Witchcraft; Fiat motors; The Italian Job; the Winter Olympics; Italian breadsticks; Juventus; the holy shroud; and the House of Savoy. What binds all these together is Turin, the capital of Piedmont and the first capital of a united Italy.
Located in the north of the country, Turin has been underdeveloped as a tourist destination until relatively recently and it was only the advent of the 2006 Winter Olympics that Turin began to exploit its tourist appeal.
One of the prime reasons for Turin’s industrial reputation is simply the fact that it was where Fiat was founded towards the end of the 19th century and after the terrible devastation of the Second World War the city contributed massively to the reconstruction of the Italian economy. What it has failed to capitalise upon until now is a remarkably rich history, including the fact of being Italy’s first capital when it was first unified under the House of Savoy.
While Turin is regarded as the industrial powerhouse of post-war Italy, its historic city centre cannot fail to charm. And while the Olympics are well and truly over the improvement in infrastructure means that the city is far easier to get to than ever before. For instance, the airport was completely refurbished to cater for the thousands of visitors arriving for the games means and that improvement alone means that Turin can easily deal with a large increase in visitor numbers.
Another area that has been improved is accommodation; many hotels were refurbished to high standard as a direct result of the games as well as a number of new quality hotels being opened, resulting in an increase of 3,000 rooms in the city since 2000.
Often known as “Capital of the Alps", Turin is the capital of Piedmont and the origin of some culinary of the traditions we normally accept as being typically Italian. The breadstick for example originates in Turin with a popular legend that they were originally baked to cure a sick child prince. “Grissini", as they are known in Italy, are made in many shapes and sizes in Turin and seeing as the prince grew up to be the first Savoy king they seem to have done their job.
Turin is also features as the location for the original 1969 version of The Italian Job staring Michael Caine. This popular British film – “you were only supposed to blow the bloody doors off" - is about a heist on a shipment of gold bullion using three Mini Coopers as getaway cars which give the viewer a speedy a tour of Turin.
Zooming around the streets and arcades of Turin, the minis even make an appearance on the old rooftop test track of Fiat, now a hotel. Although it all passes in a blur, you do get an impression of Turin’s beauty and some of the fantastic architecture on offer.
While the Shroud of Turin is only made available for viewing every 25 years, you can of course go and see Juventus, one of Italy’s best-known clubs. Although plagued by a match rigging scandal in 2006 which saw it relegated to the second division, it looks certain that the team will make it back into the top division in time for next season.
Both EasyJet and Ryanair have daily flights from London. You can also fly via Rome or Milan.
David Leigh has visited Turin on two occasions and plans on going back as soon as he can.