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Of castles and kings

29 Jan
Palazzo Reale, the royal residence in the heart of Torino at Piazza Castello.

Palazzo Reale, the royal residence in the heart of Torino at Piazza Castello.

Americans do not usually visit Torino (Turin in English), yet it is a remarkable city that deserves a closer look. We first visited in 2014. That year as a birthday gift for Ric, my train-a-holic spouse, I found the longest trip one could make in a high-speed Frecciarossa train from Roma: a little over 4 hours to Torino. As the ride was the objective, we only stayed one night (see “Motown Italy”). What a mistake. We decided to correct that.
Torinese architecture, the Museum of the Risorgimento in Palazzo Carignano, one of the Savoy Palaces.

Torinese architecture, the Museum of the Risorgimento in Palazzo Carignano, one of the Savoy Palaces.

Setting our sights on getting to know the area and seeing some of the museums as well as palaces of the Savoia, we slipped away this week for 3 nights. The charming B&B A Casa di Giò was our home. Here we found a quiet refuge, incredible hosts and, reinforcing my impression that Americans do not stop in Torino, we were the first American guests to stay in their home. Located near Piazza Castello, the heart of Torino, A Casa di Giò was perfectly located to explore the city on foot.
A typical porticoed street makes for nice shopping, protection from heat or rain.

A typical porticoed street makes for nice shopping, protection from heat or rain.

Torino is pedestrian friendly to a fault. Not once did a motorino creep up my backside as they do in Roma, and drivers actually yielded to pedestrians in the crosswalks. Lovely wide sidewalks under substantial porticos reminded us of Bologna, last winter’s city trip. The wide piazzas and generous parks combined with tree-lined boulevards reminded us a bit of Paris. No wonder! Napoleon’s occupation of the Piemonte resulted in a legacy that left the city of Torino with some of these grand public places.
Apericena is a thing in Torino as well as Milano. Buy a glass of good wine for €7.00 and you get a plate of savories at Mulassano. Stop a few places and you've had cena, Italian for dinner.

Apericena is a thing in Torino as well as Milano. Buy a glass of very good wine for €7.00 and you get a plate of savories at Mulassano. Stop a few places and you’ve had cena, Italian for dinner.

Who goes to Torino? It is very much on the radar of Italians and other Europeans. There’s a vibrant opera and the Piemonte region is also the home turf of the Savoys, Italian royalty that spawned several kings of the newly unified Italy in the 19th century. The patrimony of modern Italy is here. Castles and kings indeed!
La Mole Antonelliana. We tried to ascend, but were foiled by a Japanese film crew that had taken it over for a shoot.

La Mole Antonelliana. We tried to ascend, but were foiled by a Japanese film crew that had taken it over for a shoot.

La Venaria Reale is the Versailles of Torino. It is much easier to get to than Versailles, and far less crowded. We thought we would pass a couple of hours here. We could have spent much of the day! As the vast gardens were in hibernation, we chose to skip them and return sometime on a sunny spring day.
A sprawling estate dating to the 17th century, La Venaria was built as a hunting lodge. In its heyday, the stables housed hundreds of horses and dozens of hunting dogs. The estate has had a history of construction, destruction, additions and renovations so extensive that it is difficult to believe anyone had time to live here. Unfortunately, during the Napoleonic domination, the structures were turned into barracks and the gardens used for military training. The Italian military continued this tradition until 1978, after which it was ransacked to the degree that neither doors nor windows remained. We saw pictures of what a train wreck the property was just a couple of decades ago. Fortunately, those interested in preserving Italian history embarked on a restoration project and since 2007 it has been open to visitors.
This is how crowded La Venaria was.... Most of the people here are the same Japanese film crew we encountered at La Mole.

This is how crowded La Venaria was…. Most of the people here are the same Japanese film crew we encountered at La Mole.

I had some familiarity with the House of Savoy due to my work as a docent at the U.S. Embassy. The main palazzo at the embassy is called Palazzo Margherita as Queen Margherita of Savoy live in it for 20 years. This family has deep roots. Dukes and Counts, Marquis and Marquesses, not to mention Kings of Sardegna, Sicily, and Italy, this family dates back to 1003.
Ceiling detail, La Venaria Reale.

Ceiling detail, La Venaria Reale.

La Venaria is only one of many luxurious palaces ringing the city of Torino built, as the website states to create a refined “Crown of Delights” around the capital, as a demonstration of the magnificence of the House of Savoy. It is good to be the king.
A little something from the Egyptian Museum. Many of the artifacts were transported across the mountains from Genova in military wagons pulled by horses, 19th century style.

A little something from the Egyptian Museum. Many of the artifacts were transported across the mountains from Genova in military wagons pulled by horses, 19th-century style.

