Turin (also called Torino in Italian, everyone seems to use it interchangeably, even Italians) is a city I’ve always heard italophiles rave about, but I’d never been. After spending a week tasting tons of Barolo and Nebbiolo in Monforte d’Alba, I added on a couple extra nights inn Torino before flying out to scope it out for future visits.

I didn’t have any time to do any advance time to do much research and was short of time, so I just spent a couple of days walking its endless piazzas and colonnades, Wandering Around Until Stumbling On Something Cool (WAUSOSC™️). There are lots of great guides available, many I’ve linked at the bottom of this post, so I won’t go into too much detail, just a bunch of pics of cool things I liked.

An Orderly Italian City of Giant Companies and Piazzas

Torino is the capital of Piedmont and sits in a bowl in the northwest corner of Italy, with its back up against the French Alps and a great flat valley along the Po River that leads all the way to Venice. On a sunny day you can see the white-capped peaks of the Alps. People go skiing on the weekends.

Torino is the third largest city in Italy and one of its most powerful. It was the first capital of Italy when the country was formed during the risorgimento that led to the unification of Italy. Some of Italy’s largest companies are headquartered here, including car companies Fiat (now Stellantis), Lancia, Alfa Romeo, Maserati, and truck companies Iveco and New Holland, coffee maker Lavazza and all the bitters companies Martini-Rossi and the national broadcaster RAI, giant banks and insurers and even a center of space industries. And it’s home to Juventus, one of Italy’s best soccer teams. That’s were its power and wealth comes from and a high standard of living.

As big and beautiful as it is, Torino is very walkable and calm, not the chaos of other big Roman cities. It’s mostly pedestrianized, with mellow cross streets barely interrupting your ramble.

Torino from air

Calm. That’s the feeling that kept coming up when I wrote this post. In Rome, Naples, Florence and even Milano a little bit, most piazzas are big chaotic places, filled with traffic circles and loud scooters terrorizing you. But here, calm.

Compared to a lot of the older cities in Italy, Torino is actually very orderly, laid out in an elegant grid, with one rectangular colonnaded piazza linked to another by passageways. So it’s like going from one box to the next and so you kinda lose track of where you are, it’s all so lovely. Hence, also, the lack of detail in this post “So where was that again?” I had to google everything again.

Turin main piazza
Piazza San Carlo
Turin main Piazza San Carlo
Piazza San Carlo

There was a lot duchy-ing going on the in the 18th century. Lots of kings and kingdoms, flip-flopping from one family to the next, like the Savoys. A lot of the city feels very French to me.

Palazzo Solaro del Borgo

Quadrilatero Romano & The Centro Storico

I liked the old quarter the best. Felt older, less orderly. Where I feel my soul. Lots of cool streets, old buildings and cool cafes tucked under porticos and in open piazzas.

Porta Palatina

The Porta Palatina is the original Roman gate, built in 1C AD and still one of the best preserved Roman gates in the world. All this was Roman land until Hannibal came rambling down the Alps with his elephant herd. The city’s major food market is just around the corner.

porta palatina torino

Mole Antonelliana

The Mole Antonellian. Originally designed to be a synagogue, the architect kept making it bigger and bigger and costlier and costlier. Finally, they got in a fight, the Jewish community gave up and swapped land with the city which transformed it into the landmark it is today in the center of Turin. Turin is the birthplace of Italian cinema and now the National Film Museum occupies the ground floor and worth a stop.

Palazzo Carignano

A City of Shopping Colonnades

This was my favorite part about Turin, the colonnades. The first day I was there in late spring, the weather was cold and pouring rain. But because the city is lined with block after block of these beautiful shopping colonnades you can go about, cold rain or hot shine, and travel literally for miles under cover. Each colonnade more beautiful than the last. Shops. Cafes. Museums. All tucked neatly under stone hats.

