Our motorhome journey saw us leaving the Sacro di San Michele and making for Turin – Torino a city we have all heard of but like so many of the places we have visited not one we knew much about. It was in fact the 1st capital of unified Italy when founded in 1861. Anyone that drives a car has heard of one of Italy’s most famous exports, Fiat, and any one that knows anything about football will be aware of the other well known name associated with Turin, Juventus, and that was the sum of our knowledge. We were also later to discover that Turin is the birthplace of the now well-known marriage of chocolate and hazlenut – Gianduja! A very interesting fact for a couple of chocaholics like us.
With no expectations Turin was to be another journey of discovery as has been the norm so far and we were not left disappointed. We had a bit of a slow start, trying to find somewhere to stay the night, the intention being to stay outside the city and catch public transport into the city. Unfortunately the 2 aires we had lined up were just not in good positions so we headed into the city looking for somewhere to park. More by luck than good planning we ended up near the city centre parked just outside the pay zone on the banks of the Fiume Dora Riparia (the same river that flows through Susa) and fortunately one of the great things about Turin is that the main centre is small enough to walk or cycle around.
Parked though not for the night we set of for an initial explore, found our way into the centre via the Duomo (cathedral) di San Giovannin Battista the home of the Shroud of Turin, (while the actual shroud isn’t on display the stone alter/chest holding it is along with information about the shroud). After a visit to the Duomo we strolled on into the city to be greeted by the large and lovely Piazza Reale home of the Museo Reale and opposite the equally nice Piazza Castello the home of Palazzo Madama home of the civic museum of ancient art. The square is busy and popular with people milling around and children playing in the fountains. At the other end is the fermata Castello and a large war memorial and the Teatro Regio with it’s stunning modern ironwork gates.
Our initial walk carried us through gorgeous colonnaded streets full of shops, restaurants and tempting cafes most of which we just about managed to resist. The centre of Turin is just so typically Italian, as you imagine it. It’s impossible not to become absolutely immersed in the beauty of the classical architecture and surroundings. After a well deserved coffee break we headed back to Buzz and a hunt for somewhere to park for the night. After a bit of investigation we discovered another aire at Parco Ruffini, a sports park on the outskirts of the city, which was fine, although as is the norm when Europe is hot, all the locals come out to play after dark and it did get pretty noisy for a time with dance classes, football matches and children playing. The next morning we headed back to our original parking spot beside the Dora. Setting off we headed straight for what we had been told was Europe’s largest open air market at Porta Palazzo and it was absolutely huge. The vibrant, bustling marketplace was full of the freshest fruit and vegetables, meat, cheese and just about everything else you could want. The colourful, fragrant and fabulously fresh produce was exceptional, generally very large and enticingly cheap.
After a fair amount of time, coffee and a small cake we went for a bigger exploration of the city, walking a large part of it and visiting the interesting Television museum at RAI the Italian broadcaster packed full of historic radio, tv and recording equipment. Dominant in the skyline is the famous Mole Antonelliana designed by Alessandro Antonelli and built between 1863 and 1889 originally as a synagogue it now houses the national museum of cinema – the world’s tallest museum in fact – chronicalling the rise of Tollywood and the Italian film industry born at the start of the 1900s. The Mole was the tallest masonary building in the world for a while and now the symbol of Turin. After lunch we headed out again by bike to get a bit further afield, taking a ride along the river and discovering some of the smaller areas and piazzas. Turin has many museums including an excellent Egyptian museum, and lots of parks and green areas as well as the large open spaces and piazzas. It feels very airy and spacious, never hemmed in. There’s plenty of life here but also plenty of space. In many ways it reminded us of Madrid (which is much busier) in both size and quality of its architecture.
During the afternoon we had been in contact with Salima and John the Canadian couple from Vancouver on a 7 week tour of Europe with their children Noah ( a great football fan) and Lishi who we met on the wine route in the Alsace going in opposite directions. We all just happened to now be in Turin and that evening we all got together for Apertivo at the Caffe Vittorio Vento, suffice to say we had a really great evening with a lovely family in a lovely city, making the most of the extensive buffet on offer and ending the evening on the steps of the Monumento a Emanuele in the Piazza Castello drinking Prosecco thoughtfully brought along by our new friends.
The next day saw us leave Turin in the afternoon and head towards Vercelli and new adventures. Leaving behind a newly discovered city which we found spirited, happy, interesting, full of great food and great people. Turin has everything you need for an exciting long weekend break or as part of a longer tour of the area, there is history stacked upon history coupled with a great vibrancy, beautiful buildings and plenty of life in the evening. Suffice to say we loved Turin and wouldn’t say no to a return visit.