While we did not get to see any other palaces or castles from the interior (I can only handle so much majesty in a day), many are in use for other purposes, such as the Museum of the Risorgimento at Palazzo Carignano, and the Municipal Museum of Ancient Art in Palazzo Madama. This website has links to information about all of the Royal Residences.
We did manage to fit in a visit to the impressive Egyptian Museum, the second most important in the world for Egyptology enthusiasts (only the museum in Cairo is considered more important). A five-year renovation was completed less than a year ago, and the result is a well-curated, open, light, and engaging museum. Why is the second-largest collection of Egyptian artifacts in Torino? It all started with a purchase by a Savoy King, Carlo Emanuele I in 1630…. Castles and kings indeed.

 

 

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16 Responses to “Of castles and kings”

  1. John Henderson January 29, 2016 at 21:02 #

    I spent three weeks in Turin during the 2006 Olympics and loved every day of it. Italians told me it was “The Detroit of Italy.” Obviously, Italians have never been to Detroit.

    Like

    • gooddayrome January 29, 2016 at 22:03 #

      That’s very funny! No, obviously no travel to Detroit. The Museo Nazionale del Automobile is fabulous, though.

      Like

  2. Marcia Kakiuchi January 29, 2016 at 19:42 #

    I watch House Hunters International on TV sometimes and there was an episode of a couple buying a house in Tornio. He was from Italy but had lived in the USA for a long time. That’s my only exposure to this city until you post.

    I love the huge hallways in your photos. And of course, the food pictures!

    I’m glad you answered the question as to ‘why is there a great Egyptian museo here in Torino of all places!!! I’ve been to the one in Cairo. I’d love to see this one too!

    Thanks for continuing to share such interesting places. It seems with the size of the buildings and Opera there, it must have a population to support it.

    Like

    • gooddayrome January 29, 2016 at 22:02 #

      The population (metro area) is about 2,2 million, about the same as Portland/Vancouver. By comparison, Milano has 3.2 million and Roma 4.3 million. Not huge, but

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  3. Susan Morgan January 29, 2016 at 19:36 #

    Absolutely agree!! Torino is by far our most favorite large city.

    Like

    • gooddayrome January 29, 2016 at 21:55 #

      D’accordo! A great change-of-pace from Roma & Milano!

      Like

  4. Ruth January 29, 2016 at 19:19 #

    I was lucky to spend a week in Torino during the Paralympics and found it a wonderful city. Next trip there, try to see the film museum. I think I remember watching Gone with the Wind dubbed in Italian!

    Like

    • gooddayrome January 29, 2016 at 21:54 #

      We did see the Museo di Cinema in 2014. Isn’t that building amazing? We wanted to ascend in the elevator this time, but the film crew had it tied up the only day it was open during our trip. Alla prossima!

      Like

  5. Grier January 29, 2016 at 18:59 #

    Turin is on my list. Thanks for the report and photos!

    Like

  6. marilyneb January 29, 2016 at 17:18 #

    I’ll visit to Torino later this year, and your post has whetted my appetite!

    Liked by 1 person

    • gooddayrome January 29, 2016 at 17:23 #

      I hope you have at least a couple of days! We hoped to see so much more than we did! The Museo Nazionale del Automobile is terrific, too. Saw that two years ago. If you have a chance, a couple of restaurants to seek out: Sotto La Mole for a fine-dining experience, La Via del Sala for great Piemontese cuisine in a family-run restaurant, and La Bicycletta for a very low-cost, high-quality lunch.

      Liked by 1 person

      • marilyneb January 29, 2016 at 19:58 #

        Thanks for the tips – we have four full days so looking forward to exploring!

        Liked by 1 person

        • marilyneb April 17, 2016 at 13:23 #

          I just thought I would let you know that we absolutely loved the city! It’s as spectacular as your photos here show. I loved the Musei Reali, and one could easily spend a couple of days exploring those alone. We didn’t make it to La Venaria Reale as originally planned, but instead explored the Palazzina di Caccia di Stupinigi – simply stunning and would definitely recommend if you get the chance to return! .

          Liked by 1 person

        • gooddayrome April 17, 2016 at 15:57 #

          So happy you enjoyed it! Must be lovely in the spring! We heard of Palazzina di Caccia di Stupinigi our last day and did not have time. Next trip! Thanks for letting me know how your time there turned out.

          Liked by 1 person

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  1. The road less traveled in Austria | gooddayrome - February 23, 2016

    […] places and many more but we also try to go places that are truly off the proverbial beaten path. Torino, the Val Gardena, Abruzzo, Porto Santo Stefano, and Procida are places unaccustomed to seeing very […]

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