Turin, Italy has all the makings of a great European destination. An impressive role in Italy’s history, a picturesque location near the Alps, and a lovely river running through it. Yet somehow, this large city in northwest Italy is not a typical stop for tourists to the country. This all piqued my interest in Turin, so I had to visit during my time exploring northern Italy. Today, I’m sharing my tips for your own visit to the first capital of the united Italy and the current capital of the Piedmont region. Enjoy!
Brush Up on Some Italian
Before landing in Turin, or Torino, as the Italians call it, you’ll definitely want to have some basic Italian in your arsenal. Unlike other large cities such as Rome, Florence, or Venice, Turin is not touristy. At all. There isn’t a single proper hostel in the city (not counting the one in someone’s attic), and I didn’t feel I saw any other tourist my entire time there. I probably did, but they didn’t stick out.
That all being said, you’ll want to brush up on your Italian skills. You’ll likely be fine at museums and popular places to eat, but try to learn the basic greetings, questions, and menu items in Italian to make life easier. I love Duolingo’s free mobile app version for this. I’ll usually start a language a couple weeks before arriving to a new destination.
Restaurants Aren’t Open All Day
When I arrived in Turin in the middle of a bright, sunny day, it felt like a ghost town. Every business’s shutters were shut. It looked like the whole city was shut down! (It didn’t help that every shutter was graffitied.) But after a day in Turin, I started realizing all the restaurants and cafes were on a certain time schedule. Around 12:00 – 1:30pm for lunch, and around 7:00pm – 10:00 or later for dinner. Once I realized this, I reacted accordingly. I stopped by a grocery store for breakfast foods and snacks, and I made sure to eat a large lunch.
Pro tip: This time schedule is actually quite common in non-touristy Italian cities (like Genoa and Bologna). It’s only the touristy destinations that open most of the day, like in the US.
Have a Bicerin
Love coffee? Love hot chocolate, too? Then Turin is the place for you. It’s the birthplace of bicerin, a traditional hot drink of espresso, chocolate, and milk layered in a glass. You can’t leave Turin without trying this drink! Two popular spots to enjoy it are Caffe Al Bicerin and Cafe Torino. I went to Caffe Al Bicerin and can report back that the ambiance inside is so cozy.
Head to Monte dei Capuccini for Sunset
Did you really visit Turin if you didn’t see that view? The one in all the photographs and brochures? Jokes aside, the iconic view over Turin from Monte dei Capuccini is really gorgeous and absolutely worth the short uphill trek from the city center. This is the closest thing to a touristy spot in Turin, but you should have no problem getting an unobstructed view. You can see all the way to the Alps, which had bits of snow when I went in early September! I recommend going during sunset, but anytime of day is worth it.
See the Mole Antonelliana
The Mole Antonelliana is the landmark of Turin. It was originally meant to be a synagogue, but ended up as a monument. Inside the Mole Antonelliana is the National Museum of Cinema, as well as an elevator to the top of the building for panoramic views over Turin. You can purchase tickets for €8, plus €1.50 if bought in advance on the official site.
Expect Turin to Look a Little Grunge
Especially when businesses have their graffiti-covered shutters closed between lunch and dinner, Turin can look a little grungy. It’s an industrial city, and it shows in some areas. It’s nothing to be concerned about, but just a heads up in case you’re used to Italian destinations like Florence, for example. Simply take the same precautions you would anywhere else, like not flashing valuables unnecessarily and trying not to walk alone after dark.
Strut Down Via Roma
Parts of Turin look a little grunge, but other parts carry on Turin’s elegant past. You can definitely feel Turin’s impressive history while strolling between huge columns on Via Roma, a posh shopping street running between Piazza Castello and Piazza Carlo Felice. This area is also the historical center of Turin, so definitely don’t miss it.
Hang out in Piazza San Carlo
The Piazza San Carlo is halfway down the Via Roma. It’s home to two historical cafes, the San Carlo and Caffè Torino, as well as two churches, the Chiesa San Carlo and theChiesa Santa Cristina. This beautiful and large square stood out to me during my time in Turin, so I definitely recommend spending some time walking through here.
Grab Dinner in Piazza Vittorio Veneto
The Piazza Vittorio Veneto is a large, bustling square lined with several cafes and restaurants along its edge. It boasts a lovely view of the Chiesa della Gran Madre di Dio over the Po River, making it the perfect spot to wind down after a day of exploring Turin. It’s also very close to that viewpoint I mentioned earlier, so depending what time sunset is, you might want to time these together.
Wear Bug Repellent at Parco del Valentino
Walking along Po River and checking out the Fontana di Dodici Mesi, Arco del Valentino, and Borgo Medievale de Torino in Turin’s Parco del Valentino is a great way to get away from the strong city vibes. But make sure to wear bug repellant! Even if you’re wearing all long sleeves like I was, those pesky bugs might find their way onto your ankles and wrists. You’ve officially been warned!
Overall, I get why Turin is no Rome or Florence. But it’s a pretty cool spot if you’re curious to see “the real” Italy – one where locals, and not tourists, prevail.
What Do You Think?
Do you have any questions on my time in Turin, Italy? Have you ever been to Turin? What did you think? I know I barely scratched the surface in my two days there, so I’d love some Turin travel tips for my return. Let me know in the comments below!