because we were told what ‘Nonna’ had made that day and trusted our server to deliver - probably some of the freshest pasta I’ve ever eaten. (Note: these small hole in the wall places typically only take cash so be prepared!).
Other notable food restaurants to try is Tre Galline: almost every blog mentioned this place and my plan of rolling in with no reservation did not get us anywhere. Book ahead! I’ll be back.
Caffe Al Bicerin: Last but certainly not least is this cafe. It is an integral part of Turin’s history and has been around for 256 years - YES, 256 YEARS. Known for their large selection of chocolates, coffees and the infamous Bicerin drink which is served in a tall glass made up of coffee, chocolate, milk and syrup (see photo below). This cafe can be found across from the Sanctuary of the Consolata which meant that Al Bicerin was the place to be after church let out. Another fun fact I learned about this cafe was that while it was owned by a man it was actually managed by women during a time when cafes were intended to be exclusive for men and not “suitable” for women. Under this female leadership it allowed for women to feel comfortable and safe which is admirable, not to mention the ladies of Al Bicerin were known in the community for caring for homeless - pretty bad ass women if you as me. We couldn’t take the coffee home but we took all the biscotti.
Santa Maria del Monte: One of the most famous spots in Turin to get a great view of the Mole Antonelliana and mountains on a clear day. You’re able to drive up to this look out (I’d recommend strong skills in navigating first gear in a car at a steep incline), otherwise you can walk up. You can walk through the church as well as admire the statua della madonna over looking the city.
While we didn’t see all the things Turin (Torino to the locals), it still spoke to my soul as most European cities do. It’s quiet but still has a genuine energy to it - markets filled with locals and few tourists, buildings thousands of years old still cared for like new and businesses run with the integrity of the generations before they could have inherited from their family.
I’ll be back Turin, and I think maybe, just like Paris - you will always be a good idea.
Where is your favourite place to travel in Italy? I don’t think I’ll ever tire of that country!