The first time I was in Turin I was on a school trip in the ninth grade, and I have a vague memory of it. The second was in 2013, during a rock concert at the Olympic Stadium: I still have in mind the distinct feeling of dejavu that struck me when, walking around the Lingotto district waiting for the concert to start, I found myself admiring the essential lines of industrial architecture.
The thousand souls of Turin
Sooner or later I’ll have to find out why the old brick factories, especially with chimneys attached, and the former workers’ quarters arouse so many emotions, just like in that summer 5 years ago…
I had the same powerful feeling of dejavu even very few days ago, when I came back to Turin to start a project, but in this case there was a very precise reason: I found many similarities with Barcelona, which as you know if you read my article about it, I visited last June. For some kind of visual resonance, in fact, as soon as I got out of Porta Nuova station and onto Corso Vittorio Emanuele II, I had the clear sensation of being on Las Ramblas!
But it was not only that which evoked my memory of the Catalan metropolis… Also some of the architecture of the palaces, the worked iron balconies, the bay windows (although in Turin there are fewer of them), but above all the atmosphere that one breathes: a mix of ancient and modern that blends perfectly in a city that is both young and dynamic but also respectful of traditions. In the hours I spent there, in fact, I had the clear sensation that there are at least two Turin, two cities in one that move at different rhythms; but Turin has many other faces (esoteric, historical, cultural, sporting, musical…) and rest assured that I will discover them all, time after time.
What to see in Turin
Now, if you have followed me in the other articles I have written, you will know that my approach to cities is far from conventional. Or rather: sometimes I like to be a tourist, so I follow the classic guides and visit the most famous places, but more often I like to “get lost”, obviously always knowing exactly where I am thanks to my inseparable smartphone that guides my every step with the apps connected to gps.
This time, given the short stay, I opted for a mix of the two. So, as soon as I got off the train, I headed towards the Po, because I really wanted to see the Mole Antonelliana. Walking along Viale Vittorio Emanuele II, in a small street that intersects the avenue I found a surprise: a splendid synagogue of Turin with oriental lines, seat of the Jewish community of Turin.
Guarded by the military, whom I asked earlier if I could take some photos (just in case), it stands majestically with a look that has projected me to the Middle East…
Continuing towards the Po, at a certain point I sighted the Mole, then I turned left and crossed a super-trendy district, full of small shops and clubs that have nothing to envy to those of the most beautiful European cities: sober design where wood and light colours abound, young clientele, welcoming atmosphere and a mix of local and international products. I could have been in London, Amsterdam or Barcelona!
But let us come to you, the Mole Antonelliana. I must confess that already the moment I saw its unmistakable silhouette I felt a small thrill of pleasure: it is truly beautiful.
Initially conceived as an Israeli temple, its construction – on a design
by Alessandro Antonelli – began in 1863. The building, which in the original plans had to be only 43 metres high, has evolved over time and if at the beginning it was only in masonry, in the following years iron structures were also added, so as to be able to support the increasing weight.
Finally, in 1889, the Mole was 167.35 metres high and for a while held the highest construction record in Europe. Now it is not even higher than Turin, given the presence of the skyscraper in the Piedmont region, which reaches a height of 209 metres, but it is still a great view.
At the foot of the monument is the National Cinema Museum. This time I have chosen not to visit any museum because I reserve the right to go back there with my daughter (the Egyptian Museum is on the list, of course, but the Pietro Micca Museum also inspires me, above all because it seems to be inhabited by… ghosts). I’ve heard very good things about the Cinema Museum: not only are there always splendid exhibitions and installations, but the panoramic lift that goes to the top of the Mole starts right here: don’t miss it!
What to do in Turin
My advice on what to do in Turin is: get lost! No, I’m not crazy, I’ll explain: I had saved two addresses on Google Maps, one of the Airbnb I had booked, the other of a shop I was interested in, very distant from each other.
When it was almost time to check in I opened Maps and started following the recommended route, assuming it would lead to the flat I had booked. In your opinion was the right address? Of course not.
Disadvantage: several kilometres milled on foot thinking “gosh, I thought it was closer!”. Advantage: to cross half of Turin and see areas that maybe I wouldn’t have even approached. It was this occasion that allowed me to see the existence of two Turin, the young and dynamic one, made up of university students, hypermodern architecture and trendy clubs, and the slower one, the Turin of historic districts, arcades, squares, old bars that have not changed one iota and are frequented mainly by elderly people.
The Squares of Turin
But let’s talk a bit about the squares of Turin. In my wanderings I have crossed three of them, all very large: Piazza Vittorio Veneto, 38,000 square metres, which makes it the largest in Turin (and one of the largest in Europe), Piazza San Carlo (also known for the accident that occurred in 2017 during the Champions League final between Juventus and Real Madrid,) and Piazza Castello, home, among other things, of the Teatro Regio. Here, attracted by the splendid music played by loudspeakers, I paused under the portico, where I was able to admire the splendid gate (unfortunately closed at the time), which I couldn’t help but picture.
The next morning, a little sore from the long and unexpected walk the day before, I decided to explore the area of the Quadrilatero, where I had dined the night before with my partners/friends and which had impressed me for the amount of clubs and people that make it a real epicentre of the nightlife of the Piedmontese capital. Originally this area was the castrum (camp of the Roman army legion) of the ancient Augusta Taurinorum; today it is enclosed between via Santa Teresa, via della Consolata, corso Regina and via xx Settembre.
Also in this neighbourhood I was struck by the contrast between the new trendy places designed for a young clientele and some shops and bars that have remained apparently unchanged since the 70s and are frequented by the “historical” inhabitants of the area. The streets are paved and are part of the ztl, so walking around is easy and pleasant.
Turin is a city of a thousand faces, the royal one and the working class one linked to Fiat. I have also heard very good things about the Borgo Dora district, atypical and full of markets and artists.
Since the project just started looks promising, Turin will be a recurring destination for me in the coming months. Certainly during the winter the weather conditions will be different, but regardless of the weather Turin is still a wonderful city for me to walk in and get lost in.