Although for many it is not intuitively on the tourism map in Italy, Torino has a lot to offer. The city is at the foot of the Alps and is the capital of the Piedmont region (literally – “foot of the mountain”) in northwestern Italy. It is very close to the French and Swiss border, which makes it one of the most strategic and interesting cities in the country. On top of that, Torino was the first capital city of the Italian Republic, before Florence and then Rome stole the title.
Even today, Torino is a very important center in Italy in particular and in Europe in general, and its metropolis is the third largest in Italy, after those of Rome and Milan. The city is at the mouth of the Po River, which means that its area is particularly fertile. It is rich in museums, palaces, historical monuments, galleries, and whatnot, and the countryside in its province is one of the most beautiful in Italy. On top of that, if you are a sports fan then you surely know that the city is home to the successful football team Juventus, an Italian and global football empire.
There is a lot to do in Torino, and it doesn’t matter what kind of traveler you are. It has the residence of the noble House of Savoy, the beautiful and well-preserved Palatine Tower from the era of the Roman Empire, and the Egyptian Museum, which are just examples of the cultural wealth that the city presents. The Jewish community of Torino was one of the most well-known of the Italian communities, and the large, impressive and uniquely designed synagogue is a testament to this. The proximity to the Alps and the rich village life in the surrounding areas are a paradise for lovers of agriculture and outdoor activities. It is the birthplace of solid chocolate and grissini (two sacred foods, each in its own way), and the wine of the district is known for its quality all over the world. In short, whoever you are and however you turn it, Torino has something to offer you.
As you can understand, Torino’s strategic location requires that there be a particularly large variety of historical sites from different periods and cultures, which each of its rulers and visitors left behind during their stay. Indeed, you can find here all kinds of tourist attractions, including archeological buildings from ancient times, amazingly preserved Renaissance and classical palaces, an Egyptian museum with a huge selection of exhibits, and many more.
As its name suggests, the royal palace located in Piazza Castello (Piazza Castello) along with several other important buildings, is the palace of the royal house of Savoy (Savoia), whose influence on Torino and its surroundings is difficult to sufficiently assess. This is a noble family from the 15th century, which established kings from it starting from the 18th century. Just to illustrate, Vittorio Emanuele II, the king who united modern Italy, was from the House of Savoy. All the residences of the House of Savoy in Torino and its surroundings, including the Royal Palace, have been recognized as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.
This is a relatively new building, certainly compared to the adjacent Lady’s Palace (see below), and its construction began in the 16th century. It is a structure with a restrained baroque style, which transmits power and survival. It has been standing for hundreds of years, and you can enter it and be impressed by the good taste and style of this Italian palace. The various rooms in the palace, such as the Throne Hall and the Daniel Gallery.
Piazza Castello in general, and the Royal Palace in particular, are perfect places to start your tour of Torino. Here you will begin to understand the structure of the old city, the forces that ruled the place, and the power of the dynasties that made it what it was and still is.
The Lady’s Palace is right next to the Royal Palace, also on Piazza Castello. Unlike the royal palace, the lady’s palace has been standing in one form or another for close to two thousand years. You have to visit it to understand its history, but we will give it here at the tip of the fork so that you understand why you should visit it.
The palace was originally built as a military fortress in the first century AD, back at the height of the Roman Empire. Only more than a thousand years later it passed into the possession of the House of Savoy-Acaja, which explains its second name – Casaforte degli Acaja. It was only in the middle of the 17th century that the citadel was chosen by a duchess of the House of Savoy to be her palace, and its rooms were designed accordingly. However, its Roman past can be seen in the classical Roman facade that still stands proudly at the entrance from Piazza Castello, and the palace’s military past can be seen in its rear, which still looks like a fortified and impregnable citadel. This palace is so impressive that it was chosen as the headquarters of the French government at the time of Napoleon.
Today you can walk around the palace’s baroque rooms and the buildings on its grounds, as well as visit the museum of ancient art that is permanently housed in the palace. This museum is an excellent place to refresh yourself on Italian art and style, as it displays rare items from excavations conducted by Italian expeditions in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
There will be those who wonder what is the point of an Egyptian museum in Torino, Italy, and really, this is a very unusual site in the Italian landscape. However, lovers of history and ancient Egypt who enter the museum will hold their breath throughout their visit. The Egyptian Museum houses almost the largest collection of items from ancient Egypt in the world, second only to the Egyptian Museum in Cairo. Most of the items stored there were purchased by members of the Savoy family during the 19th century, and some came to it as a gift from the Egyptian government for the assistance provided by Italy in the restoration of Egyptian antiquities in the 1960s.
