Though it’s not a huge city (like Rome) or the European capital of fashion (like Milan) Turin, Italy is a charming destination that has much more to offer than its (in)famous shroud.
Sure, Turin is most famous for a ratty piece of off-white fabric but when you visit, obviously you’re going to skip the famous Shroud of Turin and spend your time on less touristy, more fulfilling experiences.
Updated May 2016 with even more amazing Turin, Italy travel tips.
Your time can be better spent wandering Turin’s glorious collonades, enjoying the world’s best collection of Egyptian artifacts, riding in a floating elevator, and getting neck cramps from viewing all of the stunning buildings. Of course, this is Italy, so I promise, we’ll also stop for the best gelato and the best pizza in Turin.
Of course, if you believe that The Shroud of Turin is the bonafide image of Leonardo Da Vinci and you’re a big Da Vinci fan, you’ll want to stop in there too.
(Cause no one actually thinks it Jesus, do they? Spoiler alert: it’s not!)
OK, now that we’ve offended half of our readers and the Torino Tourism Board, back to our day trip to Turin.
(If you think that’s offensive, you should read about the day we had a close encounter with The Pope.)
Coming from Milan, Nice or Cinque Terre, a day trip to Turin, Italy makes for a fabulous day out, but I love it so much, I think you should make it your home base in Northern Italy, and take your Milan, Nice, and Cinque Terre day trips from here.
Day Trip to Turin Italy
Morning on the Turin Walk of Fame
Start your morning by taking a walk from the Vittorio Emanuele I monument at the end of Via Po, through the expanse of Piazza Vittorio Veneto. On a sunny day, this piazza is filled with Italians enjoying an espresso and watching the world wander past.
If you need a little something to energize you for the day, stop in at Pasticerria Ghigho, which is one of Turin’s historic cafés, established in 1870. There, you can try Turin’s signature drink, Bicerin, which is a thick hot chocolate mixed with espresso and topped with whipped cream.
If you’re not a coffee fan, get a classic hot chocolate instead. Just don’t expect it to be like hot chocolate you’ve experienced in other places. In this part of the world, hot chocolate is thick, rich, melted chocolate, often mixed with a tiny bit of water or nothing at all.
Having originally been a dairy, Ghigo’s whipped cream is one of their specialities, so get a dollop on the top of your drink.
Vegans should look for Coox Vegan FastRestaurant which is just a stone’s throw from Ghigo. They open early and offer Italian-style vegan breakfast – think sweet pastries and cookies with espresso drinks. They’re also open for lunch and dinner. We haven’t eaten there yet but will update if we get the chance.
(If you like vegan food, visit Berlin and try our recommendations for the Best Budget Vegan Food in Berlin.)
From Piazza Vittorio Veneto, head up Via Po and along the colonnade that runs up both sides of the street.
Walking through the arches of the colonnade is like stepping back in time, or walking onto the set of La Dolce Vita (which you would have to step back in time to do, I suppose). The seemingly endless colonnade is lined with cafés, restaurants, gelaterias, tourist shops and booksellers. Locals come here too, so the restaurants and cafés serve much better than the average tourist fare.
About half-way up Via Po, you are steps away from the Mole Antonelliana (a great spire rising above the city), which sits on top of the Museo Nazionale del Cinema (the national cinema museum – see, Italian is easy). Once upon a time, the Mole Antonelliana was the tallest brick structure in the world.
The designers of Turin’s Cinema Museum did an impressive job of melding new technologies with the original structure. Don’t miss a trip in the floating elevator (I’ve never seen anything like it) up to the top of the dome for a spectacular view of the city and the Alps rising in the near distance. The view is also spectacular at night.
If this video doesn’t terrify you, I highly recommend the ride.
There is a small branch of Eataly, the trendy restaurant and food store which focusses on high-quality Italian foods, on the bottom floor of the museum. You can grab a plate of pasta and other typical Italian delights here or pick up dried pasta, olive oil, salt, preserves, and the gourmet version of Nutella, which comes from Turin.
To go to Eataly or the elevator, just walk past the line for the tickets to the museum (you will feel like you’re getting away with something) and head straight inside.
You could easily spend 6 hours in the Museo Nazionale del Cinema, but there’s much more to see in Turin (and you don’t want “museum leg”) so get yourself out of there by lunchtime.
Lunch at Piadineria Romagnola
From the Cinema Museum, cross the pedestrian street and stop in at Piadineria Romagnola, where they make sandwich wraps and have a vast selection of vegetarian options. I am sure you could search out a more traditional salameria, but Piadineria Romagnola is convenient, fresh, and inexpensive.
The restaurant is simple, like all good Italian lunch spots, and lunch will cost you about €6. There are tables and chairs outside so while you eat, you can watch all the students being corralled by their teachers as they herd them into, and out of, the Cinema Museum.
Afternoon of Walking like an Egyptian
During the last two centuries, two historians from Torino brought home a vast collection of artefacts from Egypt. These artefacts are now on display at the Egyptian Museum (aka Museo Egizio) and make up the most extensive Egyptian collection outside of Cairo.
The collection here is more impressive than anything we saw when we were actually in Egypt.
Mubarak (the former President of Egypt) spent next to no money on the Egyptian museum in Cairo and when we were there in 2006 it looked like it hadn’t been updated (or dusted) in 30 years. Plus, all the signs were in Arabic only, so we had no idea what we were looking at. Parts of the museum were ransacked during the Arab Spring uprising, so I can only imagine the state of it now.
