Visitors to the magnificent Italian baroque and renaissance city of Turin are likely to spend a great deal of time and shoe leather wandering around the spectacular palaces, grand mansions, glorious churches, cathedral and basilica as well as exploring the city’s many museums. For those in need of relaxation, retail therapy and recharging yet delicious food, Turin has everything to offer and more.
The city’s tiring summer heat fades to a gentle glow in the many beautiful parks and green spaces here, mostly spread along the cooling banks of the rivers Po and Dura and great for picnics and gentle strolls amid refreshing greenery. The oldest and largest park is the Parco del Valentino, stretching along the river banks since its opening in the mid 19th century. Containing miniature forests, charming gardens full of flowers including fragrant roses, meadows and a 19th century castle and village, it’s one of the most popular green spaces in the city, yet large enough to never seem crowded.
For even more space and peace, the huge Riserva Naturale Speciale del Bosco del Vaj nature reserve lies to the northeast of the city centre and boasts a range if indigenous fauna and flora as well as the picturesque and ancient San Geniso Church. Any Turin city centre hotel can give directions and information about public transport options. Another lovely location for relaxing is Turin University’s botanical gardens, based on a 500 year old garden and with the original flower beds still in use. There’s also a herbarium, orangery and greenhouse as well as a special exhibit of rock plants.
Set in the grounds of the former Royal Palace, the 16th century Giardini Reali is home to the Fountain of the Naiads and Tritons, traditionally considered to have magical powers. The massive Parco Regionale La Mandria was once a royal hunting ground, with historic hunting lodges and even farmsteads nestling in its forested acres, surrounded by 30kms of ancient walls. This is a great place for outdoor activities such as walking and cycling, with trails for both sports marked clearly.
Once you’re back on your feet, a spot of shopping is just the thing, with Turin’s historic covered arcades just the place. For serious shopaholics determined to max the plastic, Via Roma can’t be beaten, with prêt-a-porter clothes and accessories here stylish as only Italian fashion can be. If malls are the thing, huge, air-conditioned Le Gru lies in one of Turin’s western suburbs and is reputed to be the largest mall in Europe. Another option is the city’s Lingotto Centre’s 8 Gallery, with around 90 stores and all the usual add-ons.
For fun, people-watching and far cheaper prices, Turin is market central, with every district boasting its own market. The largest and most varied, however, is the central Porta Palazzo daily market on the Piazza della Repubblica, crammed with stalls offering the region’s fresh foods, meats, cheeses, wines, herbs, spices, seafood and much more, including chocolate delights. There’s a large section given over to clothes, shoes, bags and accessories as well, offered at bargain, cash-only prices.
Twice a month on Sunday, the square is filled with stalls selling everything from antiques and crafts to bric-a-brac and even more clothes.
Italian food is known all over the world nowadays for its pasta, rich sauces, olive oil, garlic and meat and seafood dishes. Trattorias and Pizzerias all over the city serve traditional dishes at value-for money prices. Whether the venue is scruffy or smart, the food is always delicious, served with a bottle of the robust local red wine in comfortable, atmospheric surroundings.
Lek Boonlert is an editor and content reviewer at DirectRooms and is responsible for all Turin City Centre Hotel content.