This museum has such a large selection of items and exhibits that history buffs will have no trouble spending many hours there without getting bored. Here are some of the most important papyri ever discovered, including those used by the first Egyptologists to decipher the Egyptian Khartoum script. It has become a major attraction for tourists visiting Torino, and it hosts hundreds of thousands of visitors every year. There is no doubt that this is a fascinating place to visit, for adults and children alike.
Even if you don’t have any green ideas about architecture, you will surely notice the square cone and the skewer (for lack of a better word) sticking from its head to Al, which is very close to Piazza Castello. This is the Molla Antonelliana, one of the most grandiose buildings in Europe and the symbol of the city of Torino. It is actually such an important structure in Europe that it was decided to stamp its shape on EU coins, and even the philosopher Nietzsche mentions it in his writings.
Believe it or not, this monumental building (the word mole in Italian means “building of monumental dimensions”) was built in advance to be a synagogue for the Jewish community in Torino, which received the land after the Jewish ghetto was abolished and they were accepted as citizens with equal rights, in the middle of the 19th century. However, after the dimensions of the building far exceeded the original plan, the Jews gave it to the municipality and received in its place another area for the construction of the synagogue. The construction of the Molla was only completed in 1900, 37 years after it began.
Today, apart from the external uniqueness of the building, Mola has two other uses. First, similar to the Eiffel Tower, you can also take the elevator up to the end of the pillar, which is 75 meters high (about half the height of the Azrieli Towers’ rectangular structure), where it opens to a panoramic balcony with an amazing view of the entire city, right from its center.
The main and more important use of the Mola is that it is Italy’s national cinema museum. This is one of the most important museums in the world in this field and a perfect place to visit if you are a film buff or if you are traveling with children. In the museum, you will get to know the entire process of making a film, from the script stage to the release stage, through a series of interactive and experiential exhibitions in which a lot of thought was invested. The exhibitions are spread over five floors and are divided into sections according to the genres of the motion pictures. The exhibitions are in addition to the movie theater that operates on the premises, where you can watch movies after you understand how they are produced.
This palace is the third in a series of palaces, all of which are adjacent to Piazza Castello, although it is slightly further away (just a few steps). This palace, where the parliament of a united (though not yet fully united) Italy first met in the mid-19th century, is a must-see for anyone interested in the history of the Italian peninsula and the republic that arose there. Adjacent to the palace is the “Unification Museum” of Italy (Museo Risorgimento), where a huge number of writings, films, paintings, and a host of other items documenting the revival of the Italian Republic are concentrated.
Apart from that, the palace itself is a beautiful baroque palace, another one of the residences of the Savoy aristocratic family, and it saw in its lifetime a large number of historical events that were the first in Italian history. Besides the first gathering of the Italian Parliament in 1861, it is also the place where the first king of Italy, Vittorio Emanuele II, was born.
If the “young” history of Torino is not enough for you, and even the Lady’s Palace did not satisfy you, you are invited to the most preserved Roman gate in the world, which is not far from it, between Piazza Castello and the market of the palace gate. This gate used to be one of the main entrances to the old city of Torino, which at the time was completely surrounded by a fortified wall.
On both sides of the gate rise two guard towers that are more than 30 meters high, designed to monitor the passage of the population through this central gate. In addition, there are two restored bronze columns, on which the figures of Augustus Caesar and Julius Caesar are engraved.
The gate is conveniently located in the tourist center of Torino, as well as in a small and calm garden where you can rest from the day’s walks. This is an interesting site to visit, especially if you are interested in the history of the Roman Empire.
Valentino Park, founded and opened to the public in the middle of the 19th century, is the first public park in Torino, and the second largest in the city today. It is considered an urban (and national) symbol, no less than Mola Antonliana. Its uniqueness is that it is suitable both for those who want to experience green corners in the hustle and bustle of the big city and for those who are interested in the history and heritage of Torino. It has several separate sites, which together create a complete and varied experience for the visitors.
