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Grand Torino

Turin is one old city laid out in grid pattern, so I ramble from one side to another, popping down every interesting looking street but manage to come back to Via Roma.

travel Updated: Oct 06, 2010 12:06 IST

It's true, Turin, in the Piedmont region, is really grand. I am making another day trip from Milan, this time to Turin or Torino as the Italians call it. I really like these train trips, for less than twenty Euros, you get a return ticket from one destination to another. Trains run every hour between cities or even more frequently. Every station has multiple timetables in spreadsheet form. They are located conveniently inside glass cases and you can plan your itinerary standing right there. You then either stand in queue or use one of the vending machines to get your ticket. And always always always remember to punch your ticket in the orange machine on the platform before you board, else you may pay a hefty fine. 

I arrive at Turin at 9 am, rather early. Turin has two stations, take care to get off at Porta Nuova for the old town. The station opens onto Piazza Vittorio Emanuelle . The cafeterias are beginning to lay out chairs and tables on the sidewalks. Breakfast of freshly baked croissants and Danish with a latte and I am ready to explore.

Via Roma is a splendidly wide and arrow straight road which goes from the station to the Piazza Castella. It is lined with...yes you guessed right...all the name brand stores. And all of them seem to have some sort of sale on. It is too early for serious shoppers but window shoppers have started their day in right earnest. The road has porticoes on either side, so pedestrians can walk very comfortably out of the sun.

Turin is one old city laid out in grid pattern, so I ramble from one side to another, popping down every interesting looking street but manage to come back to Via Roma. I experience the city getting its buzz up, I can actually feel the thrum as the day begins in right earnest.

Piazza Castella is an immense open square with fountains springing out of its floor. It is lined with palaces, the biggest was the Plazzo Madama (which houses a museum but is under renovation currently). On the opposite side is the Church of San Lorenzo with some lovely paintings from the life of Christ. You walk through the Castello courtyard and come to the main cathedral which houses the Holy Shroud of Turin.

The present church stands on the site of multiple ancient churches which were demolished at one time or the other. It has housed the Holy Shroud (that was used to wrap Jesus after crucifixion) since antiquity. Successive emperors have built and rebuilt this cathedral to provide an appropriate setting for this historical relic. As is natural, the authenticity of the shroud has been questioned many times but it does not deter the devoted from taking pilgrimages. The shroud is kept in a stark case with a spray of thorns splayed over it.

The Mole Antonelliana is the tallest structure in Turin, its aluminium spire tops a masonry structure which is 167 m high. It was envisaged a synagogue but today houses the Museum of Films. It is quite an experience to revisit old Hollywood classics and see how they were made.

Turins culinary speciality is Chicken Marengo which was created here to help napoleon celebrate his victory at Marengo. Agnolotti is Piedmont style ravioli and is very popular. Barolao and Gattinara are full bodies red wines from this region. Greater Torino is also Italy's vermouth capital. Besides being a touristic gem, Turin is also home to Fiat, the carmakers.

Dr.Ajjanta Chakravarty is a management consultant and an avid globe trotter. She can be reached at

ajjanta@ajjanta.com