Torino will tantalize you — in its own understated way

I hated to leave Barcelona to continue our chocolatour. I really loved that city and didn’t want to leave the W! (What a hotel!) But we knew we had many more good times to experience, and much more fantastic chocolate to taste and analyze as we continued the research for my upcoming book, Chocolatour. Once enroute to the train station, I slowly turned my attention to our next destination: Torino/Turin, in northern Italy.

We found it quite pleasant riding the trains in Italy.

We had an overnight train ride to Turin, and arrived there after breakfast — just in time for our first day of touring. (Our guide was unaware of our delayed arrival and was waiting for us in the lobby of the NH Ambasciatori Hotel, as we arrived.) The hotel is conveniently located in the business district of the city and a short walk from the Gallery of Contemporary Modern Art.

Known in Europe as Torino, and to English speaking North Americans as Turin, this Italian city is a must for any chocolate lover, and anyone who has a great appreciation for history and architecture. I didn’t know what to expect other than what I had seen on television during the 2006 Winter Olympics: Torino is situated close to the Alps and has a semi-alpine persona. Our visit was at the end of September, so the weather was slightly cool (a light jacket was necessary for the mornings, but the afternoons warmed up nicely.)

The city proper has just under 1 million residents, and has a population of 2.2 million if you include the entire metropolitan area. It didn’t feel that big to me. What did feel big was its sense of humble pride. (I hope that’s not an oxymoron, but to me, it means being proud without shoving it in your face.)

Turin was Italy’s first capital city (losing its capital standing in 1864) and boasts the country’s third strongest economy, after Rome and Milan. Local literature tells me that the per capita income for the Piedmont (Piemonte) region of northwestern Italy is 20% higher than the European average. Torino is the capital of the Piedmont region, so for the most part, its citizens are enjoying a very good standard of living.

Overall, I found Torino to be a prosperous Italian city and a very pleasant place to be. It is quite clean and safe, is relatively easy to navigate, and has good public transportation. Its people are friendly and don’t seem as stressed out (rushed) as I have seen in other European capitals. English is spoken and understood by the young. Not so much by anyone over 40. In fact, the use of English was diminishing in our travels. Common in Amsterdam, less so in Barcelona, and even less so throughout Italy.

The entrance to the Royal Palace in Torino.

The evidence of past glory is prevalent in Torino, with a royal palace, many ornate churches and monuments to behold. In some ways, it reminded me of our visit to Brussels. There is an unstated sense of modesty — a quiet calm, that sometimes leaves it unnoticed by travellers looking for a more showy, flashy or boastful city.

We enjoyed our two days in Turin under the wing of our most knowledgeable guide, Antonella Viano, whose stamina and brisk walking pace sometimes left me wishing I was 10 years younger — or that at least I was wearing track shoes! Our first day was spent touring churches and briskly walking the streets looking at the architecture. It was the next day, that we slowed down and walked along the beautiful River Po, strolled through the Parc Valentino along its banks, and then met a selection of amazing chocolate makers. Let’s just say Day 2 was much more to my liking than Day 1!

The beautiful River Po.

If you’re looking for more info on Turin, visit Piedmont’s official tourism website.

Doreen Pendgracs

Known throughout the Web as the "Wizard of Words", I've been a freelance writer since 1993. I researched and wrote Volume I of Chocolatour that won a Readers' favourite Award in 2014. Always enjoy experiencing new destinations and flavours.

16 Responses

  1. Fred from Torino says:

    Thanks for directing me here through our Twitter conversation. It’s lovely to see that you enjoyed Torino and managed to have an uncanny understanding of so many aspect of the city in such a short time. Very nice post post with beautiful pictures indeed.

    I’m looking forward to welcoming you again in Torino and its brand new Toastmasters Club we’re are just starting now.

    And yes, the chocolate traditions and culture here are something outstanding!

    • Thanks for posting your comment, Fred.

      Yes, Toastmasters is a wonderful way to connect with people around the world. I’m glad we connected through Twitter!

      And yes, Torino was wonderful. I am hoping that I will be able to return to launch my chocolate travel book, Chocolatour! Stay tuned for details.