Usually, I would say that the archeologists who took these treasures from Egypt are dastardly thieves and that everything should be returned, but the Torino collection does an excellent job of detailing some of the reasons behind taking these artefacts out of Egypt.
The museum also talks about the huge trade in Egyptian artefacts that existed in Europe at the time, and the Italians used this market as a way to collect and preserve greater numbers of pieces.
Don’t spend all your time on the top floors. They really do save the best for the last and the final room is filled with incredible granite and other stone carved statues. Some as tall as 30+ feet!
Pre-Dinner Gelato Break
There are several grand buildings near the Egyptian Museum, so it is worth a slow meander through the streets when you leave. The National University Library and the National Museum of the Risorgimento face each other, with the Piazza Carlo Alberto in between. Within just a few blocks you can find the old castle in the middle of Piazza Castello, go to the Apple store on Via Roma for free WiFi access, and then wander out into the open space of Piazza San Carlo.
If you’re hungry again (and after all that walking you just might be) pop into Focaccerie Gran Torino on Via Lagrange, about 200m from the Egyptian Museum, for a slice of traditional northern Italian pizza. As in most northern pizza joints, there are a few vegan options and lots of different slices to choose from. A slice will set you back about €2, and will ensure you have enough energy to get to the gelateria.
After spending so much time in museums, and looking up at the rococo architecture, you have definitely earned a gelato. Start to make your way back to Via Po, passing the statue to Camillo Benso Conte di Cavour, which sits in the midst of a piazza lined with some of the most impressively refined buildings I saw in the entire city.
Look out for this magazine stand that looks like a Cartier-Bresson photo. Unfortunately, my photo isn’t quite up to Cartier-Bresson standards.
Gelato Fiorio is at the corner of Via Po and Via Giambattista Bogino. Our local friends swear this is the best gelato in town.
The shop seems to be made entirely of pink marble, apart from the ornate light fixtures, and I imagine it looks just like it did when it was first opened decades ago. The waiters even wear white serving jackets, with bow ties. There is a small window on the Via Giambattista Bogino side of the store where you can walk up for take-away cones or cups.
Get the local favourite Gianduia, which is a combination of hazelnut paste and chocolate (like Nutella but 100x better). If you’re not into chocolate, go for the coconut, which is just amazing.
Across Via Po from Gelato Fiorio is the Mathematics Department of the university. If they haven’t closed the gate yet for the evening, pop your head into the courtyard for a view of the Spirit of Geometry statue and the stunning courtyard that houses it, as students rush past, immune to the architectural beauty that surrounds them.
Dine on the Best Pizza in Torino
After all this walking, you may need to head back to your B&B to put your feet up for a couple of hours, and you might as well. Dinner happens late in Italy. When it’s time for pizza, make your way to Pizzeria da Cristina. You’ll need to hop in a taxi, take the city bus, or get a friend to drive you like I did. If you survive the crazy streets of Torino, Cristina’s pizza will be a just reward.
The service is slow, but the owners are friendly, and while the pizza might cost a bit more than at many of the other 300+ pizzerias in town, our foodie friends swear that Cristina’s is the best. Newspaper clippings and photos showing celebrities dining there (including Maradona, which may hint to the secret ingredient in the pizza dough) attest to this.
Cristina is now in her 80s, but she still works there most days (the magic of the Mediterranean diet at work?). Her son now runs the restaurant but, as I discovered, he doesn’t like having his photo taken. Pizzeria da Cristina is open from 7pm until 11:30pm.
If you don’t want pizza (are you crazy?!?), Mezzaluna, a vegan restaurant in Torino, is another great option. It was fully booked the night I tried to go, but I got a first-hand report from our omnivore friend Francesca that it was excellent, so I will have to get there next time I visit.
More Travel Awesomeness from Turin, Italy
If you happen to have an extra day in Torino, or you are averse to museums, visit Parco Naturale La Mandria. The park is a wide expanse of green nestled in the foothills of the alps. The property used to be the hunting grounds for the royal family but is now the place to spend a sunny Sunday, cycling, sipping beer, and picnicking.
The views of the mountains and the countryside are outstanding, and if you’re lucky, you might get to see some of the park’s many wild creatures.
Check out the wild creatures we saw during our day at La Mandria.
Getting to Turin
From Nice to Turin
If you don’t have a car, the fastest and cheapest way to get from Nice to Turin is by Flixbus. It costs €9 and takes 3 hours 45 minutes. Eurolines buses also make the journey but cost far more (around €35-45). Taking the train is longer, involves a change, and is even more expensive, so don’t bother.
From Milan to Turin
From Milan, Flixbus takes 2 hours and costs €7. The train is your better bet for this route. It usually takes 50 minutes and will cost just a few Euros more than the bus — anywhere from €10-25 depending when you book and when you travel.
From Genoa to Turin
From Genoa, Flixbus takes just under 2 hours and costs €12. The train takes anywhere from 2 to 3.5 hours and costs in the range of €10-15 depending on the time and date you travel.
From Chamonix to Turin
The spectacular Chamonix to Turin route is best done by Eurolines bus, which takes you through the 11km tunnel under Mont Blanc. It takes 2 hours and 15 minutes and costs around €25-35.
Flixbus doesn’t do this route and the train will take you the long way round and cost at least twice as much, making Eurolines by far the best option.