We reluctantly left the warm sunny coast of the Italian Riviera and headed to Turin in the Northwest of Italy with Italia Rail on one of their faster, Freccia trains. As we headed into the hills we left behind the sunshine and became shrouded in a blanket of grey, foggy clouds and drizzling rain that became the backdrop for most of our Turin sightseeing. Turin is the capital of the Piedmont region in northern Italy known for its refined architecture, many museums and cultural exhibitions, its miles of Portico covered streets, its café life and love of the Aperitivo.
We feel like we didn’t give Turin the attention it deserved after such a busy week in the Riviera. We were exhausted from days of back to back hiking and sightseeing, we needed some time to rest our bodies and re-energize from all that activity so we hunkered down in Turin. The job of a full-time traveller and blogger is quite physically and even mentally demanding, more than we had anticipated. This type of travel isn’t the same as heading to a resort on the beach where the longest walk is from your room to the buffet to the pool and the biggest decisions are what to eat and which type of Margherita to have. We love the all-inclusive vacation for down time but now we are on a mission to see and experience as much of Italy and Europe as we can. You think a year is a long time but it’s not, we just passed the three-month mark of our travels and we can’t believe how fast its gone by with so much more on our list. We had a nice, comfortable apartment in Turin and with the weather not so great we took a few days to be lazy. We’d wonder the nearby mall and pretend we were locals, took more time shopping for produce and cooked fancier meals, we got haircuts and read in the apartment. We felt some guilt but this reprieve was needed.
We did do a fair share of touring though as we had a nice long stay of 7 nights in Turin. From our apartment we were well situated with the tram steps from our door and about a ½ hour ride into the center of town and the train station. The nice thing about Turin is most of the important sites are all within a walking distance around the city center. Turin has more than its fair share of museums and exhibitions, you can gorge yourself on history and cultural experiences here. If you enjoy museums then we’d recommend picking up a Torino + Piedmonte card, if you plan to visit more than two different exhibits it starts to pay off on the third and is available for 1,2,3 and 5 day versions. Think about what you want to see and do the math to see which are the best options for you. If you plan to hop on and off the city transit then you can add a transit pass at reduced rates, this makes sense if you are doing more than a bus in and out each day. We decided to do neither as we just took one bus in and one home each day and didn’t bother with any of the museums just choosing to wander the city and look around. If you want to look into the pass you can purchase and get help deciding on the options at any of the cities tourist Information spots, one can be found across from the rail station, in Piazza San Carlo or Piazza Castello, look for the ‘Ufficio del Turismo’ which have multi lingual agents. Turin has the second largest Egyptian Museum in the world, following Cairos’ and is suppose to be quite spectacular, as well you can tour some of its grand palazzos, the Museo Madama, the national museum of Reunification, or the museum of cinema and more. We had really wanted to visit the Piazzo Reale and its museums but ran out of time so we’ll just have to come back.
We had just a few simple items on our checklist for Turin; we wanted to try a Bicerin the traditional hot drink famously invented here in Turin made with expresso, melted chocolate and whole, steamed milk layered in glass. Caffe al Bicerin in Piazza della Consolata is one of Turins many historic coffee houses and is thought to be the inventor while some authorities say it originated in Caffe Fiorio on the Via Po which still serves it three hundred years later. We choose the historic Caffe Turino (one of the original historic café’s ) in Piazza Castello to try this famous drink, it wasn’t as fulfilling as we imagined. It was just luke warm and at $8 euros each the value wasn’t there, we prefer to indulge in the chocolate calda (hot chocolate) which is heaven in a cup. Served piping hot its thick like pudding or the best melted chocolate bar, try asking ‘con panna’ with whipped cream on top for extra excitement.
Next on our wish list was to try Aperitivo, an Italian tradition found most commonly in Rome, Turin and Milan. Turin has some great places to try Aperitivo and it became one of our favorite culinary trials. For the price of a cocktail (about $10 euros); usually a glass of wine, prosecco or spritzer you can partake in the accompanying buffet unlimited and fill yourself with tasty local treats, refilling your plate until satiated. It was designed to be a predinner snack to wind down with a glass and tie you over until dinner. For us it was a great economical dinner and we enjoyed trying all the various bites of local meats, cheeses, focaccias and nibblies. Some cafes scrimp on the Aperitivi, just putting out some potato chips and nuts so you have to hunt a bit to find the best ones, we sampled a few and some were better than others. Aperitivo starts at about 6pm until 8, some start putting out the buffet at about 5pm so we’d start looking in the windows to see who was putting out a decent spread and then we’d return about 6:30 to partake.
Turin was an interesting mix and we were so glad to have visited it. It’s a mix of modern and ancient, it has a high heeled flair with all the designer shops lining its streets but also rift with street people sleeping under the porticos and immigrants trying to scrap out a living. It left an impression on us and I feel the need to return someday, maybe in the summer to stroll the PO and the city parks.
Click on the video below to take a quick tour of Turin with us. Hope you enjoy it!