Host of the 2006 Winter Olympics. Home to Italy’s most successful football (soccer) team, as well as the European Capital of Sport for the year 2015. The city that Italians say has the best chocolate in the country. Birthplace of a shockingly small number of names that non-Italians would recognize.
Of course, I’m talking about Torino, Italy – Americanized to be Turin. A forgotten city when compared to its countrymates of Venice, Florence and Rome, Torino has less of an ancient past and more of a mid-millennial history. Covered in hallmarks of its days as the headquarters of the Kingdom of Sardinia and later as the first capital of unified Italy, Torino is a really surprisingly wonderful city.
Here are seven things you should know about visiting it:
1) You can’t go bobsledding. At least not easily. If that’s why you were planning to go there, just turn back now. The tracks, as they often are with former Olympic host cities, are way outside of the actual city and really hard to get to. Also not surprisingly, this one seems to have fallen into disuse and the cost of keeping it operational was just too much for the people who make those decisions. Best I can tell, you and I can’t go there to try bobsledding. All we can hope for is to snuggle up to someone on the bed and lean side-to-side as if on a two-man sled.
2) The chocolate is no joke. Holy crap. It’s really hard to keep it together both mentally and physically right now because this stuff is unbelievable. Torino’s hallmark as a city is something called Gianduja, which tastes like Nutella. There’s nothing I can add to its description. Tons of places also sell hot chocolate, but apparently their hot chocolate is closer to melted-chocolate-that-you-have-to-drink-with-a-spoon-because-it’s-so-thick. My arteries have been begging for mercy since this development came to light, but the rest of me is still pretty pumped.
3) It’s exceedingly walkable. The main points are all relatively close together and the stroll from one to another is uniformly pleasant. There are a couple of hills across the River Po with great lookout points (and since they’re uphill, they’re not quite as easy to get to as the rest of the city), but the majority is all fairly close together.
4) Despite its pleasantness, there’s no over-the-top beautiful attraction in the city. They have a cinema museum which is very cool, and there’s an elevator to an observation deck which feels like a Wonka-vator for a moment, but there’s no 10/10 building. The views of the mountains off in the distance are wonderful, but the mountains are beautiful everywhere; Torino just happens to have them as a backdrop (Am I suggesting that if I’ve seen one view of a mountain, I’ve seen them all? I think I’ve been over here too long.).
5) It has a lot of green areas. The royal palace seems to have a royal gardens (the palace is just a museum now, obviously), but upon my visit, these were not open to the public. I did manage to walk around the outside wall for five full minutes before getting a really cheap gyro, though, so it was not all for nothing.
6) It’s cheaper than Milan and Venice. This is a big selling point. Some of the chocolate stores are expensive and the museums can get pricey if you buy a lot of individual tickets, but overall, the prices are notably lower than in those other two biggies.
7) Did I mention the chocolate? It’s incredible, life-changing ambrosia. I did? Oh, well…okay then. I guess No. 7 should just be that unless you’re really into a specific type of history, you don’t need to spend more than a weekend here. If it’s your base of operations and you’re going to spend time visiting the mountains and skiing, etc., then yes, spend plenty of time in this area. But for just the city, you can get by in a day or two – or longer if you really get a chubby for museums. You really can just eat your way through the city, though – and into a diabetic coma – so that’s my biggest suggestion.