How to Spend 48 Hours in Turin, Italy

Turin's historic chocolatier Stratta under the porticoes of Piazza San Carlo | Courtesy Stratta1836
Turin's historic chocolatier Stratta under the porticoes of Piazza San Carlo | Courtesy Stratta1836
Photo of Raphaele Varley
31 March 2018

They say Turin is a city of two characters: one speaks to the heritage of the Savoy Court and Art Nouveau, tradition, elegance and history; and the other side is young, cool and innovative. Discover both in our compact 48-hour guide that maximises your time. Take in key historical landmarks, see the best galleries and museums, indulge in the finest local cuisine and even fit in some shopping.

Day One

Morning: Baroque architecture, coffee and chocolate

Orientate yourself with the city on a morning walking tour of the historic centre. Learn about Turin‘s past through key landmarks and admire the grand, baroque architecture that gives Turin its unique character among urban centres in Northern Italy. It is often said that Turin is the Paris of Italy, and this is due to the occupation of the French court of Savoy in the 17th and 18th centuries. Successive Dukes worked with leading baroque architects Guarino Guarini, Filippo Juvarra and later, Bernardo Vittone. United by typical baroque principles, such as the dramatic use of light and embellishment, they each also had a unique style. Read our guide to key buildings here.

You can also find exemplary Art Noveau and Rationalist architecture on Turin’s elegant streets and boulevards, too. For example, the wide boulevard Via Roma underwent a major renovation between 1931 and 1937 at the height of Italy’s Fascist period. The design, by Marcello Piacentini, is typical of rationalist architecture at the time, combining the neoclassicism of Novecento Italiano and Futurist-inspired modernism.

Turin is synonymous with chocolate, and this is reflected in its many antique coffee houses that serve regional chocolate delicacies and special coffee blends. So, it’s vital that you take a mid-morning break at one of the finest, such as Caffe Mulassano Cafe. Caffe Mulassano is an Art Nouveau gem located under a portico in the grand Piazza Castello. Just a handful of highly coveted tables are set within a small room of vast mirrors, set in ornately carved wood, heavy brass work and rich marble; from the ceiling to the silver cake stands, everything is exquisite and refined, transporting you back to the turn of the 20th century. Mulassano is revered for serving little ‘tramezzino’ sandwiches, which it claims to have invented. There are many other cafes and confectioners to choose from, including Caffè San Carlo, Baratti & Milano, Caffè Torino, Caffè Fiore and Stratta.

The baroque architecture of Piazza Castello, Turin | © Shutterstock/Claudia Divizia
One of Turin’s historic chocolatiers, Stratta | Courtesy Stratta1836
Bicerin, the original hot chocolate from Turin | © T photography/Shutterstock

Afternoon: Lunch and vintage shopping

In the afternoon, venture to the newly fashionable Aurora area for lunch and antique hunting. Via Borga Dora is a long cobbled street at the heart of the neighbourhood where you will find many retro and antique furniture shops and vintage clothes boutiques. If your trip falls on a weekend, you can also visit the Balon Flea market hosted in Borga Dora. It runs every Saturday morning and every second Sunday of the month (on Sundays, there is more on offer), drawing visitors from all over Italy.

Aurora has plenty of laid-back trattorias, bistrots and cafes where can you enjoy a hearty and reasonably priced lunch. Bar del Balon e Due Scalini has an enviable location on via Borga Dora that is perfect for people watching. Expect simple, rich pasta dishes and table wine; the meatballs come recommended.

Evening: Apertivo cocktails, modern Piedmont cuisine and jazz

Begin your evening with the all-important Italian tradition of aperitivo hour. Head to the wine bar and restaurant Tre Galli (Three Hens), which opened over 20 years ago and is still one of the best spots in the Turin’s lively central neighbourhood, Quadrilatero Romana. This area is located between Porte Palatine, via Garibaldi and Corso Siccardi, where an ancient Roman settlement once stood. A network of small streets is made up of beautiful historic buildings that are home to interesting shops, bars and restaurants, as well as remnants of the former Roman structures. It is largely pedestrianised, so always has a buzzy atmosphere, but particularly in the evening. Tre Galli is especially wonderful in spring and summer because you can drink outside on the cobblestone patio, but in cooler months the interior is inviting too – stylish and modern but with old-world bohemian charm.

You could stay at Tre Galli for dinner or take a stroll to any number of beautiful restaurants that specialise in Piedmont cuisine. If you’re looking to stay in the neighbourhood, Ristorante Consorzio is seven minutes by foot. Ristorante Consorzio serves contemporary Piedmont cuisine in a warm and rustic yet elegant setting – here you can enjoy fine dining but with a little less formality. Indulge with freshly handmade Agnolotto Gobbo, delicate eggy pasta parcels stuffed with veal or try bianconero rabbit. Check out other options in our fine dining shortlist here.

