Despite its grand boulevards, cobbled streets and ancient ruins, Turin – the capital of the Piedmont region of northern Italy – is still relatively under the radar. While comparisons are often made with Vienna and Paris, Turin lacks the self-consciousness (and the hordes of tourists) of both its feted foreign counterparts and its neighbour, Milan. Known as the home of carmaker Fiat and football club Juventus, Turin has a strong industrial heritage. But now its thriving arts scene, burgeoning craft-beer sector and impressive vegan offering are making it a cultural hub.
What to do
The city centre is navigable by foot, so spend at least half a day wandering the handsome Napoleonic boulevards, colonnades (covered streets), and grand squares, enjoying a coffee or two along the way. From there, take a stroll by the river Po to the tree-filled Parco del Valentino and botanical gardens.
Revel in the relics
Don’t miss one of history’s most studied (and contested) artefacts, the Turin Shroud – that piece of linen cloth thought to bear the imprint of Jesus’s body. Decide for yourself at the Duomo di Torino. The Museo Egizio boasts a staggering 26,000 Egyptian artefacts and counting. Entrance is €15.
Football and Fiat
To the north of the city you’ll find Juventus’s Allianz stadium, which is worth the short bus ride or metro for the memorabilia-packed museum alone (tickets €15). To the south of the city, Lingotto, the former Fiat factory complete with race track on its roof, can be easily reached via the M1 metro.
If you’re visiting in the winter and are into snow sports, Turin is incredibly close to a number of ski resorts – close enough to make going for the day feasible. Bardonecchia, Sauze d’Oulx and Sestriere are all within an hour and a half drive of the city.
Where to stay
For a room with a view, try the modern and stylish Turin Palace Hotel. Rooms are bright, airy and comfortable and the hotel’s rooftop terrace is just as impressive – it’s the perfect spot to watch the sun set over the Alps. Doubles from €162, room only.
If you want to take in the city’s history, Palazzo Ciablese, a bed and breakfast housed in a 16th century building in the Roman Quarter, is just the thing. The owners are friendly and hospitable and you’ll fall in love with their French bulldog. Doubles from €130 (£113), B&B
The four-star NH Torino Santo Stefano is located just minutes from the Roman quarter and Duomo. Here, comfort is matched with historic charm – the views from the rooftop terrace are spectacular. Doubles from €135, room-only.
Where to eat
Turin reaps the benefits of being hugged by the Alps. For a masterclass in local produce, check out the buzzing Cianci Piola Caffe on the edge of the Roman Quarter, where you’ll be guided through the budget-friendly menu by knowledgeable staff. Expect to pay approximately €30 per person for a selection of starters, pasta, mains and dessert.
Head to Sapori on via San Tommaso, a deli run by a charismatic husband-and-wife duo who’ve been making pasta by hand for almost 30 years (one of their students went on to open Burro e Salvia in Shoreditch). You can eat in or take away, but we recommend working your way through the pasta counter in situ, and watch while it’s deftly crafted in front of you.
While food traditions abound – unsurprisingly Turin is home to the biannual Salone del Gusto slow food festival – the city has evolved into something of a vegan hotspot in recent years. Today, there are more than 30 dedicated vegan outlets across the city, but for fresh and flavoursome vegan burgers with Instagrammable rainbow-coloured buns made in-house, try Flower Burger (burger, chips and drinks approximately €15).
Where to drink
When in northern Italy, one must indulge in an aperitivo – essentially happy hour with nibbles. In the name of tradition, head to Caffè Torino on the corner of Piazza San Carlo, which has been serving Negronis since 1903. For a contemporary spin, La Drogheria on Piazza Vittorio Veneto regularly draws in the crowds.
For a fantastic selection of local craft beers and organic wines, check out Birreria Don Giovanni on the edge of the Roman quarter, while just around the corner, wine and coffee shop Caffè-Vini Emilio Ranzini is the type of place you’ll go for one and end up staying the whole night. Neighbourhood hotspot Orro Birra also has a great selection of craft beers on tap.
No trip to Turin is complete without trying Bicerin, an ancient Piedmontese drink which combines espresso, chocolate and whole milk with finesse. The cosy yet grand Caffè al Bicerin on the Piazza della Consolata has been serving this heady concoction, whisked to order, since 1763. Nietzsche and Puccini were fans. The dark oak counters and marble tables you see today are originals, but as the tables are few expect to drink elbow to elbow – it’s all part of the charm.
Where to shop
Turin is a city for chocolate-lovers, which is hardly surprising when you consider it’s home to gianduja, a delectable chocolate and hazelnut spread which dates back to the 18th century. Try it at Guido Gobino Bottega, an ornate shop and tasting room just moments from Piazza San Carlo where you can buy everything from the finest artisan chocolate by the slab to individual, foil-wrapped treats.
On the same street, fine food emporium Eataly is a mecca for locals and tourists alike. It’s filled floor-to-ceiling with the finest Piedmontese and Italian ingredients, but you can also tuck into its produce in a sit-down capacity – the streetside terrace is always bustling. The original Eataly is housed in a former Vermouth factory in the Lingotto district, easily accessible from the centre by tram.
For local specialities, the ancient Quadilatero Romano (Roman Quarter) is filled with quaint shops selling everything from pasta, cheese and wine to local crafts and textiles.
Turin isn’t short of eye-pleasing architecture but the impressive 18th-century Basilica di Superga, perched atop a verdant hillside overlooking Turin, is something to behold. This magnificent Baroque church boasts panoramic views of Turin and beyond – you’ll just need to climb the 131 steps to the top of the domed roof to appreciate them. Entrance €5 to see the royal tombs, €3 to climb the dome.
Nuts and bolts
What currency do I need?
What language do they speak?
Should I tip?
Service charge is generally added to bills, so in many cases there’s no need to tip. Otherwise, 10-15 per cent is adequate.
What’s the time difference?
An hour ahead of the UK.
What’s the average flight time from the UK?
Approximately one hour and 50 minutes.
Much of central Turin is easily navigable by foot, but trams, buses and a metro system are also on hand.
Boasting a distinctive 167-metre tower and aluminium spire, it’s impossible to miss the Mole Antonelliana. Take the nifty panoramic lift to observe Turin’s grand boulevards and squares in all their glory.
Spend a morning exploring the Porta Palazzo food market, where you’ll find hundreds of stalls selling the finest Piedmontese produce. Open 7am to 2pm weekdays, other days vary.