Turin Galleria Subalpina
Galleria Subalpina
Turin colonnade shopping

On set Saturdays, all the Polizia scatter across the city and block the streets; supremely well-dressed motorcycle cops screaming up and down the street. Then… here they come. The city shuts down streets so that kids can ride freely without traffic and get used to riding around in a big city. I loved it. Check out the video below. I loved every second. This is so Italy:

Walk Along The Po River and Parco del Valentino

There are parks and piazzas and paths all along the beautiful Po river through Turin. I always thought the Po was a big industrialized polluted river, but it is gorgeous. People were crewing, dogs were swimming, the cafes were full. God, I loved this city.

Po River Turin

Watch these little videos:

Where to Eat In Turin

There are a LOT of amazing restaurants in Turin, some of the best in Italy. Most require some pre-planning to make reservations, which I didn’t have a chance to do. So I was forced to do a lot of catch-as-catch-can on some places… even managing to his an Argentinian restaurant that looked great from the street and I was hungry! I just set out and walked and walked. Didn’t even go into a museum, there is so much to see.

Via Roma and Piazza San Carlo

Stop For An Aperitivo At The Famous Caffè Torino

Sweet vermouth was invented in Torino, so naturally you gotta have an aperitivo, so wonderfully described by An American in Rome here. This is one of (the many) grand art deco cafes in Torino. So gorgeous and not just loaded with tourists. Cappuccinos and sweets in the morning, to light lunchy things, to a proper aperitivo hour.

Caffè Torino view
Caffe Torino dining room

Visit The First Eataly

Eataly Turin wine

Have A Stellar Cocktail At The American Bar

American Bar Grand Hotel Sitea Turin decor

La Badessa — A Perfect Turin Meal

I just loved this restaurant, La Badessa. We didn’t have reservations but were able to get in. A big main dining room full of large parties having lively discussions, then tucked down some narrow stairs where we ate in cool basement rooms, each with its own personality. They specialize in pulling historical recipes from over the years from all the monasteries of Piedmont. Some researched, some shared. Every corner decorated with some sort of relic or religious icon.

At the restaurant La Badessa we followed – since 1996 – this idea, “the cuisine of monasteries”, collecting countless recipes old and new.

La Badessa Website
La Badessa Turin main dining room
La Badessa Turin decor

Get A Taste of Argentina at Milanga

I really didn’t have any intention of going to an Argentinian restaurant in Turin, but it was getting late, I had 15,000 steps in and leaving at 4am the next morning. I walked by, peeked into the windows and said “They have Quillmes. This’ll be good.” It was.

Milanga Torino bistecca
Milanga Torino front dining room

Here’s more information from TripAdvisor for Milanga

Oddur Thorisson is a very famous and one of my favorite travel and food photographers. Gawd, I wish I knew how he makes his photos. He, his famous wife Mimi and their giant brood of beautiful kids live in Torino now and he regularly post beautiful photos from their favorite restaurants there. Here are are few of his recommendations, you should follow him on Instagram:

And another Turin guide from CNTraveller on the all the best places to eat and see by Oddur Thorisson. And here’s a list of all the Michelin restaurants in Turin. And TripAdvisor’s list of best restaurants.

— Last Visited May 2022 —

More Information on Turin

I stayed at the old school Grand Hotel Sitea, which really isn’t my style but I loved it. That’s where the American Bar is. The rooms were huge, the restaurant and morning breakfast are great.

Here’s 36 Hours In Turin from the NY Times. And why Turin is a great CityBreak from The Telegraph. And why Turin is so such an underrated cultural gem from The Telegraph. Here are the Best Things to Do in Turin from the website. Here’s a great Insider’s Guide to Turin from Conde Nast Traveller. And some of the more off-beat places to see in Turin from Atlas Obscura. Here are 16 Best Things to Do in Turin from Culture Trip. Here’s Lonely Planet’s Guide to Turin. And the Top Things to Do In Turin from TripAdvisor. Here’s a great article in Vogue, which called Turin “Italy’s Elegant City”.

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