Borgo Dora, the effervescent soul of Turin

The discovery of Borgo Dora was what most impressed us during our stay in Turin. The district, close to the river of the same name, boasts an ancient and significant history.

It was here that the first industries capable of exploiting the electricity from water were born. Since then this small jewel, set in a wonderful city, has been able to renew itself and adapt to the great changes of time.

Entering Turin on a beautiful August afternoon means finding a city of arcades, pink and yellow stucco, countless cafés… the terracotta bell towers, the soft yellow light, the range of colours, the suggestion of sounds.

(Henry James)

Visit Turin

I started to know and love Turin in the year of the Winter Olympics, 2006. At that time it was shiny, full of novelties and restored as a city from its second youth, aware and sparkling. In that first trip, as in the following ones, I followed the classic tourist routes, while in my last stay I had the chance and the pleasure to enter more deeply into the soul of the city.

Borgo Dora Square
Torino Borgo Dora – Photo credit: Galli Luca on Visualhunt / CC BY

We wanted to take a mini holiday at the end of the summer, looking for a place that could also satisfy the needs of our children, that is the curiosity of the seven-year-old and the rhythms of our three month old baby. Benjamin has long had a great passion for ancient Egypt, fuelled by buildings and Playmobils that evoke the pharaonic splendours of ancient civilisation. So we thought we’d come back to Turin to visit some museums and see some well-known places, with different eyes and following the needs of the children.

Borgo Dora Square

We have chosen for the first time to use a flat proposed by AirBnB to better reconcile our needs for travel and daily routines. Opt for a cosy two-room flat in Borgo Dora, a district in the centre of Turin, but easily accessible by car and with many free parking spaces (an essential element for “moving” for babies even just for a couple of nights out!).

Borgo Dora the intercultural district of Turin

Today it is the neighbourhood where integration and interculture are deeds and not words. This can be seen at a glance in the many shops of various ethnic origins that animate the life of the neighbourhood. Among these stands out an Arab-French bakery-pastry shop, “La Gourmandise” in Corso G. Cesare, capable of offering sweet and savoury delicacies at any time of the day that encapsulate the whole history of the Mediterranean in the flavours lovingly combined together.

The market of borgo Dora

Taste as a path of dialogue between cultures continues its journey in the mega market of Porta Palazzo, the largest open-air market in Europe. It consists of stalls of all kinds and an indoor space housed in the Antica Tettoia dell’Orologio (restored in 2017 on the occasion of the centenary): here you can go around the world in a few stalls, from the excellence of Southern Italy to Romania, from Arabic delicacies to the Piedmontese dairy industry. Next door you can visit the Palatine Palace, renovated to a design by Fuksas in 1998, which houses clothing shops. During the excavations for the realization of the project the ancient iceboxes of the city were found right here.

The other soul that characterizes the Borgo Dora and always linked to the stalls, is the antiques of daily use. Numerous shops characterize via Dora alternating with tasty and typical trattorias. There are two appointments for the flea market: the Balon (Saturday from 7 am to 7 pm) and the Gran Balon (every second Sunday of the month, from 7 am to 7 pm). The initiatives of the two markets can be seen on the Balon website.

The ability to reinvent itself and reinvent itself, typical of big European cities, finds in Borgo Dora a beautiful example. For example the Arsenals have been transformed into cultural places. Near the river in the old weapons depots, we find a cultural centre for peace (Sermig) built with the voluntary work of many people since 1983. From the old abandoned weapons factory, a place of dialogue and hospitality has been created, with numerous and frequent initiatives aimed especially at young people.

In front of the Sermig there is a small playground with the “Turin Eye” balloon to enjoy the panorama of Turin from a height of 150 mt.

Borgo Dora and the writing school presided over by Baricco

Next door is the Holden writing school presided over by Baricco and housed in the Cavalli Barracks where bombs were made in the past. The institution offers an educational activity on story telling at 360 degrees from fiction to new digital media and provides a well-stocked library.

Village dora holden school
Borgo Dora – Holden School

After a few steps in the direction of Via Dora you will find yourself in the Maglio courtyard, corresponding to the southern part of the old arsenals. Here many associations are involved in cultural events to redevelop the entire village. Pubs and clubs overlook the covered square of the courtyard, while the adjacent walls are enriched by a natural street art gallery by the GoArtFactory. GoArtFactory.

Borgo Dora Torino – points of interest

Other points of interest in the district are the Umberto I gallery (former Mauriziano Hospital, renovated in 1888), the archaeological park of Porta Palatina, the hammam al bab (a real Turkish bath located in the Italian-Arabic cultural centre) and, finally, the Cottolengo complex in via Valdoccofondato founded in 1832 by St. Joseph Cottolengo.

In this foreshortening of the city, a varied urban soul emerges, capable of combining past, present and future even in the historic districts, where the charm of ancient artefacts and the freshness of the modern arts mark a redevelopment animated by a swarming population and thus offering a city with a welcoming face that has been able to make differences and an inclusive identity.

Borgo Dora
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