The park was built on the grounds of the Valentino Castle (Castello del Valentino), a beautiful baroque castle of the House of Savoy, which stands out from afar due to its blue roofs and impressive style. Today, the University of Architecture of Torino operates in the castle, so unfortunately it is not open to the public. However, nothing prevents you from walking around inside the beautiful park and admiring the facades facing the park, some in French style and some in Italian style.
In the territory of the park is one of the most unique museums in the world, which together constitute the village and the restored medieval sea castle. Even in Italian, this museum is called Sui Generis, to indicate that it is a unique museum. The restored village was built for an exhibition held in Torino at the end of the 19th century and was actually intended for demolition when the exhibition ended. Fortunately, its demolition was avoided, and in 1942 the place became an open museum. The village recreates the architecture and design of a typical 15th-century Italian village, so it’s the perfect hangout for period enthusiasts. In addition, the castle (La Rocca) on the spot was built to resemble a number of medieval castles found in the Piedmont region, where Torino is located.
The park is also home to the Botanical Garden of the University of Torino (Orto Botanico dell’Università di Torino). This is a very ancient garden, whose roots are planted somewhere in the middle of the 16th century. The current garden has been in its place since the beginning of the 18th century, and although over the years it has had ups and downs (neglect was great during the two world wars), it has undergone intensive restoration. Today the gardens are home to more than 2,000 species of plants, which have created a perfect setting and a rainbow of smells for you even if you are not a botanist.
For those for whom the residences of the House of Savoy (a World Heritage Site did we mention?) in the center of Torino are not enough, we recommend visiting the Queen’s Villa located in the eastern and more mountainous part of the city. This villa does not see a lot of tourists, about 61 thousand in total each year, probably due to the fact that it is not right in the middle of the city, where all the other tourist sites are. However, it is an excellent place both to relax from the busy city and the hustle and bustle of tourists, to be impressed by the panoramic view over Torino, and to appreciate the baroque palace and its beautiful frescoes.
The palace was built at the beginning of the 17th century by the Savoy family, but it was only in the 18th century, when they became a royal family, that it received its current name. It is a beautiful palace surrounded by magnificent gardens, somewhat reminiscent of the gardens and fountains of the Villa d’Este in Tivoli, near Rome. It is highly recommended to enter the palace and get an impression of the central living room with its frescoes and paintings, visit the spectacular Chinese Pavilion on its grounds and wander through the garden designed as an amphitheater, where fountains and waterfalls flow throughout the day.
Even for non-Jews, the Great Synagogue of Torino Judaism is considered one of the most important sites in the city. This is a particularly impressive building, located on a square named after the famous and award-winning Jewish writer Primo Levi, born in the city. The synagogue is the center of Jewish life in Piedmont in general and in Torino in particular and can be visited by appointment.
The original synagogue of the Torino community was supposed to be built on the land on which the Molla Antonelliana was eventually built. After the latter was handed over to the municipality, the community received the current area, which is located near Valentino Park (see above). The synagogue is built in the Moorish-Byzantine style, and its shades and domes stand out from afar. It is a particularly large synagogue with 1,400 seats and was built together with the other large synagogues in Italy (such as the one in Florence and Rome) as part of the equal rights that the Jews received in Italy in the middle of the 19th century.
The Great Synagogue is only active on holidays and Saturdays and can be toured during the week. Near it is the small synagogue, built in the Italian-Baroque style, where prayers are held on weekdays.
Of course, there are interesting places in Torino not necessarily because of their historical value. Torino is full of buildings, museums, piazzas, and a host of other places where you can spend time without delving too deeply into the cultural meanings or heritage of the place, whether it’s a coffee in the stylish Piazza Castello or a visit to the soccer stadium of one of the most important teams in the world.
If you are visiting Torino and you are a football fan (and the chances are high that these two come together), you should not miss a visit to the stadium (and museum) of the most successful Italian team in the world.
This stadium, although not one of the largest in the world (it holds 41,000 seats), has hosted some of the biggest matches in the world of football. On top of that, it hosted the Europa League finals in 2014 and will host the UEFA Women’s Champions League final in 2022.
Tours are held in the stadium every day (by appointment), and you can also visit the nearby museum where the history of the successful football club is described. In addition, it is recommended to check which games are being held while you are in town so that you don’t miss a successful game full of swearing in juicy Italian. A recommended experience even for those who are not football fans.
