The Internet's most comprehensive Travel website for Italy
Use quote marks to search for exact names eg "Hotel Florence"

Visit our Lake District
Visitors Portal

Cathedral of St. John the Baptist, Turin

Church interior, Turin
by Karl Baer

Piazza San Carlo, Turin
by Karl Baer

Chiesa della Gran Madre, Turin

Welcome to Turin (Torino)
From Jesse's Journeys in Italy

Population: 857,433 (2002); 1.5 million in the metro area.
130 km˛ (50 mi˛)
Official website: Turin
Map: MapQuest

Turin - Torino to Italians - is a large conurbation sitting on the broad fertile plain, to the south and east of the Alps.  The city sits mostly on the west bank of the Po River, whose two tributaries, the Dora Riparia and the Stura di Lanzo also run through the city.

A Celtic tribe, the Taurini, originally settled the area.  Their word for "mountains" was "tau", the root of the  city's name. The Italian word "torino" means "small bull", the image which appears on the city's Coat of Arms.  The Romans subjugated the area during the 1st Century AD, and created the old town plan of streets and avenues which intersect, for the most part, at right angles, within its fortified ramparts.  The "borgo nuovo", a new part of the city outside the walls, does not follow the rigidity of these lines.

Control over the city passed hands many times during the long period after the collapse of the Roman Empire, but eventually, after being under the foot of various Barbarians, and of course, the Lombards and Franks, Turin became the seat of power for the House of Savoy, originally based in southern France, who ruled all of what is now Piemonte and Val D'Aosta, and a good chunk of Lombardia and Liguria to boot, not to mention Sardinia (Sardegna).

When Italy was unified in 1861, King Vittorio Emanuele II of the House of Savoy was its first king, and Turin its first capital.  (It was subsequently moved to Florence, then to Rome.)

For visitors, Turin can be daunting.  There is no easy, let alone pretty road, into the city from the major highways on its outskirts, or from the Turin International Airport.  The train must penetrate through mile of industrial and urban sprawl before one arrives at the Porto Nuovo station. Turin is, after all, one of Italy's major industrial centers, home of the Fiat Auto Works, and many other large scale industries, some of them involved in very modern activities like aerospace engineering, satellite systems engineering, rail car production and so on.

Recently, Turin, and the surrounding area, has endured a major re-structuring and a face lift in preparation for the 2006 Winter Olympics. Among the new facilities is an underground transportation system, a project which has been envisaged by the future-minded Turinese since the 1920s.

Once you make it to the heart of the City, Turin will rapidly beguile those who have been put-off on the way in. For there is much to see and do in Turin.  There are innumerable high end (and low end) shops, good (and bad) restaurants, and interesting (and not so) cafes on its seemingly countless streets.  Among the best of its monuments and buildings, keep an eye out for

  • The Cathedral of St. John the Baptist (San Giovani) built in the Renaissance style in 1498 - home to the famous Shroud of Turin;
  • The Museo Egizio, housing the largest collection of Egyptian antiquities outside Cairo;
  • Piazza San Carlo and around it or near it, the Royal Palace (built on the site of the old Bishop's palace), and several other "Savoy" residences, as well as various Palazzi including Palazzo Chiablese, Palazzo Madama, and Palazzo Carignano;

    In the 17th century, the Church of San Lorenzo was built adjacent to the piazza, and the Chapel of the Holy Shroud was added to the Cathedral.

    Also on or near the Piazza, are the Royal Library, the Villa della Regina and the Valentino Castle;
  • The Citadel - a pentagonal shaped fort, whose original gate, Il Mastio (the Keep) still exists;
  • Piazza Vittorio Emanuele I (built starting 1814), in the borgo nuovo, linked to the Gran Madre church by the River Po.
  • Caval d'Brons, a 19th century equistrian statue by Carlo Aroccheti.
  • Mole Antonelliana, which the architect Alessandro Antonelli began constructing in 1863 as a Jewish synogogue, but which became a civic building as a result of various conflicts with his "customer". The dome stands 167 meters high.
  • The Lingotto works, originally Fiat's manufacturing plant (the largest car factory in the world) and now a complex containing a hotel, shopping center, art gallery, and convention center.
  • Italia 61, built to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the unification of Italy located on the left bank of the River Po.  The complex contains impressive architectural works - some say masterpieces - including Palazzo del Lavoro (by Luigi Nervi) and Palazzo a Vela (by Anibale and Giorgio Rigotti.
  • The National Museum of Cinema - in "the Mole" a wonderful testament to the cinematic arts (even though most of the cinema industry has departed).

The Piemontese as a whole, but the Turinese in particular, have perennially exhibited a feistiness of spirit and an independence of mind that is present today. The atmosphere of the city is infused with a kind of restless energy, and its people are quick to engage in discussion and debate, never dispassionate. 

The city (with its always vociferous contrarians) was fervently for the unification of Italy, it was fervently against Italian fascism, it was energetically resistant of the Nazi occupation during World War II.  It has been for union rights and against union rights at the same time.  Newspapers of all political persuasion have interjected strong opinion, and, along with other writers and poets, kept intellectual life in a state of exciting turmoil.

Turin is home to a University, founded in the 15th Century, with a glorious alumni, and a newer university which has produced its own illustrious graduates, across all fields: science, mathematics, philosophy, and the fine arts.  It has turned out some of the best writers and artists of this and any other century.

So, Turin, not an obvious tourist destination up 'til now, is a place that grows on you like an acquired taste.  No doubt, the 2006 Winter Olympics will draw visitors by the 10s of 1000s, and they will change the impression the world has of this remarkable city.

by Vian Andrews 10-09-05

Region of Piemonte


By Car: A4 from Milano; A32 from Chambery (France);A6 from Savona; A21 from Alessandria.A5 from Switzerland.
By Air:
Turin Airport
Train or Bus
: all leading lines from all major points.

A great place to stay in central Turin
Art Hotel Boston
Turin was host to the 2006 winter Olympics.
>> more info

Negative of Shroud of Turin

Turin Coat of Arms


If you would like to contribute information about Turin, we'd love to hear from you.

Talk Italy Forums

Turin was the principal site for the making of the movie original of "The Italian Job" starring Michael Caine.
>> More info