Turin is a little gem that shouldn’t be missed during a visit to Italy, but it is also a perfect spot for a week end city break. It is a small enough city to walk or cycle around really easily, with lots of enjoyable and cultural spots.
This is a bit of an unusual article for my website because this was a weekend without family …only me and my Italian girlfriends!!!! It also includes some places to see off the beaten track which are really interesting architectural spots.
Turin has direct connections with several European cities so it made a perfect option when we decided to organise an only girls weekend, as 2 of us were coming from London and Paris.
How to get there.
I was coming from London and I flew BA from London Gatwick on a Friday afternoon. The flight is only 2 hours and got me there by 4:30pm From London also Ryanair fly to Turin, at the moment it only has a flight scheduled really early in the morning, but it was very cheap!
From the airport you have three options to get to town: the easy one is to get a taxi, that by my understanding will use the meter but never charge you more than 30Euro to get to the city centre.
Or you can get the bus that in 45-50 min for 6.50Euro (tickets from café in departure hall or on board for 1 Euro extra) will deliver you by Torino Porta Nuova station, then you can probably walk or get a bus, tram or taxi to your accommodation.
Last option is to get the train, it arrives at Dora station, not super central, but again Turin is quite small, so a bus, tram, or taxi should quickly bring you to your final destination
I was the last one arriving and so I decided to treat myself to a taxi that in 30 minutes brought me to our flat.
Where to stay.
Considering the small scale of the city, all central areas are quite convenient. We were a group of 9 people so we decided to rent a big apartment through Airbnb, located in Corso Regina Margherita near to the royal gardens. Our apartment was clean and really spacious, old style but coherent with the pictures we have seen online. The location was good, only 10 minutes walking from piazza Castello.
What to do before to arrive to Turin.
If the weather is dry it can be lovely to take advantage of the bike sharing system available, but if you don’t want to lose time (like we did…more later) you should apply in advance to get the card to unlock the bikes. There are three different bike sharing networks, but I was told that the best is Tobike and so that’s what we used.
If you subscribe online you will receive your card directly at home (at least for Italian address, I’m not sure about foreign addresses)…otherwise you need to spend some time in one of the offices to register and pay for it.
What to do in a weekend in Turin arriving Friday afternoon and leaving Sunday afternoon.
A short week end is not enough to see everything so we had to make a choice. Before to leave I made the usual excel spreadsheet including transfer time and leisure buffer time, considering we were 9 we definitely needed it but along the way we made a few changes anyway…accomodating 8 people is not easy!!! Here I will share the original version.
Friday, ready to go at 5pm after a quick check-in and room assignment it is time to start walking. Walking through Via Po and Piazza Vittorio Veneto you can reach the river Po, and from there by walking along the river you will arrive to Parco del Valentino. (here is when we lost some time to go and get the bike card, so our afternoon felt a bit rushed)
The park is nice, but I recommend to walk there late in the afternoon only during summer months, not because it is dangerous, but because when the sun goes down it loses at lot of its fascination, and becomes just a place to cross to get somewhere else. Probably the ideal would be to come here on a Sunday for a picnic.
In the south part of the park there is also an interesting borgo medievale (feudal village) that was built in 1884 to represent a feudal village from XV century. The lower part is free to access, while the garden and the castle need a ticket.
If you are interested in architecture you shouldn’t miss “verde 25” just 5 minutes from Parco del Valentino’s south exit. It is a new residential complex, with 63 flats, that has been designed to integrate the nature in the structure itself. 200 trees are an integral part of the building and create an amazing feeling of living in a treehouse.
From Verde 25 it is only 15 minutes to the area called San Salvario, a really lively multi-ethnic area full of restaurants, pubs, and different types of bistro. In our schedule we had an aperi-cena (aperi-cena is simply an aperitif where you can have an abundance of food that after doesn’t really require a dinner) at a place called Il Lanificio. We called few days before to book a table, but they told us that they were not taking reservations for aperitif and then when we arrived, even if half of the tables were empty, they said that they were fully booked. Really odd…anyway we just crossed the road and chose one of the three places available just opposite.
Our schedule was tight and after an hour rest it was time to move again, because at 9pm a free walking tour started from the Cathedral bell tower. We got 3 ubers and in 10 minutes we arrived and joined one of the worst walking tours I’ve ever done. Ok, every time I’m travelling I look to see if there is a free walking tour available. I usually try to participate as soon as I arrive in a new place, to get an overview of the area and to get some insight from someone living there.
I have had some amazing tours and some more average but I have never complained because they work on a tip based system. The tour is free, but of course they accept tips at the end, so when a tour is good people are usually happy to leave a generous tip. I think this was the first time I left a tour after 15 minutes…maybe it was me, maybe I didn’t read well the details, I don’t know, but the guide was the most un-engaging and boring I have ever encountered. This was an evening themed tour, “Torino Mystica”, here the tour webpage if you want to know more, they also do morning classic tour…maybe they are the good one!
