Published on the Viator Travel Blog on August 29, 2013
Turin has never approached the popularity of top Italian tourist draws like Venice or Florence, but that undiscovered quality is just part of its charm. Turin, or Torino as the Italians call it, is an elegant city of arcaded streets and monumental squares, and on a clear day, the Alps gleam in the distance. But the magic doesn’t end there.
The world is supposedly composed of lines of energy and Turin is part of a triangle of white magic connecting with Lyon, France and Krakow, Poland. But Turin is also part of the black magic triangle that includes London and San Francisco making it the one city with a foot in both camps. Filled with both religious images and symbols of the occult, this truly is a city of good and evil.
Here are 7 reasons to take a magical mystery tour of Turin:
1. The Shroud
To really get the skinny on the Shroud, visit the Sindone Museum (sindone means shroud in Italian) run with great efficiency and heartfelt dedication by a team of sweet, little Italian ladies. The museum is careful to make no claims about the origin of the Shroud, but it is clear from all the evidence that the Man in the Shroud (as the museum refers to him) was crucified by the Romans. And the Shroud has been around for centuries, showing up repeatedly in paintings and other artifacts throughout the ages (a wonderful example of art supporting historical and scientific investigation). What is not clear is how the man’s image was imprinted on the Shroud. Scientists are still studying this phenomenon; their best guess is that it was the result of some kind of geologic radiation.
Visit the Holy Shroud
2. Arcades and Piazzas
When Napoleon conquered Turin in 1798, he envisioned a city of gardens and public spaces, and as usual, he got what he wanted. Turin has numerous piazzas — huge open spaces surrounded by impressive architecture like Piazza San Carlo with its historic cafes and Piazza Castello with its amazing baroque palaces.
One of the most interesting piazzas is Piazza Statuto said to lie at the apex of the black magic triangle. The piazza looks pretty tame with a tranquil park where locals push baby carriages and walk their dogs. However, the square was once a Roman necropolis, and a guillotine was hard at work here during the days of the French Revolution. The statue at the front of the square is also quite disturbing — a craggy pyramid draped with male figures in poses of great agony. The monument was dedicated to the miners who suffered and died while building the Frejus Rail Tunnel connecting Italy with France.
3. The Egyptian Museum
One room contains the treasures from an unplundered tomb, a rarity in itself since tomb robbers seem to find their way into all the Egyptian tombs. Kha and Merit were a wealthy, but non-royal couple whose tomb was filled with an assortment of belongings: a board game similar to checkers, dried up bread (that has held up pretty well over the millennia), and even an early western-style toilet. The best room of all is the Statuary Hall; a dark room lined with enough well-lit statues of pharaohs, Egyptian gods, and sphinxes to make you forget you are in Italy!
4. Mole Antonelliana
The graceful 547-foot tower called Mole Antonelliana is the symbol of Turin, much like the Eiffel Tower is the symbol of Paris. It was the highest brick building in the world when it was completed in 1889 and offers stunning views of red rooftops, many historical buildings, and the Po River which flows nearby.
The Mole is also home to the Cinema Museum (Museo Nazionale del Cinema) with exhibits on the history of cinema from shadow puppets and simple optical tricks to Edison’s first attempts at making moving pictures. Other displays include clips from a variety of movies, a copy of the original screenplay for The Godfather, and Marilyn Monroe’s bustier!
5. Home of the Fiat
|A Fiat in Turin. Photo credit: Tony Harrison via Flickr.|
Turin was once known as the ‘Detroit of Italy’ and its car building heritage lives on in the Automobile Museum (Museo Nazionale dell’Automobile). This museum explores the history of the automobile along with a jaw-dropping collection of Ferraris and Alpha Romeos. A video collection of car commercials is also fun with early commercials such as an Oldsmobile sing-a-long (just follow the bouncing ball) called ‘Me and my Merry Oldsmobile.’
6. Temptations of Turin
Another special treat in Turin are aperitivos. Much like tapas in Spain, aperitivos are served in bars during the pre-dinner Happy Hour. However, rather than paying by the individual plates as you do in Spain, in Turin one small charge (usually about 8€) buys a generous drink plus all the aperitivos you can eat. It’s like a tapas smorgasbord!
7. Easy Day Trips
Forays into the Piedmont will satisfy even the most discerning wine connoisseur. Trains connect to the famous wine towns of Alba and Asti with plentiful opportunities to taste Barolo, known as ‘the wine of kings, the king of wines.’ Even the city of Milan beckons: her elegant cathedral and da Vinci’s Last Supper are only a short (45-minute) train ride away.