Turin: the city of surprises

Letter 73

Amongst parallel streets of ornamented apartment blocks and quaint shops sits vast piazzas and peaceful gardens. The whole city has an air of calm to it and it truly is a breath of fresh air after visiting the tourist hub of Rome. I am very quickly falling in love with this little Italian gem. After a leisurely morning spent catching up on some work and skype calls home, we left at 1pm to explore some of the city. In this letter I will tell you about the places we visited and show you just a glipse of Turin that I think will make you eager to visit…

Piazza San Carlo

Rated as one of the biggest attractions in Turin is this Piazza. It’s surrounded by classic Turin architecture that shades the small shops and cafes under the beautiful archway. Flanking Via Roma, a street of designer shops leading to the main station, are two grand churches. This would be a perfect place to sit and read or people watch from one of the cafes, and a great chance to admire the monument in the centre.

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Giardino Sambuy

This may possibly be my favourite place we visited today. We stopped here to eat lunch in the sun and listen to the quiet trickle of the fountain. This garden is a square surrounded by hotels and restaurants and leads to the station. There are plenty of benches, most of which were full with couples, dog walkers and friends on lunch breaks. We sat amongst the pigeons and plenty of dogs for a while and I even got some reading and sketching done. Despite the colder temperatures up here it was still a very enjoyable relax.

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Piazza Solferino

This long piazza is extremely picturesque and features two fountains and is lined by trees either side which shelters the benches. The buildings are all different and gently contrast each other which I admired for a while and read in the sun. I would imagine this place to be stunning in spring when the trees are laced with pink blossom.

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Fontana Angelica

Giardino Lamarmora

This is one of many surprises Turin had in store for us today. This sweet little green square is a peaceful oasis in the city with winding paths taking you around some of the more unusual statues and even heart shaped trees over some of the benches. I think it’s the perfect romantic spot and there were many Italian couples demonstrating that this is indeed true.

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Via Cernaia

Under the classic Italian arched shopping parade along this road you’ll find cafes, book stores, vintage clothing, fresh fish and even a stamps and coins shop. Strolling down here really is an education and when you have a view of endless cream and yellow buildings and tree lined streets, it’s very pleasant. We stopped here for a hot drink where I tasted my first cioccalati caldi. I now know what the hype is about. It was warm, chocolatey, moussey and ever so smooth. I even had to order in Italian because it’s such a non-touristy area that they don’t even speak English. I felt like a true Italian – even though I am so so far from one.

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Piazza Statuto

Just when we thought we might have wandered into a slightly run-down, rougher part of Turin, we come to this piazza. One of the most beautiful spaces with a stunning fountain and yet more places to sit and relax.

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Via Guiseppe Garibaldi

Running parallel to Via Cernaia is this bustling hub of shopping activity. This is a really enjoyable road to meander down, occasionally veering off course to the smaller side streets with unique shops. The first surprise we had down this street was a seemingly temporary bookshop which acts like a large, light, bright tunnel of books along the street. You can wander through and browse whilst still walking down the street and you’ll see people from children to elderly. I thought it was a great idea!

The next surprise came in the form of two churches which I can never resist going into. I seems to me that most, if not all, of the churches in Turin are open for the public to enter and spend time in. As everywhere else, there were no tourists. The churches’ interiors were absolutely magnificent. I was speechless to have stumbled upon such beautiful architecture by chance. They rival some of the best known architecture in Rome.

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Libreria Il Banco

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Chiesa dei Santi Martiri Solutore

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Chiesa di San Rocco

Piazza Vincenza Arbarello

Again, we mistakenly stumbled upon this piazza due to our own curiosity. We did very well to stumble upon it though. This is a large piazza featuring a basketball court, a tree-lined path with benches and, most surprisingly, another book store. After researching it, I have found that it’s owned by a man who wants to revive ancient books, so he travels throughout the region collecting old, used books and comics, and sells them here. I couldn’t resist the charm and smells of the old books, so I had to buy something. I spotted a large collection of comics and bought an interesting looking one titled Mercanti de Morte.

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ABC Library

Piazza Castello

This may be one of the grandest Piazzas I have ever stood in. It’s absolutely huge and is surrounded by a few palaces, a church and a theatre. Can you ask for more? We will be exploring this area tomorrow as I’m dying to get inside these buildings and see the extensive gardens belonging to one of the palaces. I’ll give you a wee taster of this square though.

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Piazza San Carlo

Finally, we arrived back where we started. It was on the way back to the airbnb and after picking up some stuff for dinner we decided to catch the sunset. Boy was it worth it. It’s such a beautiful space at this time of day.

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It’s been such a relaxing day and I feel like Turin has shown me some of it’s best hidden secrets. I have so much planned tomorrow and I can’t wait to get to know the city even better. I hope you’ve enjoyed my journey of Turin so far!

From Lou

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