For lovers of markets (and shopping), this market is the perfect place to visit. This market, founded at the beginning of the 20th century and occupying almost the entire area of Republic square (Piazza della Republica), is the largest open market in Europe. You will find more than a thousand (!) stalls and shops in it, selling everything you can think of. Locally grown vegetables, animal products, clothes, textile products, housewares, and much more, you can walk around this market for hours and never get enough.
Guided tours, events, and performances are held in the market, to which locals and tourists visiting the city flock. This is one of the most authentic, crowded, and noisy attractions you will encounter in Torino, and it is not recommended to miss it.
We mentioned Piazza Castello many times in the previous recommendations, and we did not talk specifically about it. Although it is an important historical site, and the most important and famous piazza in Torino, this mainly belongs to the many historical buildings on its territory (the Royal Palace, the Lady’s Palace, the Royal Theater, and more). The piazza itself is now mainly a place of gathering, recreation, and above all a lot of pleasure.
This is an excellent place to start your daily tour of Torino, both because many of the city’s must-see sites are located there or within walking distance of it and because the large selection of cafes, restaurants, and even the statues and fountains will wake you up and remind you of your good fortune that brought you to Italy.
This large piazza, named after Archbishop Charles Borromeo, is another recommended place for recreation and morning coffee. The entire piazza, with its pavements, buildings, and arches, is designed in a striking Baroque style. It is very close to Piazza Castello, so if you prefer a place that is a little quieter and less busy and crowded, this is the place for you. Getting here won’t take you far from the main sites of the city center, and the Egyptian Museum and Carignano Theater are just around the corner.
If you want to feel a bit like European nobles in the 17th century, sip quality Italian coffee under the arches of baroque palaces and watch the bronze statue of the Duke of Savoy, this is the place for you.
There are art lovers who do not connect with the multitudes of Italian galleries and museums dedicated to the art of the Renaissance, Baroque and classical periods. Or at least they don’t provide them. Lovers of modern art may feel overwhelmed by the huge number of sites that all belong to the history of the past, and all carry on their backs a legacy of hundreds of years. The Civic Museum of Modern Art in Torino came to answer exactly this need (even if it is no longer so modern itself).
This museum is one of the first in the world dedicated to modern art, and it was founded almost 35 years before the opening of the Museum of Modern Art in New York (the MoMA). It contains a huge variety of modern works of art, including sculptures, paintings, models, and whatnot. Here you will find works by the best modern artists, including Chagall, Renoir, Carre, and more. In addition, the museum is at a safe (but not too big) distance from the city center, so you can feel that you have really entered a different world than the one in the Piazza Castello area.
For car enthusiasts and children, this is a real paradise and a perfect pastime for a few hours. The Torino Automobile Museum is a real child among the city’s antiquities, as it was founded only in 1960. It contains over 200 vehicles of all years, models, and shapes, including some of the first prototypes in the world. More than 80 car manufacturing companies (mainly from Europe, but also from the USA) are represented here, and the place also has a documentation center where there are maps, documents, photos, and large contracts related to the world of cars. There you will also find a large library with more than 7,000 volumes, most of which can no longer be found just like that, documenting various aspects related to the world of motorized transport.
This is not exactly a classic site to visit when traveling in Italy, certainly if you focus more on the historical interior of the country. However, it is a particularly refreshing and fascinating experience, certainly if vehicles do that to you.
If you continue on Via Po east from Piazza Castello towards the Po River, cross the river and pass the Church of Mary which is on the other side, you can go up to the Capuchin Mountain which is south of it. This is one of the best places to view Torino, and not only.
Due to its strategic location on the eastern bank of the river, the hill was chosen as a place used for the defense of Torino already in ancient times. A few hundred years later, a church was built on the site, and in the middle of the 16th century, the House of Savoy granted the area to the Capuchin Order, a Catholic-Franciscan Christian order that advocates a life of celibacy and poverty, which established a church and a monastery on the site. The hill and the buildings on it were severely damaged during the Second World War and underwent extensive renovation after it. The view from the hill is the most famous view of Torino, with the most notable being the baroque palaces on the Via Po, the Mola Antonelliana towering over the city, and the (snowy) Alps reflected on the horizon. It is a spectacular view at any time, especially at sunset and at night.
