Underrated and often overlooked in favour of more famous destinations in Northern Italy, you’d be remiss to leave Turin, or Torino as it is so-called in Italian, off your Italy bucket list. And not just because the city is home to some of the best chocolate in the world, not to mention the Shroud of Turin. Instead, the city is also home to plenty of hidden gems worth discovering. Here’s a guide to the best of secret spots in Turin.
Set against the backdrop of snow-capped mountains, Turin is rich with history and even boasts a claim to fame as where the ever-popular aperitivo began! Other highlights of the city include Museo Egizio (Egypt Museum), which boasts one of the most impressive Egyptology collections outside of Cairo, and many historic cafés which are perfect to sit at, all the while watching the world go by.
Basilica di Superga
On an impressive hill overlooking the historic town of Turin and the sparkling River Po, the Basilica di Superga is a superb feat of engineering, matched only by the breathtaking views it offers onto the Italian countryside.
The Basilica was commissioned by Vittorio Amedeo in 1706. The story goes that Amedeo prayed that Turin would be saved from the French and Italian armies, both of whom were besieging the city at that time. Somehow, Turin managed to survive and so Vittorio, keeping to his promise, built the Basilica di Superga in honour of the Virgin Mary.
In order to reach the Basilica of Superga today, you’ll need to take an authentic and ever-so-old 1930s tram to the very top of the mountain. That is, if you don’t want to spend the first half of your day walking. The views from the top are magnificent and the Basilica itself is home to a fascinating history, making the Basilica di Superga one of the best-kept secrets of Turin.
Fetta di Polenta
One of the most famous symbols of Turin is that of the Mole Antonelliana, a Northern Italian landmark so famous that it is often nicknamed the ‘Eiffel Tower of Italy’. Designed by architect Alessandro Antonelli, the famous tower was not the first of the architect’s work in the city.
Instead, one of the most unusual things to see in Turin is that of the ‘Fetta di Polenta,’ which is quite literally translated into English as the ‘Slice of Polenta’. Located in the Vanchiglia district of the city, the Fetta di Polenta is also referred to as the Casa Scaccabarozzi and was first built over one hundred and fifty years ago.
As its name would suggest, it quite literally resembles a slice of polenta cake! Though you sadly can’t see inside the building, the yellow and red structure remains fun to capture and marvel at from the roadside.
The covered arcades of Turin
I’m sure by now that you’ve heard of the covered passages of Paris, a series of 18th and 19th arcades which pierce through the second and ninth arrondissements of the city and were the precursor to the modern day shopping malls we all know today.
But what you may well not know is that Turin, too, has its very own covered arcades. Many are ornate and they make the perfect places to explore during rainy days in the city. Many maintain that the most beautiful of all the city’s galleries is that of Galleria Subalpina, though there are a number of other covered passages and galleries to discover as well!
Medieval Village, Valentino Park
Of all the unusual things to do in Turin, one off the beaten path activity which might surprise you the most is the chance to see a fake medieval village in the very heart of the city. Though the village may well appear as if its centuries old, it was actually created in the 19th-century.
The brainchild of Alfredo D’Andrade, who was a keen follower of Viollet-le-Duc (i.e. the very man who oversaw the restorations of Mont Saint Michel and Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris), the village is tucked away in the heart of Valentino Park and is a faithful recreation of a 15th century Piedmontese village. As well as a castle, there are artisanal shops, narrow cobbled lanes, and even a drawbridge!
Museum of Criminal Anthropology
Though not so much of a secret spot in Turin as some of the other places listed here, the Museum of Criminal Anthropolgy is certainly one of the more unusual reasons to visit Turin. Once upon a time, the museum was only open to academics. Today, members of the public can visit the rather macabre museum.