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The important Italian city of Turin (Torino in Italian) is centrally situated in the Piedmont region of north-western Italy. It has been a wealthy centre of northern Italy for more than 500 years, a history reflected in the impressive monuments and museums to be seen in the city.
The most interesting sites in the centre of Turin are quite close together and it is easy to explore on foot. A suitable starting point for a visit is at the town's most important Roman monument, the Porta Palatina.This substantial gateway includes a high wall between two imposing towers (added later).
Almost all the other palaces and monuments of interest here in the centre date from the 16th century onwards, and are mostly within the historic centre that spreads roughly southwards for a few hundred metres from the Porta Palatina and Piazza Augusta to the Piazza San Carlo to the south.
Next on our tour we reach the renaissance style Turin cathedral that dates from the 15th century and is the only example of renaissance style architecture in the city.
On the outside the cathedral has quite an understated design - note in particular the cathedral tower which was built slightly earlier and stands slightly separate from the main cathedral building - but it holds a very wide range of important artworks. There is an exceptional view across the Turin skyline from the top of the cathedral belltower.
The chapel that adjoins the cathedral holds the item that we all associate with the city - the Turin Shroud. Although largely discredited as a genuine relic, the shroud is still of great interest to visitors - it is not possible for the public to see the original, although the cathedral does hold a copy.
The large square beyond the cathedral is called the Piazza Castello, and it is here along with the neighbouring Piazza Reale that many of the most imposing buildings in Turin can be seen, such as the Palazzo Reale (Royal Palace) and the Palazzo Madama. Piazza Castello itself is a remarkable square with many imposing buildings to admire, including the impressive interior of the baroque style Church of San Lorenzo.
Reach the Palazzo Reale passing the statues of Castor and Pollux. The interior of the Palazzo Reale is an extravagantly furnished and decorated series of grand rooms that was once home to the Savoy Royal Family (until the unification of Italy in 1861) and contains a very wide range of opulent items.
Don't forget to also visit the lovely gardens behind the Palazzo Reale, which were designed by the famous French landscape gardener calle Le Notre (who also designed the gardens at the Palace of Versailles near Paris).
Palazzo Madama dominates Piazza Castello with its ornate 18th century facade and statues along the top, and also contains an elaborately decorated interior. The palace is now home to the Civic Museum of Ancient Art and is one of the most interesting museums in Turin, with an extensive collection that spans almost 2000 years of the town's history.
A little further to the south be sure to see the Palazzo Carignano, a very impressive 17th century baroque palace that is now home to another of Turin's most important museums, the National Museum of the Risorgimento (the unification of Italy).
Close to here the Piazza San Carlo is another unmissable sight, surrounded by various baroque churches and buildings and well placed for exploring some of the upmarket boutiques in the city centre and the streets of the medieval centre (many shops are along the Via Roma that joins Piazza San Carlo with Piazza Castello).
The main monument that stands slightly separate from the main historic centre of Turin needs no directions because it domianates the Turin skyline - the Mole Antonelliana is a 19th century building with a tall spire that overlooks the city - you can ascend the tower for very fine views across Turin and the hills beyond, and the building is also home to the National Museum of Cinema.
There are more trendy shops and cafes along the Via Po, the main route east from Piazza Castello that passes close to the Mole Antonelliana.
More Turin museums...
If you have visited some of the Turin museums already mentioned and are still in need of more art and culture there are several other important museums in Turin including:
- the Egyptian museum (Museo Egizio),
- the Old Masters collection at the Galleria Sabauda (same building as the Egyptian Museum),
- the Royal Armoury (Armeria Reale) in one part of the Palazzo Reale has one of the largest collections of arms and armoury in the world.
Other general information
We also suggest you head towards the south-west of Turin, along the river, to visit the Valentino Park - an attractive well maintained park you can also see the Valentino Castle and the 'Borgo Medieval' here.
The above is of course just a quick guide to the highlights in Turin. As you would expect of a city that has been wealthy for several hundred years there are a great number of other grand buildings, parks and gardens, smaller museums, cafes and restaurants, shops and art galleries, and a great deal to enjoy as you explore.
The splendid Subalpina Galleria is among the shopping highlights...
Attractions close to Turin
The Automobile Museum (Museo dell'Automobile) is just a short distance outside Turin and very popular with visitors.
You can find more local travel ideas in the Piedmont guide.