To close the evening we just strolled around, the city centre was full of people because it was the international food fair weekend, with a lot of events and Stands all around. The “quadrilatero romano” the area near Porta Palatina (the old city gate) is also full of bars and restaurants, with lots of lovely little squares where you can sit at the outside tables and enjoy people watching!
The weather at the end of September was amazing, even too hot especially considering that at 10am we had a cyclo-tour to attend. As I mentioned at the beginning, Turin is a perfect place to ride a bike, so after researching a bit I found a called company biketonight that organise themed city tours on the bike.
From 10 to 12 we went around Turin on bicycles wearing wireless headphones to comfortably listen to the guide while pedalling. The tour was based on the book “Someone is killing Turin’s best chef” (or something like that, the Italian title is “qualcuno sta uccidendo I piu’ grandi cuochi di Torino…I don’t think the book has been translated yet). As it was a weekend focused on food they chose this book as inspiration, so we went around and not only got a city tour, but also a good overview of some of the Turin’s best restaurants.
The tour then ended by the restaurant “I tre galli” where we had a glass of wine and met the writer. If you like to cycle you should definitely take part in one of these tours. It was brilliant, we had a really great time and Giulia the guide was superb, passionate about her city and deeply knowledgeable!
After all this cycling, I Tre Galli was the perfect spot for an amazing traditional lunch. Food was delicious and reasonably priced.
A leisurely walk can help after a big lunch while enjoying the city centre. Whilst around, a stop at “Pepino” shouldn’t be missed. Pepino it is one of the iconic places of Turin which invented the ice cream called Pinguino. An alternative could be to try some chocolate from Gobino (turin is really famous for chocolate) or a “Bicerin” (tipical drink from Piemonte with coffee, chocolate and milk cream) from “Al Bicerin” where has been invented or any of the previous places suggested.
Another Iconic place in Turin that can’t be left out the itinerary is the “mole Antonelliana”, so our Saturday schedule included 4 hours dedicated to the cinema museum and to do the guided visit of the dome.
Unfortunately in September 2018 there was some maintenance work ongoing so the panoramic lift was closed and also the dome visit was cancelled…such a shame we couldn’t go up, the view must be extraordinary. The panoramic lift ticket can be bought together with the museum ticket for a reduced amount (Euro15), but I think the real highlight (if you are in good health) is the guided dome visit that will bring you up inside the dome just walking. The visit at the moment is only available on the weekend and during bank holidays so better to book it online because places are limited. Just to clarify this are 3 separate things: you can buy a ticket just to enter the museum, you can buy a ticket just to go up with the panoramic lift, or you can buy a ticket to walk up to the dome with a guided tour.
Last but not least is the museum itself, incredibly well done and super interesting. I think if you are a cinema buff, you could easily spend 5 or 6 hours here.
For dinner I had a recommendation for the restaurant “E’ cucina” but we ended up not going so I can’t comment. Some of us went instead to try the famous tramezzini from Mulassano. Apparently the common Italian little sandwich has been invented here almost 100 years ago.
We took a drink and then ordered several of them to try…to be honest they were really good, but I’m also spoiled from living in Rome near another unbelievably super tasty Tramezzini place called Luperini so I didn’t think they were something never tasted before……but maybe I’m too patriotic for my city!
Closing the evening can be done with another architectural gem: you can book a table on floor 35 of the Intesa San Paolo skyscraper lounge.
You can sip on a delicious cocktail while enjoying one of Renzo Piano’s latest works, which is otherwise quite difficult to access.
Another off the beaten path spot to visit is the new Lavazza headquarters designed by architect Cino Zucchi. The space includes several building accessible from the open square they built in the middle. The square creates a little green oasis to relax in, from there you can get to the Lavazza museum, the restaurant or the bistrot. I liked the bistrot concept: it is basically the employee canteen but it is also open to general public, so family can sometimes have lunch together.
Other areas are only open in occasions of special events, like the area under the head-quarters where the remains of a paleo-Christian cathedral have been found.
This area is not far from the city centre, maybe around 20 minutes walking. We walked there and stopped on the way to take a few pictures of another archistar building: the new University. Unfortunately the gates were closed so we could only appreciate it from the road.
We had a lovely lunch at the Lavazza bistro and after that we walked back to the city centre. At this point it really depends what time you need to head back to the airport/station. If you have time the last thing you shouldn’t miss is the Egyptian museum, the most important Egyptian museum after Cairo. It is really popular so expect a crowd if you are going on a Sunday.
In case you are coming from one of the few cities that doesn’t have a direct flight to Turin you can also arrive to Milan. From Milano Linate you can take the bus to Milano Central station (25 min. 5€) and then it is only 1 hour by train to Turin (Porta Nuova station). The flight time from Turin wasn’t good for me, so this is the way I come back from Milano to Heathrow with a British Airways reward ticket.
I hope this article will inspire you on how to best organize a weekend in Turin, of course there are many other things to do, but this was my choice and I was really happy with the result.
Let me know in the comments if you found it useful!!!