Italy’s first capital, Turin, is a city of elegant porticos, grand piazzas, historic coffeehouses and cultural treasures which will charm any visitor who decides to spend a few days here. Friendly and welcoming, it seems a place highly under-rated, and you certainly don’t have to look far to find the best of its galleries and museums.
1) Museo Nazionale del Cinema
First up is a real treat for any cinema buff and you can spend literally hours wandering through the darkened themed rooms, watching film clips, reclining in the lounge area surrounded by screens, learning about the history, practitioners and technology of the silver screen. It is open until 11pm on Saturdays, is currently hosting a fantastic special Scorcese exhibition until September, and allows you to whiz up to the top of the Mole Antonelliana tower courtesy of a glass panoramic lift suspended only by cables, to reach an unparalleled vista of Turin’s rooftops and landmarks.
2) Museo Egizia
Opened in 1824, this stunning museum houses the most significant collection of Egyptian treasures outside of Cairo. Wander through rooms containing papyrus scrolls, hieroglyphics, bandaged (and unbandaged) mummies of humans (and crocodiles!), beautifully painted sarcophagi, and then descend downstairs into rooms containing an impressive array of Egyptian statuary ranging from Ramesses II to items found in the tomb of Kha and Merit. Pause face to face with the Sphinx, and you will certainly find it hard to believe you are in the Italian city of Turin. If there is a queue to get in initially, simply return at lunchtime!
3) Pinacoteca Giovanni e Marella Agnelli
Take the metro down to Lingotto, and high on the roof of Turin’s former Fiat factory (Lingotto Fiere) you will find suspended a capsule-like art gallery designed by world renowned architect Renzo Piano. The collection is small but exquisite with a number of memorable works by Canaletto and matisse on display. Afterwards, be sure to find on the same site Eataly – the supermarket of the Slow Food Movement which has in-house cafes and restaurants for a memorable lunch washed down by a glass of Barolo wine.
4) GAM - Galleria Civica d’Arte Moderna e Contemporanea
Next, take the metro to Vinzaglio, and a short walk through a quiet, leafy neighbourhood of impressive villas will bring you to Turin’s gallery of modern art. On display you will find works by 19th and 20th century artists selected from the 45,000 works held in storage. The gallery also hosts temporary exhibitions and currently you can view the bright and colourful works by Nicola de Maria.
5) Palazzo Reale
Built for Carlo Emanuele II in 1646 in the heart of Turin on Piazza Castello, you can first wander through the lavish gilt-encrusted State Apartment rooms, and when sufficiently dazzled by all that gold and red velvet wall-hangings, turn your attention to the temporary exhibition space. Currently there is a very striking exhibition of photography by Robert Capa.
There are many more interesting galleries and museums to visit, and I would highly recommend buying the Torino and Piedmont Card (2/5/7 days – 34 Euros for 5 days) as this guarantees free entry to all museums, galleries and temporary exhibitions as well as the Mole glass lift, boats on the River Po, and the Superga cable car. Other museums of note include Museo Nazionale del Risorgimento Italiano which traces Italy’s turbulent path towards Unification, and the Museo della Sindone which traces the fascinating history of the Turin Shroud which you can then view at the Cathedral (Duomo di San Giovanni). After all that culture there are plenty of ways to relax in Turin – a boat ride along the River Po, an aperitivo at one of the bars in the Quadrilatero Romano neighbourhood, a coffee at one of the chanderliered cafes……Enjoy!