City Slicker: Turin
The city's famous Holy Shroud goes on display next month. It's a great excuse to visit, says Nick Boulos
Sunday 14 March 2010
There's an air of excitement gripping the beautiful Baroque city of Turin.
Next month will see its most celebrated and guarded treasure, the Holy Shroud, unveiled to the public for the first time since 2000. For six weeks, starting on 10 April, the world's most famous piece of linen – said to show the imprint of Jesus Christ after it was wrapped around his crucified body – will be on view in the city's 15th-century cathedral. Entry will be free but reservations are essential (sindone .org). With or without the shroud, Turin is a delightful place. Italy's first capital has Roman ruins and romantic piazzas to explore, plus world-class galleries and museums to see. It's the gateway city to the Italian Alps, so there are skiable slopes nearby at this time of year. Add thriving nightlife (check out the riverside district of Murazzi) and a strong culinary heritage – including the heavenly local Gianduja ice cream, a mix of vanilla, dark chocolate and hazelnut – and this city is bound to impress.
The Church of San Lorenzo (sanlorenzo.torino.it). The next best sight to the Holy Shroud is the life-sized replica housed in this multicoloured marble church on Palazzo di Citta.
Al Bicerin (bicerin.it). In a city famous for its historic cafés, Al Bicerin is one of the most loved. There's often a queue for one of the eight tables at this intimate coffee house, but it's worth the wait. Order a bicerin, a blend of hot chocolate and coffee topped with a layer of thick cream.
The Roman Quarter. Stroll through the traffic-free backstreets of this quiet corner of the city and discover its archaeological sites. The Roman Theatre, of which the orchestra pit and tiered seating can still be seen, dates back to the first century. And the nearby redbrick Porta Palatina was once the gateway to the city of Augusta Taurinorum, founded by the Romans in 28BC.
The Superga Basilica (basilicadi superga.com), which overlooks the city atop Superga hill. This splendid 18th-century church is the final resting place for many members of the House of Savoy, who ruled here until Italy's unification in 1861. This is also where the entire AC Torino football team perished in an air crash on the forested peak on 4 May 1949.
Apertivo bars. Indulge in the age-old Turin tradition of all-you-can-eat tasty snacks for the price of a glass of vino. Bars across the city dish out delicious buffets made with quality ingredients every evening from 7pm. Now that's a happy hour.
The Palazzo Madama (palazzo madamatorino.it), which dominates the picturesque Piazza Castello. This museum was once the nation's parliament and the former home of Christine, Duchess of Savoy. It has an impressive collection of Gothic and Renaissance art, medieval carvings and miniatures donated by local girl Carla Bruni.
Once riddled with drugs and prostitution, this area, east of the Porta Nuova station, has cleaned up its act. It's now popular with artists and bohemian types. Boutiques and galleries have opened up and, thanks to its multicultural residents, its a great place to eat out, with everything from Brazilian to Ethiopian restaurants. Don't miss the open-air morning flea market at Piazza Madama Cristina (closed Sundays).
This new eatery opened in February and is already creating a buzz. It's not only the pasta that's homemade here – the staff are also responsible for the restaurant's signature pieces of modern art, including the foyer's headless mannequin covered in newspaper headlines. Head chef Claudio Novo has created dishes that remain true to traditional Piedmont cuisine, while drawing inspiration from France. Try the cappellacci pasta, filled with locally reared lamb and a creamy pecorino cheese sauce.
Details: 0039 011 839 5952; Via Santa Croce, 0.
Museum of Human Anatomy
Built in 1739 but closed to the public until last November, this fascinating museum was the Anatomical School of Turin in a previous life. Today, it explores the connection between a person's physical properties and their personality with exhibits focusing on primatology and embryology. The complex also houses the Fruit Museum, home to more than a thousand models of artificial apples, pears, apricots and peaches painstakingly created by the eccentric scientist Francesco Garnier Valletti in the 19th century.
Details: 0039 011 670 7883; torinoscienza.it/anatomia
Barely two months old, the shelves of this intimate boutique on the trendy Mazzini are stacked with luxury handbags and bejewelled high heels. Most of the stock is designed in the central Italian region of Le Marche and sold here exclusively, making it a popular with fashionistas. The modestly priced accessories and jewellery mean there's something for everyone.
Details: 0039 011 454 6346; Via Mazzini, 2.
Angelo Gavigilo, Restaurant manager, Fiorio coffee house
"Whenever I need a little break from the hustle and bustle, I go for a stroll around Valentino Park, on the banks of the River Po. It's so peaceful and especially pleasant in spring when the trees are full of pink and red blossom. After that I always cross the river for a coffee on the terrace at the Esperia Rowing Club to take in its beautiful views of the city."
Details: Esperia, 0039 011 819 0679: Corso Moncalieri, 2.
How to get there
British Airways (0844 493 0787; ba.com) offers three nights at the five-star Le Méridien Turin Art+Tech from £317 per person, based on two sharing, room only, including return flights from London Gatwick.
Italian Tourist Board (020-7408 1254; italiantouristboard.co.uk).
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