End the night with some live music: Jazz Club Torino, Folk Club and The Mad Dog Social Club are all central options. Just a few steps from Piazza San Carlo in the historic centre of Turin, Jazz Club Torino probably hosts the most international talent of the city’s jazz venues. Once the performance is over, a dance floor is created and DJs spin late into the evening. Since opening in 1983, the family-run Folk Club is somewhat of a musical institution in Turin. It has a particularly intimate atmosphere and hosts local and international folk, blues and jazz artists, such as acclaimed US jazz pianist Uri Craine or trumpeter Enrico Rava and his tribe quintet. The Mad Dog Social Club is a sophisticated drinking den with exposed brick walls and warm, dim lighting. It is famous for its stellar cocktails but also for the jazz and blues nights it hosts.

The sunny pattio of bar and bistrot Tre Galli, Turin | Courtesy Tre Galli Photo: Stefania Bonatelli photography
Fresh, handmade tortellini at Ristorante Consorzio, Turin | Courtesy Ristorante Consorzio
Late nate piano at The Mad Dog Social Club, Turin | Courtesy The Mad Dog Social Club Photo: Alberto Blasetti

Day Two

Morning: Spa

The luxurious QC Terme Torino is located inside the 19th-century Palazzo Abegg and its regal gardens – the perfect place to relax after yesterday’s day of walking. There are outdoor and indoor pools, bio saunas and lots of treatments and therapies on offer. Admission is 36 euros.

Sauna with a view at QC TermeTorino | Courtesy QC TermeTorino | © QC Terme Torino
Relax in the peaceful garden at QC TermeTorino | Courtesy QC TermeTorino

Afternoon: Art and Eataly downtown

In the afternoon, leave the city centre and experience downtown Turin. Located in the peripheral Lingotto neighbourhood on the roof of the city’s former Fiat factory, the Pinacoteca Giovanni e Marella Agnelli is a unique and special art destination. The industrial structure was designed by acclaimed Italian architect Renzo Piano, who was also responsible for the Pompidou Centre in Paris and the Whitney Museum in New York. The gallery is home to a compact but beautiful collection of works dating from the 18th to the 20th century, including masterpieces by the likes of Canaletto, Tiepolo, Matisse, Picasso and Severini.

Once you’ve taken in the masterpiece artworks and stunning rooftop views, dedicate some time to Italy’s other great art form: food. The original store of the now globally renowned Eataly supermarket chain is also in the Fiat factory complex. Eataly was established with the aim of distributing sustainably and responsibly sourced Italian produce at affordable prices. It brings together artisanal-quality food from throughout Italy into a convenient superstore set-up so you can return home with a delicious hamper full of regional specialities. For example, Piedmont’s famous red wines from Langhe and Asti vineyards, organic cold-pressed Ponente Riviera Ligure oil, Fassone cured meats and cheese from the Aosta Valley. Eataly also has a renowned onsite restaurant so you can stop for lunch.

If you’re more interested in cars than paintings, an alternative museum in Lingotto is the Museo Nazionale dell’Automobile, which celebrates Turin’s famous manufacturing heritage. Over 200 original vehicles from 80 different car brands tell the history of the automobile. It also investigates the future of the car industry and new engineering technologies. Visitors can see iconic models, prototypes that were never realised and historically important game changers. It is one of the world’s most famous technical-scientific museums, and the display is very interactive. The buildings are vast and architecturally very impressive in their own right.

The vast wine section at Eataly supermarket in Turin | Courtesy Eataly Torino
The popular restaurant within Eataly supermarket in Turin | Courtesy Eataly Torino Photo: Michele D’Ottavia
Classic car display at Museo Nazionale del Automobile | Courtesy Museo Nazionale del Automobile

Evening: Passegiata on the River Po, traditional Piedmont cuisine and experimental music

In addition to aperitivo hour, Passagiata is another early-evening tradition in Italy. We recommend taking yours along the western bank of the quaint River Po and through Parco Valentino. Along this walk you can admire different villas and residences that line the river banks. Inside the park, you can see the magnificent Castello del Valentino – one of the residences of the royal House of Savoy with UNESCO World Heritage Site status. If the sun is on your side, there are a couple of spots for aperitivo in the park, too.

Take your last meal at Al Gatto Nero, established in 1927 and adored by locals and critics since the 1950s. Al Gatto Nero is tucked away on a quiet residential street, yet everyone knows about it. The heritage of the restaurant is reflected in the sumptuous, traditional menu. For example, an appetiser of red tuna bottarga on soft potatoes; for primi piatti, parpadelle ragu that has been slow cooked in Barbaresco red wine; then a rich meat dish of veal, gruyere and prosciutto or whole roasted orata with leccine olives. The dining room is perfectly unassuming, warm and elegant: white linen tablecloths and sleek mid-century furniture are set against red brick walls and a large stone hearth.

Now move from traditional to experimental by heading to Astoria Studios in the nearby San Salvario neighbourhood. San Salvario is one of central Turin’s liveliest areas for nightlife and the Astoria is at the heart of it. At street level, you will find a relaxed bar, but the basement is a concert and club space. The Astoria is on the pulse of alternative music, championing artists and DJs exploring new genres and sounds. Historically it has shown the likes of Grimes, Canada’s 28-year-old master of synthpop, experimental pop and electronica. Naturally, the venue attracts Turin’s coolest crowd. Come for a gig and stay late for the club.

Parco Valentino, Turin | Di Marco Saracco/Shutterstock

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