Besides the view, there is also the National Museum of the Torino Mountains, which uses the rooms of the Capuchin church and monastery. The museum was established at the end of the 19th century and exhibits items documenting the history of the district for about 250 years. In addition, it is possible to view photographed and written documents of the Italian expedition to Alaska and the North Sea.
Italy and coffee are almost two synonymous words, and every Italian city (or town, or village) worthy of its name has its coffee temples, which should not be missed. There are some in Rome, Florence, Milan, and everywhere else. Torino also has its historic cafes, here are some of them:
Caffè Fiorio is at a strategic point in the city center, between Piazza Castello and Piazza Vittorio Veneto. It is closely related to the history of the city, as it has been standing in its place for about 240 years, starting in 1780 (almost as old as the Roman Cafe Greco). It was renovated and redesigned very “recently”, in 1845, and has remained with this design ever since. Despite the not-so-impressive entrance, the luxurious chandeliers, the yellow marble counters, the designed mirrors, and more, these will give you the feeling that you are drinking coffee with the European nobility of the 18th century.
Another almost as old cafe as this one is the Al BIcerin cafe , which is also right in the center of the city. It has been serving its residents coffee and chocolate for close to 240 years (starting in 1763), and big European names have stayed there over the years. Among these are Alexander Dumas, Nietzsche, and more. This is the place where the original Torinoese drink – Bicerin – was invented.
The last on the list (although definitely not in Torino) is the Caffè Mulassano, which is very close to the Royal Theater. It has been in its current location since the beginning of the 20th century and was known as the meeting place of the nobles of the House of Savoy as well as the revelers who frequented the Royal Theater. It is a beautiful and stylish place, the dominant design of which includes colors of copper, wood, and leather. A perfect place to relax over a quality coffee during the trip between the historical sites of the center of Torino.
If you are a lover of markets and antiques, then this market is for you. This is one of the most lively events in the city, and if you were lucky enough to arrive in the city on the second Sunday of the month, then this is especially true. This flea market is held every Sunday in the Borgo Dora district, and you can find everything nearby. Housewares, mirrors, paintings, furniture, and much more, are all second-hand (or twenty) and probably at least decades old.
On the second Sunday of every month, the market becomes a real event, with many more sellers converging on it and it attracts customers from all over the Piedmont region, as well as residents from nearby France.
In the city where one of the most important film museums in the world is located, it is no wonder that one of the most important film festivals is also held. Torino’s festival is the second largest in Italy, after Venice’s, and has been held in the city in November every year since 1982.
This is a particularly young festival, one that only started in 2012. However, the few years it has been held do not detract from its quality. Since its opening, it has become a household name and is an important event in the European music scene as a whole. The festival is held every year in the months of April and May and is a real musical celebration all over the city. Clubs, theaters, streets, and whatnot, become in these months stages in which the best artists appear.
It is the largest book fair in Italy, and one of the largest in Europe, and has been held in mid-May in Torino every year, since 1988. Every year a different country receives the title of “guest of honor”, and a special part of the fair is dedicated to literature from that country (for example German, Arabic, American literature, and more).
If you have decided to be brave and come to Torino in the winter (grrrr), then you deserve to indulge yourself and come to the chocolate festival held in the world capital of chocolate, that is Torino. This chocolate festival is held every year in November or December (and sometimes even March, we were informed in advance), and is a celebration of chocolate, which has been a significant part of the life of this town for nearly 500 years.
Few buildings are more associated with the European aristocracy than the magnificent theaters where they spent their stylish and costume-heavy evenings. There are two reasons why it is in this section and not in the heritage sites section of the article. The first is that it is a live, active, and kicking opera house, one that puts on dozens of concerts and shows during the season, which starts between October and June. Second, the original theater burned almost to the ground in 1936 and was renovated and reopened to the public only about forty years later. Its original facade, built by the House of Savoy and which remained intact even after the fire to this day, is also recognized as a World Heritage Site within the House of Savoy family dormitories.
Today’s theater is certainly not the same fancy theater of the past, but on the other hand, it is also more advanced and has much better acoustics than its predecessor. It still retains some of its former glory, and it is recommended to check the program on the theater’s website to see which shows are on while you are in town.