Ancient city, eternal beauty
Roman military camp, the first capital of unified Italy, and center of the automotive industry and the design scene: In its more than 2000-year history, Turin has played a multitude of different roles, and all have left their mark on the city. And when you’ve seen all of the city’s sights, there’s some great countryside to be explored in the surrounding Piedmont region
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Turin’s famous landmark was the tallest fully accessible building in the world on its completion in 1888, and no building in Italy surpasses its 167.50 meters even today. Architect Alessandro Antonelli’s original intention was to build a synagogue here, but his desire to create a truly unique edifice was more powerful than his regard for his limited budget. The Jewish community which had commissioned the project withdrew after paying two and a half times the originally estimated cost without seeing a result. In the end, the city offered to finance the building’s completion. Today, Mole Antonelliana houses the Museo Nazionale del Cinema film museum. There’s also a glass elevator to an observation deck, where visitors can enjoy a fine view of the Alps on a clear day.
Museo Nazionale del Cinema in the Mole Antonelliana: Via Montebello 20, Tel.: +39/011-813 85 60. Open: Tue-Fri, Sun 9am-8pm, Sat 9am-11pm, elevator to observation deck at 10am. Admission: combined ticket €9 (reduced €4.5-7), museum €7 (reduced €2-5), elevator €5 (reduced €3.50).
Another superlative structure, the Lingotto factory building was opened in 1923 by Fiat, the car manufacturer. It was way ahead of its time in those days and even featured a one-kilometer test track on the roof. For almost six decades, new automobiles rolled off the production line here, and some 80 different models were created here before Fiat closed the facility in 1982. The Italian architect Renzo Piano was then commissioned to give the monumental building a complete makeover. In 1989, the Lingotto Building reopened and now houses a cultural and exhibition center, a five-star hotel, a concert hall and a picture gallery.
Five-star hotel NH Lingotto Tech: Via Nizza 230, Tel.: +39/011-664 20 00.
Pinacoteca Giovanni e Marella Agnelli: Via Nizza 230, Tel.: +39/011-006 27 13. Open: Tue-Sun 10am-7pm. Admission: €4 (reduced €2.50).
Cattedrale di San Giovanni Battista:
Architecturally speaking, Turin’s rather unadorned cathedral cannot really compete with the religious houses of other Italian cities, but for many believers, it nevertheless holds a very special significance. Since the late 17th century, the famous Turin Shroud has been kept in one of its chapels. Whether the artifact truly is the shroud of Jesus of Nazareth is, however, a highly moot point. Even the Catholic Church classes the fabric not as an official relic, but as an icon, in other words, an artifact. Nevertheless, this did not stop millions of Christians from coming to see the shroud when it was last officially exhibited, in 2010 – Pope Benedict XVI among them. At present, visitors can only view a full-size photo of the shroud at the cathedral, and the next exhibition is not planned until the year 2025.
San Giovanni Battista Cathedral: Via XX Settembre 87, Tel.: +39/011-436 15 40. Open: Mon-Sun 8am-12 noon, 3:30-6pm.
Palazzo Reale/Palazzo Madama
Earls, dukes and kings: The House of Savoy produced all of these as its rise continued over the best part of a millennium. For a while, it even supplied the Italian heads of state. From the 12th through the 19th century, Turin was the seat of this noble family – which was responsible for some of the finest buildings in the area. The principle of these is, of course, the Palazzo Reale, which the royal family made its residence in 1645. The splendor of bygone ages is still very much in evidence there, and particularly notable exhibits can be found in the arsenal and among the collection of Chinese and Japanese vases. Today, the city villa Palazzo Madama, a predominantly Baroque structure incorporating the remains of fortifications dating from the 1st century B.C., is a designated UNESCO World Heritage site.
Palazzo Reale: Piazzetta Reale 1, Tel.: +39/011-436 14 55. Open: Tue-Sun 8am-6pm. Admission: €6.50. Palazzo Madama: Piazza Castello, Tel.: +39/011-443 35 01. Open: Tue-Sat 10am-6pm, Sun 10am-8pm. Admission: €7.50 (reduced €6).
Egyptian Museum (Museo Egizio):
The Egyptian Museum is one of the most important of its kind and also owes its existence to the Savoyans. Many members of that noble family collected precious objects from the ancient kingdom on the Nile. King Karl Felix purchased a large section of the collection in 1824, and the museum’s own archeologists excavated many other Ancient Egyptian artifacts between 1900 and 1935. Roughly 6500 objects now form the exhibition, including some impressive statues, the complete funerary equipment of various tombs and diverse papyri. The Turin Papyrus, in particular, the oldest map of the world, which dates back to 1160 B.C., is famous the world over.
Egyptian Museum: Via Accademia delle Scienze 6, Tel.: +39/011-561 77 76. Open: Tue-Sun 8:30am-7:30pm. Admission: €7.50 (reduced €3.50, under 18s and over 65s free).
St. Michael’s Cathedral (Sacra di San Michele):
Even if its mighty walls are not explicitly mentioned in the novel, it is generally accepted that author and philosopher Umberto Eco was thinking of Sacra di San Michele when he described the setting for his world bestseller, The Name of the Rose. The cathedral stands 35 kilometers west of Turin atop the almost 1000-meter-high Monte Pirchiriano; its massive walls resemble those of a stronghold. In fact, it is said to have once been the site of a Roman fortress, before the abbey was built in the 10th century. Two Rosminian monks still live there today, and pilgrims and travelers are welcome to spend the night in the monastery’s bare cells. This Romanesque structure also doubles as a venue for many cultural events.
Sacra di San Michele: Via alla Sacra 14, San Ambrogio, Tel.: +39/011-93 91 30. Open: Tue-Sat 9:30am-12:30pm, 2:30-5pm, Sun 9:30-12 noon, 2:40-5pm (Oct 16 through Mar 15) Tue-Sat 9:30am-12:30pm, 2:30-6pm, Sun 9:30am-12 noon, 2:40-6:30pm (Mar 16 through Oct 15), Mon 9:30am-12:30pm, 2:30-6pm (Jul-Sep). Admission: €5 (reduced €4).
Photos: LOOK-foto (2), Corbis, mauritius images (4)