After hosting the Winter Olympics, Turin is shaping up well for the summer

WHERE?

Turin is the most westerly and least known of Italy's provincial capitals, a quiet, elegant city that straddles the country's longest river, the Po. Although it is synonymous with Fiat cars, which have been made here for more than a century, Turin was home of the Dukes of Savoy for several hundred years. The centre is a compact area, spreading 10 blocks or so east and west of the main Via Roma, and enclosed to the north and south by two broad boulevards, Corso Regina Margherita and Corso Vittorio Emanuele II. Much of the area is characterised by elegant porticos, offering shelter for those strolling around the city centre. Caselle international airport is 10 miles north of the city, a journey of around 45 minutes to the central Porta Nuova railway station. Buses depart every 40 minutes from outside the arrivals terminal, and a one-way ticket costs €5 (£3.50). There is a small tourist office at Porta Nuova, although the main branch is in the Atrium in Piazza Solferino (00 39 011 535181; www.turismotorino.org).

Many of Turin's hotels are around Via Roma, which runs due north from the station. The cheapest rates are usually available at weekends and all prices include breakfast. Newest is Town House 70 at Via XX Settembre 70 (00 39 011 19700003; www.townhouse.it) a relaxed boutique hotel whose double rooms start at €150 (£107), singles at €130 (£93). Built during the Thirties but completely refurbished just in time for the Olympics is the Principe di Piemonte at Via Gobetti 15 (00 39 011 55151; www.principidipiemonte.com), a convenient spot just south of Piazza San Carlo, where rooms start at €150 (£107). The Santo Stefano is in an even better location at Via Porta Palatina 19 (00 39 011 5223311; www.nh-hotels.com), opposite the Cathedral where the Turin Shroud is displayed, and it offers double rooms from €144 (£103), singles from €124 (£89). The hotel is on the edge of the Quadrilatero Romano, a district which, until 10 years ago, was a no-go area even in daylight. Now it is the liveliest part of town and the best place to head for an evening out. The Tre Galli, Pastis and the Hafa Café are close to each other on Via Sant'Agostino and are all good places for a drink or meal.

Via Roma is the main shopping street, lined with upmarket boutiques, while Via Garibaldi is the place for high street fashion. The market at Porta Palazzo, open every morning from Monday to Friday and all day on Saturday sells everything from clothes to food, although Paissa, an old-fashioned grocery store on Piazza San Carlo is also worth exploring for local specialities. It is close to Caffe Torino, the most central of the old-style cafes which have been popular for several centuries. Others include Fiorio, under the arcades of Via Po, which was the haunt of politicians and travellers when it opened in the late 18th century, and Al Bicerin, a tiny café in Piazza della Consolata famous for serving bicerin, a mixture of coffee and thick chocolate topped with single cream. Chocolate is a Piemontese speciality, and several of the region's chocolate makers are based in Turin, including the best-known, Peyrano, whose main shop is on the east bank of the Po at Corso Moncalieri 47.

WHY?

Since it hosted this year's winter Olympics, Turin has become the focus of attention - and its citizens have realised that their city has more to offer than a range of cars. Founded by the Romans, remodelled into an elegant royal capital by the Dukes of Savoy, 21st-century Turin has cultural attractions aplenty, but despite being Italy's fourth-largest city it retains a small town feel. Visitors are beginning to arrive, but this is a good time to explore its intriguing streets, before they are discovered by tour groups and hen parties.

WHAT?

Among the most imaginative of Turin's museums is the Museo del Cinema in the Mole Antonelliana at Via Montebello 20 (00 39 011 8138511; www.museocinema.it), a collection that covers the development of cinema. The centrepiece is the main hall, where visitors can relax on a chaise longue and watch film clips projected on to its walls and dome. The museum opens 9am-8pm Tuesday-Friday and Sunday, 9am-11pm on Saturday; entrance costs €5.20 (£3.70); €6.80 (£4.85) and includes a lift ticket for the viewing platform at the top of the building. The Egypt Museum at Via Accademia delle Scienze (00 39 011 5617776; www.museoegizio.org) is reckoned to be the finest collection of Egyptian art and artefacts outside Cairo It opens Tuesday to Sunday 8.30am-7.30pm and entrance costs €6.50 (£4.70). Much of the old city centre was laid out in the 17th and 18th centuries, and one of the most prominent monuments is the Royal Palace, whose entrance is in Piazza Reale (00 39 011 436 1455). On Sundays, visitors are free to wander through the opulent staterooms; on other days, all visits are guided, with tours departing every 50 minutes from 9.10am-6.20pm. Entrance costs €6.50 (£4.70).

To the south, accessible on tram 1 from Porta Nuova station, is Lingotto, a five-storey building on Via Nizza. This fascinating example of industrial architecture was built in the Twenties as a Fiat car factory but has now been converted by the architect Renzo Piano into a complex of shops, concert halls and a convention centre. Lingotto also houses the Giovanni and Marella Agnelli Art Gallery (00 39 011 0062008; www.pinacoteca-agnelli.it), a private art collection from the 18th to the 20th centuries. The gallery opens 10am-7pm Tuesday to Sunday and entrance costs €6 (£4.30). At the top of the Lingotto complex is La Pista (00 39 011 6313523), a lively restaurant serving Piemontese food which is one of the most popular in the city. It is located in the area that was once the Fiat test track, where several scenes from the original version of The Italian Job were filmed.

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