Turin is a city that's undergone an Italian Renaissance

My kind of place: From Egyptian history to chocolate culinary delights, the revitalised city has unlikely charms, writes Miret Padovani.
Sunset in Turin. The Italian city has developed from an industrial centre into a popular city-break destination. Julian Elliott / Robert Harding World Imagery / Corbis
Sunset in Turin. The Italian city has developed from an industrial centre into a popular city-break destination. Julian Elliott / Robert Harding World Imagery / Corbis

Why Turin?

Turin has reinvented itself over the past couple of decades to become a popular city-break destination among both Italians and visitors. Less touristy than, say, Florence, thanks to its industrial background, most of the city centre is now pedestrianised, and Turin was designated World Design Capital in 2008, which drove investment. It was near here – in a town called Bra – that Carlo Petrini founded Slow Food, the international movement that strives to preserve traditional and regional cuisines. Its yearly food fair, the Salone del Gusto, gathers about 1,000 exhibitors from 130 countries.

Another popular event held every year is the International Book Fair (Fiera internazionale del libro).

Upon arrival in the city, you can purchase the Torino+Piemonte Card. A Gold Card (€33.50 [Dh168] for two days) gives free admission to many cultural sites, unlimited use of public transport, as well as discounts for many city activities.

A comfortable bed

The Grand Hotel Sitea (www.grandhotelsitea.it; 0039 011 517 0171) is a centrally located, upscale hotel and one of the city’s landmark buildings. Doubles from about €200 [Dh999] per night.

The Hotel Victoria (www.hotelvictoria-torino.com; 0039 011 561 1909) is a spa hotel in the city centre. Its spa is very popular among locals. Two other highlights are its large lobby, with floral and pastel-coloured decor, and its inner court garden, where guests can take breakfast in the summer months. Doubles from about €170 [Dh849] per night.

Find your feet

Turin’s most strolled street is Via Roma, which is also Europe’s longest arcaded shopping street, where you can find major international brands and designer labels. The fashionable street stretches from Piazza Castello, the square considered to be the heart of the city, to Piazza Carlo Felice, the square in front of the central railway station. Halfway down the street, you’ll pass another square: Piazza Carlo Alberto, beloved for its porticoed cafes and people-watching opportunities.

Another way to see the city’s main sightseeing spots is to take a hop-on, hop-off bus tour (www.torino.city-sightseeing.it). The red double-decker buses run daily all year, except in the winter season, and cover two different routes. A day pass for both routes costs €20 [Dh100].

Meet the locals

Mercato di Porta Palazzo is Europe’s largest open-air market. The market is held every morning from Monday to Friday, and all day on Saturdays. Stalls sell everything from vegetables to shoes and household supplies. The quality might not be the highest, but the market makes for a fun stroll.

In the heart of the city, Mood Libri e Caffè (www.moodlibri.it) is a colourful bookshop with its own cafe. Its buffet brunch, served every Sunday from noon to 3pm, is very popular among locals.

Book a table

The Michelin-starred restaurant Magorabin (www.magorabin.com) opened in 2003 as a joint project of the chef Marcello Trentini and the sommelier Simona Beltrami, aiming to bring back top-quality dining to their hometown. For a special experience, go for one of the restaurant’s tasting menus: the five-course menu with typical Piedmontese dishes, the seven-course menu with Magorabin signature courses or the nine-course menu with surprise dishes.

Contesto Alimentare (www.contestoalimentare.it) is a restaurant with seating for up to 30 people and minimalist, predominantly white, interiors. The cuisine is Italian with a creative touch, and the menu changes based on the availability of seasonal produce. Just a side note: portions are quite small.

Soul Kitchen (www.thesoulkitchen.it) serves exclusively vegan food. It’s quickly become a locals’ favourite since opening in mid-2013. Although this also means that it can get very busy on some evenings, thus slowing down service, the food is worth the wait. Best-selling dishes include grilled seitan served with salad, potatoes and vegan mayonnaise.

Shopper’s paradise

Shoppers looking for unique clothing items, accessories or pieces of design should head to Turin’s San Salvario neighbourhood, whose streets are lined with charming independent shops. Check out Giunone Couture for women’s clothes made from men’s fabrics, Atelier Nina Tauro (www.9style.it) for handmade bonnets or LampaDesign (www.lampadesign.com) for colourful pendant lamps that have been presented at some of the world’s leading design events.

What to avoid

Public transport gets very crowded during rush hours, from 7am to 9am and 5pm to 7pm.

Don’t miss

The Egyptian Museum in Turin (www.museoegizio.it) is the only one in the world apart from the Cairo Museum to be entirely dedicated to Egyptian archaeology. It’s currently undergoing a big renovation due to be completed by spring 2015, but it’s still open to the public and – in addition to its permanent collection – hosts temporary exhibitions throughout the year.

Chocolate lovers visiting Turin are in for a treat. Just to name a very few specialities: gianduiotti (triangular-prism-shaped chocolates prepared with cocoa and hazelnut paste), bicerin (a hot coffee and chocolate drink topped with whipped cream) and pinguino (a chocolate-covered ice cream Popsicle and the world’s first ice cream on a stick).

Go there

Return flights with Etihad (www.etihad.com) from Abu Dhabi to Milan’s Malpensa Airport cost about Dh1,950, including taxes. Turin is a two-hour bus ride from the airport on the Sadem (a one-way ticket costs €22 [Dh112]).


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Published: July 3, 2014 04:00 AM


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