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Torino, Italy Review - Grand Piazzas, Mountain Views and Many Surprises

By Barbara Keer

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All my husband and I needed was a Torino + Piemonte Card and a bus pass and the city was ours.  We found Torino, Italy to be a “hidden treasure”. I accompanied my husband to a world congress that was held on the grounds of the Olympic Stadium in Torino, Italy.  Waiting for our luggage at the airport, chatting with other visitors, many at the airport were coming to meetings.

 

We learned that Torino was the start of many things that were later shared with the world-chocolate, the slow food movement, films in Italy, the largest market in Europe and more.  Our first stop was our hotel, which was unique and remarkable.  Once the Fiat Factory, it was converted to a multi-purpose building by architect Renzo Piano.  It was amazing to see the way a restored Fiat factory became a designer hotel. This is a remarkable hotel, architecturally and historically.  We learn from the website that “The building was restored by architect Renzo Piano and features a large central hall with natural light from the glass-roof above. The hotel's café and restaurant serves contemporary cuisine in a unique atmosphere. Rooms at the NH Lingotto Tech include allergy-free materials, floor-to-ceiling windows, and bathroom with multi-sensory shower. Guests have free access to the running track on the roof, originally the FIAT test track.”  The hotel was built in 1995 Connected to Lingotto Conference Centre, near Politecnico University, and offers many modern features including LCD TV and WiFi.

 

We found our room very comfortable, the restaurant very good, and the location perfect. Our breakfast in the restaurant where Italian and Mediterranean dishes are served was delicious. The bar was inviting in the evening as a place to relax. Special features include allergy-free materials, floor-to-ceiling windows, and a bathroom with multi-sensory shower.

 

The workout facility was in an open airy location from which the distant snow capped mountains were visible.  The staff was very friendly and extremely helpful, especially Elena, who always had a wonderful smile and clear instructions.  A walk through the shopping center connected to the hotel brought us to the metro. We ascended to the roof and saw the track and great views of the surrounding area our last morning.

 

 

NH Lingotto

Via Nizza 262, 10126 Turin

For booking go to the NH Lingtto website

 

As our cab approached our hotel, we noticed Eataly, which we thought was a restaurant. However,on closer inspection, we learned it was a delightful combination of food market, cooking school and restaurant. It is expanding into various Italian cities as well as Japan and Manhattan, and we are thrilled to learn it will soon be in our city, Chicago.  The first Eataly was founded by Oscar Farinetti and opened its doors in Turin in 2007. Eatly website We found wonderful and exotic foods of all kinds in the market areas and then observed several restaurants offering different fare, which we enjoyed as well as amazing gelato.

 

Eataly's relationship to the Slow Food movement is a great explanation for why it began in Turin. Slow Food is an organization founded in 1989 in response to the concept of fast food and all it brings with it: fast life, disconnection from the origins of our food supply and disappearance of local food traditions. Its emphasis is on protecting the heritage of food and culture by strengthening the connections between plate and planet. Its belief is that farmers, producers, cooks and consumers must work together to protect the world's food heritage.

 

The Slow Food organization is a consultant for Eataly. Among other things, its members inspect Eataly's producers and farmers to ensure that the quality of their products is not compromised to satisfy growing demand. Slow Food helps Eataly showcase sustainable agriculture and artisanal food production. Slow Food website 

 

 

Monday was my first day to explore Turin.  With many museums closed, it was a perfect time for the Hop-on, Hop-off bus tour. It was a great way to get an understanding of the city architecturally, historically, and culturally.  I was also better able to decide in what way I wanted to spend my time in the remaining days. Hop-On, Hop-Off Website

 

 

Some of the “must sees” included “The Shroud of Turin”, the Egyptian Museum (Museo delle Antichità Egizie), The National Cinema Museum of Torino, and less well known, Reggia di Venaria which is part of the “Crown of Delights”.  Each of these is remarkable.

