The Palazzina Di Caccia Di Stupinigi

This is another of Turin’s royal sites designed by Filippo Juvarra. It’s an exquisite hunting lodge, now on the outskirts of Turin, and is easily reached by public transport  


We got there early on a Saturday morning, and the building (designed in the shape of a St Andrew’s cross was glowing in the early morning sunlight. 
Inside, there was an exhibition of’littke princes’ showing Royal children in their finery!


Inside, not all areas are accessible, but those that are are pretty spectacular. And the hunting theme extends to the decor.



Visits also extend to the gardens where it’s possible to see a stuffed elephant, and the stables where the original of the stag on the roof is located.

The Basilica Di Superga: more royal Turin

The Basilica of Superga stands on one of the hills that surround the city of Turin.  It’s a strategic viewing point, used by Duke Vittorio Amadeo of Savoy to give the best view of the field of play during the 1706 siege of Turin.   A promise made at an existing small shrine led to the building of what would later become an impressive basilica, complete with royal apartments and royal tombs.


The basilica’s hill top location can be reached via a 20 minute tram ride from the suburb of Sassi up the steep slopes.  Top tip, get there early for the hourly departure, as the tram can only carry 40 people at a time.  I felt for the poor horses pictured in the station previously performing what must have been an arduous task.

Once up the hill, you can see as far as the distant Alps, and get a feel for the type of viewpoint that helped Vittorio Amadeo break that siege.  The site was full of local Sunday day trippers, picnicking and taking advantage of the great Spring weather.

Filippo Juvarra, architect of many of the sights in royal Turin itself designed this breathtaking basilica, which was eventually completed in 1731.  Apparently, it may have been influenced by Rome’s Pantheon, with more than a dash of baroque grandeur thrown in.  Entry to the basilica itself is free (although we didn’t get much of a chance to look round as there was a mass in progress).  We were able to use our Turin & Piedmont card for a 45 minute tour of the royal tombs.  We could also have chosen a tour of the royal apartments.  The tours themselves are in Italian, and I was able to understand just enough of the fascinating stories of dukes and duchesses, kings and queens.

Royal Turin 

Turin was the home of the Savoy Dukes who would later become kings of Sardinia before becoming Kings of a united Italy in the 1860s.  Naturally then royal palaces such as the Palazzo Carignano (now home to the Risorgimento Museum) above abound!

The Palazzo Reale below dominates one end of the Piazza Castello. It’s home to not one but five museums, as well as being attached to the Duomo and the Chapel of the Holy Shroud. Its origins lie in the 1500s, but owes its current appearance to the work of Sicilian architect Filipo Juvarra.   Its grand staircases lead to a succession of grandly-decorated rooms, and eventually the Armeria Reale, or royal armoury.

Across the square lies the Palazzo Madama, the first home of the Italian Senate, but originally a medieval castle housing the Dukes of Acaja. It’s medieval austerity at the back, but more baroque grandeur at the front, with yet another spectacular Juvarra staircase.

The Duomo of Turin

Torino is known for its Duomo which periodically hosts the Sacra Sindone or Holy Shroud.  This rather austere building is one of the city’s only Renaissance era buildings. Dedicated to St John the Baptist, it was built in the 1490s, while the accompanying campanile tower is a few years older. Like the Duomo in Milan, that frontage is pure marble. 

Inside, most make for the display case that holds the Shroud when it’s on show. It was brought here by the Dukes of. Savoysso naturally enough there’s more than a passing nod to their heraldry in the golden chapel. 

Finding Ancient Rome in Turin

Modern day Torino is built on the site of the Roman colony, Julia Augusta Taurinorum. Originally home to the Taurini, a people of Celtic origin at the gateway to the Alps, the area would have been first in the firing line of Hannibal’s incursions.  The Roman colony was formed as Augusta Trurinorum in the early days of Augustus’s rule in the first Century BC as a castrum or military camp.  Even today, flying over the city, the city’s grid-like Roman structure is still visible, and long straight streets predominate.  The city hasn’t forgotten its Roman heritage, as the Quadrilatero Romano area continues to be a popular part of town.

Augustus continues to look out over his city: here he is at the so-called Palatine Gate, the northern exit to the city (today a taxi trip to the airport goes right past), looking over the city, with the Duomo (home to the Turin Shroud) and its medieval campanile looming large.

The gate itself isn’t original, but has seen reuse throughout the centuries, including as a prison and a music school.  A painting at the Museo del Risorgimento shows how those buildings could have looked in the 18th or 19th Centuries.

The Archaeological park which houses the Gate connects directly to the Musei Reali complex of museums, specifically the palace housing the Museo Archaeologico and the Galleria Sabauda.  From here, the remains of the city’s Roman-era theatre can also be viewed.


Inside the Archaeological Museum, the city’s antique past is atmospherically presented in a partly underground setting.


The spectacular Marengo Treasure, found in the 1920’s in a field outside the village of Marengo, is also displayed.  A selection of silver treasures, it includes this bust of Lucius Verus.

Other treasures include spectacular mosaics such as that of Orpheus below.


Palazzo Madama, just outside the Musei Reali complex, was the first home of the Italian senate and marks the site of yet another gate into the city. This one connected directly to the city’s main streets.

And inside, descending the landmark medieval towers of the original building, one can see the Roman era tower’s earlier structure.

And the Roman influence doesn’t end there. The city’s Egyptian Museum was playing host to the ‘Il Nilo A Pompei’ exhibition, tracing the relationship of Greece and Rome with Egyptian imagery and religion – with some spectacular finds from Pompeii (normally exhibited in Naples), including frescoes from the House of the Golden Bracelet.

Have you explored Roman Torino? What was on your must-see list?

Five days in Turin

Earlier this month, I got the chance to spend a short break in Turin/Torino.  There tend to be two reactions when one says they’re going here – either “oh, the Shroud”, or “what’s there, and why are you going?”  It’s not easy to find an up-to-date guidebook in English, but we knew from our visit to Milan when we had contemplated a side trip, there were things that we wanted to see here – including the National Automobile Museum, and the royal palaces.  This was, after all, the first capital of a united Italy, and home city of the Dukes of Savoy/Kings of Sardinia who would go on to lead Italy before it became a republic.  Royal palaces aren’t hard to find.


So much more than 5 days could be filled here, and upcoming posts will explore a few of the sites that we had the chance to visit, armed with the great value 72-hour Torino & Piemonte card.

The city is known for its baroque splendour, long covered streets (with a grid plan nodding to the city’s Roman era heritage), and the spectacular Mole Antonelliana, home to the National Cinema museum.


Have you been to Torino – what was your favourite place to visit there?