If you are looking for a relatively inexpensive travel destination that is sure to make for some great memories, you definitely need to stop by Turin or ‘Torino’ to Italians. This Northern Italian city is part of Italy’s Industrial north and is one of its wealthier cities. The fourth-largest city in Italy, Turin combines Old World charm, Roman history, and a modern sensibility. Whether you’re into historical buildings, art, or you’re a big fan of Italian industry, Turin has something to offer you.
Green and easy appeal
There’s just something ‘easy’ about Turin. It doesn’t offer the sharp contrasts between an ultra-modern urban core and a rustic agrarian countryside a few kilometers from the city center which you would get from quite a number of Italy’s other cities. Instead, the city has a lot of cobblestone streets, colonnaded walkways, green spaces, and there is an easy and spacious feeling that pervades the city boundaries. Of course, sprinkled throughout is the occasional Roman ruin, a baroque building, or Renaissance structure. Overall, you don’t feel hemmed in and crowded. This is quite a welcome break from Rome, Naples, or even Florence. In fact, even certain parts of Venice feels crowded. Not Turin. It is very easy to relax at a cafe, walk under some great-looking colonnades and really soak the city in. Among most other European countries, this city has the most ‘non-touristy’ feel to it. Quite a welcome relief. And quite an asset for such an amazing travel destination.
While the region of Europe Turin is located in has been inhabited by humans for millenia, Turin was only established around the first century before the common era when a Roman military encampment was established in the city’s present location. While historical records don’t exactly say the precise year of the encampment’s establishment, indications point to around 28 BC as the founding of Castra Taurinorum. Later on, the encampment was rededicated to the emperor Augustus with the designation Augusta Taurinorum. Besides the scattered Roman ruins that can be found within Turin today, you can see the distinct Roman influence on this city in its street grid system-a distinctly Roman feature. The most prominent Roman architectural influence is the Porta Palatina at the north of the city. This area is preserved and included within a park that is nearby Turin’s Cathedral. During Roman times, Turin was enclosed by high walls and was called home by around 5000 citizens.
The Middle Ages
After the Roman Empire disintegrated, a series of invaders claimed Turin. First came the Lombards, who were then followed by Charlemagne’s Franks. Afterward, Turin was ruled by a countship. After some dynastic marriages, control of Turin fell to the House of Savoy. The Duchy of Savoy took control of Turin near end of 1200s. The city underwent a redesign in the 1400s which saw a massive building boom which produced the palaces and gardens Turin is known for today. Turin gained its present status as the primary city of the Piedmont region when the Emmanuel Philibert, the Duke of Savoy transferred the Duchy’s capital to Turin. As befitting such a designation, Turin underwent further improvement. Its walls were expanded and some key Turin landmarks were added – the Via Roma (originally called Via Nuova) and Piazza San Carlo (originally named Piazza Reale). In the 1600s, the Royal Palace of Turin (the Palazzo Reale) was constructed.
Major Overhaul and Modern Turin
Much of modern Turin’s look was due to the huge redesign of the city undertaken by Filippo Juvarra after the Treaty of Utrecht. Turin was taken over by the French Empire under Napoleon. Upon Napoleon’s defeat, Turin’s independence, as part of the Kingdom of Piedmont-Sardinia, was restored. The Kingdom of Piedmont-Sardinia was the core of Italy’s march toward unification. After Unification, Turin experienced a massive industrial boom. Turin provided much of Italy’s industrial might during World War II and was the target of Allied bombings. Thankfully, Turin was rebuilt quickly after the war and resumed its industrial dominance.
Turin is one of the centers of modern Italian industry. Much of contemporary Italy’s industrial production is located in the North of Italy. In fact, there is an Italian ‘industrial triangle’ of three cities which account for a large share of Italy’s industrial GDP: Genoa, Milan, and Turin. The one other great contributor to Italian commerce and trade is located further south-Rome. Still, Turin’s outsized contribution to the Italian economy cannot be stressed enough. This one city has a GDP (in 2010) of $58 billion. A lot of Turin’s economic dominance is due to the fact that it is the home of the automotive industry of Italy. It is the home of no other than the iconic Italian car maker Fiat.
7 interesting facts about Turin…
- In 218 BC Hannibal and his elephants came over the Alps and destroyed what is now Turin.
- The slow food movement was started near Turin. This advocates the use of local ingredients and celebrates enjoying a long, leisurely meal.
- Turin means ‘little bull’ in Italian.
- The Piemonte region of Italy is home to the white truffle, one of the rarest foods in the world.
- The Holy Shroud (or ‘Turin Shroud’) is located in Turin’s Duomo just off Piazza Castello.
- Step with your heel on the bronze bull’s balls in Piazza San Carlo and it will bring you good luck, apparently!
- ‘The Italian Job’ film was shot on the streets of Turin.
If you are looking to visit a city that has modern amenities and a lot to offer in terms of culture, entertainment, amenities, and venues, Turin is a great bet. It has a nice mix of ancient and modern elements which truly round out a great Italian trip. It is always a good idea to stop by Turin while touring Italy. Sure, you get to see lots of ancient ruins in Rome and you get to enjoy some of the best Renaissance sights in Florence, but Turin weaves different strands of Italian history into a distinctive and very memorable package. It truly isn’t a ‘one trick pony’ city. Turin has a lot to offer people with different expectations and needs.