 

 

The Cathedral of Saint John the Baptist where the Shroud of Turin is kept in the royal chapel seemed hard to find.  In fact, it was very close to the Visitor Information office in at Piazza Castello, which seems to be the center of all kinds of activities in Turin.  The Visitor Information Offices were easy to find and very helpful for us.  It was easy to pass the church because it is unassuming and open for only a few hours in the morning and afternoon.  It is well worth a visit not so much for the shroud, which can only be viewed as a photo since the original no longer exists, but the chapel is exquisite. Shroud of Turin Website

 

 

The Egyptian Museum, Museo delle Antichità Egizie is the only museum other than the Cairo Museum that is dedicated solely to Egyptian art and culture. The extent and quality of the collection seen here really impressed us.  This in comparison to many other collections of artifacts from Egypt, at Chicago’s Oriental Museum, the British Museum and so on.  We have not been to Cairo so this museum was wonderful to see.  Since the decipherer of Egyptian hieroglyphs Jean-François Champollion, who came to Turin in 1824, spend much time pouring over the collections, many international scholars have benefited from working here.  It was Champollion who famously wrote, “The road to Memphis and Thebes passes through Turin”. 

The collections that make up the Museo delle Antichità Egizie today were enlarged by the excavations conducted in Egypt by the Museum’s archaeological mission between 1900 and 1935 (a period when finds were divided between the excavators and Egypt). Museum Website

 

 

On the Hop-on, Hop-off bus tour, it was pointed out that Turin is home to many different cultures. Great Synagogue of Turin (Synagogue, Shul) is the Moorish style synagogue we went to see. The current building was designed by Enrico Petiti was inaugurated in 1884.  During World War II, in 1942, the building was bombed. Its interior decorations and furnishings were destroyed. The reconstruction of the building, which largely copied the original, was completed in 1949.   Currently, there is room for up to 1400 people with a second floor women's gallery that wraps around three sides of the sanctuary.

 

Around the corner was a wonderful restaurant on the 3rd floor at C.so Virrotio Emanuele, 41, C’era una volta.  We loved the Chicago Blues that accompanied our amazing meal. C’era una volta website 

 

 

On our bus tour, the Mole Antonelliana, the symbol of the City of Torino, could be seen from many locations since it is the tallest building in the city.  My husband and I visited it one day and found it so fascinating we could hardly pull ourselves away.  Our Torino Pass gained our admission and then we were given the choice of the line for the elevator for Mole Antonelliana or visiting The National Cinema Museum of Torino, which is housed there.  We began on the elevator, which was a very exciting ride to the top of the building from which one can see the city and surrounding areas.  The building has a fascinating history. Constructed by Alessandro Antonelliana during the second halfof the 19th century as a synagogue, the Jewish community found it too expensive and in 1869 with the base complete, they decided to donate the building to the city. On completion the structure rose to 167.5 meters, a record for the time.  After viewing Torino we descended and now entered The National Cinema Museum of Torino.

 

The museum was especially fascinating to my husband and me having grown up in Los Angeles and being familiar with movies and loving them.  But above and beyond that, this has to be the most remarkable museums of this kind anywhere. The fascinating museum setup, created by the Swiss set designer François Confino, leads visitors along an itinerary that is organized vertically on various levels. The museum is one of the most important of its kind in the world thanks to it vast collection and the many different scientific and educational activities it carries out. There are spectacular presentations that offer visitors continuous and unexpected visual and acoustic stimuli, just like when we watch a film that involves and moves us.  We were mesmerized and so totally involved in all that we saw we had to drag ourselves away, reluctantly.  Fortunately, this was a day of leisure and we did not need to cut the visit short. It is hard to say if it was the layout or the collection that was of most interest but the package is unbeatable.  One of the most interesting displays was that of find a way to convey the sense of three-dimensional images that could move. The Cinema Museum Website has helpful interesting information.

 

During our visit we were fortunate to be able to see an important exhibition that included material from and about Martin Scorsese, which you can also see at the Scorsese Website

 

To our surprise and delight our our Turin card made it possible to ride a special shuttle and gain admission to Reggia di Venaria, one of the Royal Residences that comprise the “Crown of Delights”, which was declared a World Heritage Site in1997.  The Savoy Family, which was responsible for ruling and developing Turin and the surrounding countryside, created beautiful residences, which are unique in Europe. My husband and I had a delightful afternoon wandering the grounds of one and were amazed at the beauty and calm of the area outside the city.  Learn more from the Residenze Reali Piedmonte website 

As we boarded our train to Florence, we looked out at the Alps and were glad we had the chance to explore Torino.

 

Photos: Leon Keer

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Published on Nov 05, 2013

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