  2. Llinda Strange says:

    Hi Doreen: Finally getting caught up on your travel site.
    What a delicious destination! Just reading put my glucose levels up!.
    Enjoyed Virginia’s historical notes as well.
    Hope you’re giving you New Balance shoes a workout in Florida.
    Really looking forward to “Chocolatour”
    Here’s to R & R & R.

  3. Nice to have my travel companion, Virginia, chime in! Yes, I got the sense that you didn’t quite appreciate the reserved personality of Torino as much as I did. I truly enjoyed our visit there, although admittedly did not enjoy the history lesson as much as I did strolling along the river and eating chocolate! Torino is very much a recommended stop on any chocolate lover’s European journey. Thanks for joining me on it.

    And, Laura, yes, the trains are fine – while you’re on them! But I found boarding and getting one’s luggage off to be quite the chore. No staff around to help. Maybe I don’t travel light enough, but thank goodness Virginia is a championship arm wrestler, and has plenty of upper body strength as she was able to carry my large suitcase up and down those steep stairs that get you in and out of the train stations.

    Welcome to the blog, Laura. I’ll be looking forward to your future comments.

  4. I agree with you on European trains, Doreen–aren’t they marvelous? Love your shot of the train station.

  5. Torino is a pleasant metropolis with lots of modern charms, but it’s also a ghost town for the House of Savoy, the dynasty that set up court there in the 16th century and stayed, more or less, until the end of WWII. I found it fascinating to come across a number of abandoned royal buildings in the centre of the city, sitting empty because they are too numerous to collectively maintain. Particularly in the piazzas, residents and shopowners continue to coordinate their outdoor paint colours and other building accents, as decreed by the monarchy so many decades ago, giving the city a unique sense of ancient orderliness. And those Roman roads… straight as an arrow as far as the eye can see. Doreen and I were privileged to have an detailed inside look at the city and it’s history thanks to our extremely knowledgeable guide, Antonella.

  6. Happy Holidays, Doreen!! Love the way you combine historical information with your personal observations and wonderful photographs. What a comfortable way to learn about another city.
    Thanks for the shoe suggestion. As a pair of 60 year olds, we can use that kind of advice.

    • Thanks so much, Marg! I’m glad you’re enjoying the new travel blog.

      It’s so wonderful to heave you reading and contributing to both my blogs!

      Merry Christmas, and I hope we’ll have a chance to meet soon into the New Year.

  7. Turin is a great city to walk around, especially the baroque centre, then there is the chocolate…great article and photos, looking forward to part 2! For more info on Turin and Piemonte try this website:

  8. Lovely post/photos! I’ve never been in that part of the world but it sounds like a place to put on my “to-do” list.

    • Right on, Sandra! It hadn’t been on my list either, but I was told Torino was a necessary place to visit if I wanted to get the full story on chocolate. Stay tuned for that next time.

      Happy Holidays!

  9. Thanks for your comment, Christine.

    I, too, love walking. But having track shoes would have been so wonderful. I have learned my lesson to never travel abroad without them again. I let vanity get in the way, and thought my good walking shoes would suffice. (They are health-wise, but obviously don’t have the same kind of support as track shoes with built-in control.)

    For walking on cobblestones and for long periods of time on cement, there is nothing like track shoes with the correct support. I now own a pair of New Balance shoes specific for my kind of problem (worn out cartilage in my knees.) Looking forward to trying them out next month in FLA!

  10. When it comes to walking around places, I think we all wish we were about 10 years younger, but walking around really is the best way to really see and experience a place. Glad you trudged on!

    We have friends whose son is on the Olympic cross-country team, and they got to go to Turin/Torino in 2006. Their descriptions were pretty close to yours, so reading this post made me feel like I was back. Your photos and descriptions really make me feel like I know the place better–and want to go in person.

    Looking forward to reading more adventures in the new year.

    Happy Holidays.

  11. My apologies to any of you who are subscribed to the blog and rec’d the earlier version of this post. I had accidentally hit “publish” before I uploaded the last pic and cropped another. So, if you rec’d the post by e-mail, please take a look at the online version. And please drop in and share your thoughts with us all! Thanks, and best of the season to you.

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