Before coming to Torino to study abroad, I truthfully did not know very much about it. Everyone has heard of Rome, Venice and Florence, but what about Torino? If I am being completely honest, I underestimated Torino. But knowledge is power, and as I’ve spent the past 3 and half months here, I have completely fallen in love. Our advisors told us the very first day we got here that we would travel all over Europe, but we would always be happy to come back home to Torino.
Torino, the capital of the Piedmont region, is the 4th largest city in Italy, after Rome, Milan and Naples. But unlike Florence, Rome and Venice, it isn’t a tourist trap, which is exactly why I love it. Torino warps you into a bubble, a bubble away from it all. It does an amazing job of making a large city feel small. I am constantly finding myself walking down the street, admiring the beauty of it all, but also admiring the quaintness. I can walk into my favorite coffee shop and be greeted by name, my order on the tip of their tongue. I go to my favorite restaurant and the server is always happy to see us, setting our table personally. But at the same time, there are huge shopping streets, there’s nightlife and there’s excitement. The question is now what is there to do, but where should I start?
Everyone has his or her own story of Torino. It’s a city that can appeal to so many different types of people, so everyone’s experience is very unique. But I want to give you a little taste of my story.
The first place to start is the streets. In the heart of Torino is Via Roma stretching down to Piazza Castello. It is a beautiful street, with manicured floors and overhead ceilings to protect walkers from the hot sun or from rain on a dreary day. This is the main area where I usually go to do some shopping. It has all sorts of shops, from local stores I hadn’t heard of before, to stores like Zara and H&M and then of course the high end stores such as Louis Viton, Prada and others alike. It passes through the Piazza San Carlo, which is a huge open square with multiple cafes that offer outdoor seating, as the weather grows warmer. My friends and I love to go on a late afternoon and get a coffee or gelato.
There are two other grand piazzas in the city that I have frequented quite often. After Piazza San Carlo, you will come to Piazza Castello, which is said to be the true center of the city. This is home to Palazzo Madama, the ancient castle that the square is centered around. Multiples times we’ve passed through to see street performers creating beautiful music that echoes though the streets, creating a melody to a lovely afternoon. I definitely recommend actually going to Palazzo Madama at some point as well. It offers a beautiful interior design with a grand collection of paintings, artwork, carvings, statues and furniture. There is also one section where you can take an elevator up and it offers a wonderful view of the whole city.
Speaking of views of the whole city, just a couple hundred yards down Via Po from Piazza Castello there is the Mole. This is a major landmark in Torino, for starters just because it’s so massive. The construction for this sweeping building began in 1863 and then was finally finished in 1889. Standing at 167.5 meters high, this building offers visitors an elevator ride up to a landing to provide a wonderful view of the city. If you’re lucky, you can even see the Alps residing on the outskirts of the city. Also, since 2000 this building has been the whole of Museo Nazionale del Cinema.
Continuing down Via Po you will eventually reach Piazza Vittorio Veneto, which is my favorite. Like San Carlo, it also offers numerous cafes where you can sit outside in the sun. It also is located right next to the river, so the views are very scenic. One of my favorite things to do in Torino is to go sit in this Piazza during the late afternoon, enjoying the sun and get apertivo. For those of you who don’t know what apertivo is, you are definitely in for a treat. All café’s and restaurant’s apertivos are a little different, but the main point is the same. During a certain period of time, usually late afternoon into early evening, you can get apertivo. Here’s how it works; you buy a drink, usually for around 8 or 10 Euros, and then you are open to either a buffet or small bites or rounds of plates will be continuously served to you. Sounds pretty awesome right?
After you’re done with apertivo, the sun is probably about to set. Head down a hundred meters or so from Piazza Vittorio and you’ll hit the river. This is a perfect place to either go for a early evening sunset stroll along the water, or simply sit and drink in the view with your eyes. Sometimes my friends and I will make a small picnic and grab a blanket and just go sit by the river, watching the rowers pass by and soaking in the sun as it dips down. The river is also has lovely winding path that is an ideal place to go for runs or bike rides.
Now it’s time to venture out of the city a little bit. The Mole has a fabulous view of the city, but if you want to get above and beyond, literally, then go to the Basilica di Superga. This breathtaking church is located right on the top of the hill. Chose your mood, hike or car, then go! Trust me, you will not be disappointed. Not only is the church itself magnificent but the view is spectacular. The city looks so peaceful down below with the Alps towering above in all directions. It truly is a sight you cannot miss when in Torino.
Now of course Torino is in Italy, and no matter when you eat in Italy the food is going to be amazing. I want to tell you about a hidden gem I stumbled across within the last month. It’s called Adonis Creperie. Now use this restaurant (if) or when you ever get sick of Italian food. It’s perfect for a late morning meal on the weekend when you wake up with the craving. So again, chose your mood, savory or sweet, or maybe both! Then chose your crepe. They have everything from toppings of eggs, bacon, goat cheese, honey, Nutella, bananas and strawberries.
I have traveled almost every weekend during my time abroad, but every single time, without fail, I am so happy to be back in Torino. Torino is my very own treasure. I am so grateful to be able to call this place my home. The possibilities here are endless, whether you want to have a eventful day hiking up to the Basilica, or simply sit down at a café and enjoy the fresh air. Everyone has a chance to tell their own story of Torino.
Written by Sarah Hogan – University of Maine – Torino Spring semester 2015