The northern Italian city of Turin is beautifully located on the flanks of the Italian Alps. It’s just a short train ride away from Milan so it’s ideal for a day trip from that city. But there is plenty to do and Turin can also serve as a base to explore this region of Italy.
History of Turin
The history of Turin begins in Roman times, when the Romans founded the colony Augusta Taurinorum. Turin bears the name of the people who are said to have lived in the area. After the fall of the Western Roman Empire, Turin changed hands several times until it came into the hands of the counts of Savoy in the 11th Century. It became the capital of the duchy of Savoy in the 16th century and the capital of the Kingdom of Sardinia in the early 19th century. After the unification of Italy in 1861, it became the first capital of Italy. During this time the area was also heavily industrialised. This made Turin a target of heavy Allied bombing during the Second World War.
Top sights in Turin
Besides the character and all the beautiful buildings in this city, the biggest draw is the Egyptian Museum. It’s the second biggest Egyptian museum in the world, only beaten by the one in Cairo. So, if you have the slightest interest in ancient Egypt, history or art, go visit this museum. The collection is outstanding and covers all aspects of life and culture in Ancient Egypt.
Nearby is the Piazza Castello, the cultural heart of the city. Here you’ll find to palaces which now mainly serve as museums. The Palazzo Madama built on the site of the ancient Roman city gates. Two of the Roman towers still form part of the back of this palace. It houses the Museum of Ancient Art, which is a confusing name since the collection dates from the 15th-18th century.
The main sight of the square is the Palazzo Reale. This former Royal Palace of the house of Savoy now houses a multitude of different museums. There is the main building of the Palazzo Reale itself, where you can marvel at the beautiful rooms and furniture of the palace. Then you have the southern wing with the Armoury which houses a large collection of medieval weapons. The northern wing houses the Galleria Sabauda with beautiful paintings and sculptures and the Museo di antichità with its collection of local Roman finds including a spectacular bronze mask. Attached to the palace is the chapel of the holy shroud, which houses the famous Shroud of Turin. The chapel has recently reopened after a 21-year restoration after a fire. But don’t expect to see the real shroud, it’s only on display once every few decades. But if you want to know more, you can visit the Museum of the shroud where you can also see a replica.
Behind the Palazzo, you can also visit some of the Roman remains in the city. Another piece of the city wall and the gate Porte Palatini and the Roman theatre are the most visible things.
Catadrale di San Giovani Battista
Attached to the chapel for the shroud is the Turin cathedral Catadrale di San Giovani Battista. On the site had stood 3 Lombard churches next to each other, all of them were destroyed to make a place for this cathedral at the end of the 15th century.
Castello di Rivoli
A bit outside of the town lies the Castello di Rivoli. Another former residence of the royal family of Savoy. Nowadays it’s the oldest contemporary art museum in Italy. From the castle grounds, you’ll have some great views of the surrounding village and Turin in the background.
Museo d’arte Orientale (MAO)
Another great museum with art from another part of the world is the Museo d’arte Orientale. This Asian art museum has a diverse collection of art from the whole continent, spanning several millennia.
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