There's a whiff of Paris in Turin's elegant tree-lined boulevards and echoes of Vienna in its stately art-nouveau cafes, but make no mistake – this elegant, Alp-fringed city is utterly self-possessed. The industrious Torinese gave the world its first saleable hard chocolate and Italy's most iconic car, the Fiat.
Its booming contemporary art, architecture and live-music scene and innovative food and wine culture are definitely aspects you'll want to discover.
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These are our favorite local haunts, touristy spots, and hidden gems throughout Turin.
Opened in 1824 and housed in the austere Palazzo dell'Accademia delle Scienze, this Turin institution houses the most important collection of Egyptian treasures outside Cairo. Among its many highlights are a statue of Ramses II (one of the world's most important pieces of Egyptian art) and a vast papyrus collection. There are also 500 funerary and domestic items from the tomb of royal architect Kha and his wife Merit, dating to 1400 BC and found in 1906.
Some 21km west of Turin, the Castello di Rivoli Museum of Contemporary Art is a giant of modern art in Piedmont. Its ambition and reach, not to mention healthy regional funding, has been the envy of Milan, Venice and Rome's art worlds. The permanent collection has a sizeable number of Arte Povera works, which are beautifully displayed in the historical setting, along with pieces from the Transavanguardia, Minimal, Body and Land Art movements.
OK, it may not enjoy the weighty publicity of its French counterpart, but this is one of the largest royal residences in the world, rescued from ruin by a €235 million 10-year-long restoration project. Humongous, ostentatious, regal, yet strangely underpublicised, this Unesco-listed baroque palace some 14km northwest of Turin was built as a glorified hunting lodge in 1675 by the frivolous Duke of Savoy, Carlo Emanuele II.
Vittorio Amedeo II's 1706 promise, to build a basilica to honour the Virgin Mary if Turin was saved from besieging French and Spanish armies, resulted in this wedding cake edifice, built on a hill across the Po river.
Turin's cathedral was built between 1491 and 1498 on the site of three 14th-century basilicas and, before that, a Roman theatre. Plain interior aside, as home to the Shroud of Turin (traditionally believed to be the burial cloth in which Jesus' body was wrapped), this is a highly trafficked church. The famous cloth is not on display, but you can see where it is kept and watch explanatory video presentations.
As the historic birthplace of one of the world's leading car manufacturers – the ‘T’ in Fiat stands for Torino – Turin is the obvious place for a car museum. This dashing modern museum, located roughly 5km south of the city centre, doesn't disappoint with its precious collection of more than 200 automobiles – everything from an 1892 Peugeot to a 1980 Ferrari 308 (in red, of course).
Statues of the mythical twins Castor and Pollux guard the entrance to this eye-catching palace and, according to local hearsay, also watch over the magical border between the sacred and diabolical halves of the city. Built for Carlo Emanuele II around 1646, its lavishly decorated rooms complete with jaw-dropping coffered ceilings house an assortment of furnishings, porcelain, and other finery. The Giardino Reale, north and east of the palace, was designed in 1697 by André Le Nôtre, who also created the gardens at Versailles.
Set in the architecturally striking new headquarters of the famed coffee chain, the Museo Lavazza takes you deep into the world of the heady caffeine-filled brew. The hypermodern three-floor museum has interactive touch screens that show every stage of the cycle, from shade grown plants to roasteries and then on to cafes around the globe. You'll also learn about the Lavazza family, and its role in shaping Italy's love for espresso from a tiny grocery in the 19th century.
After extensive renovations, this significant museum reopened in 2011 to coincide with the centenary of the Risorgimento (reunification period). An astounding 30-room trajectory illustrates the creation of the modern Italian state in the very building (the baroque Palazzo Carignano) where many of the key events happened. Not only was this the birthplace of Carlo Alberto and Vittorio Emanuele II, but it was also the seat of united Italy's first parliament from 1861 to 1864.