Luxury travelers cherish Italy. The city of Torino, spectacularly set against the Alps in Northern Italy, is a hidden gem that deserves more attention for luxury travel in Italy.
Called "Turin" by some English speakers, Torino is a historic, lovely, and deeply Italian city. It is home to the legendary Fiat automobile and to Italy's royal family, the House of Savoy. More recently, Torino housed the 2006 Winter Olympics.
Here are the 10 best reasons to consider luxury travel to Torino.
Torino is not touristy.
- Torino is authentic: a working Italian city, not a post-industrial, tourism-dependent city
- Here, you never feel like you're on a flashy stage set designed to woo foreign travelers
- You will never find yourself amongst throngs of tourists
- Nor will you be treated disdainfully as a turista
- Globe-trotters exploring Torino experience the city as the Torinesi do
- Visitors will not feel like tourists in Torino's Old World cafés, urbane restaurants, sociable bars, glamorous boutiques, and edgy galleries
- Once visitors experience la dolce vita in Torino, they want more
Torino is an easy getaway destination near many European cities.
- Visitors from U.S. and Canadian gateways connect in other European hubs like London, Paris, Madrid, and of course Rome and Milan
- Visitors already in Europe enjoy low-cost direct flights to Torino from capital cities like Paris, Amsterdam, etc.
- An alternative from other countries in Europe: taking the train to Torino: Trenitalia or Rail Europe
- For travelers who are already in Italy, deluxe new Italian high-speed trains like Frecciarossa run on the fast track connecting Torino with Rome, Naples, and points south. (Travel between Torino and Rome takes around four hours, with many daily departures)
In Italy, a country hailed for its spectacular panoramas and beautiful cities, Torino stands out.
Torino's breathtaking perch: on the banks of the sparkling Po River, with the majestic Alps looming in the background.
Torino's architecture old and new is the epitome of elegance. Here's why:
- Torino flowered in the Baroque era of the 1700s, when the House of Savoy's support attracted Italy's greatest architects, who built churches, theaters, plazas, and numerous palaces
- Visitors can tour the "Crown of Delights," a circuit of 15 Baroque royal residences
- The Liberty period of the 1800s and 1900s produced vast portici (porticoes), creating pedestrian arcades across Torino. Many Torinesi consider the Piazza Vittorio Veneto arcade the center of town
- Like the Baroque period, the 2006 Winter Olympics created an architectural boom. Celebrated designers who rushed in to bestow modern masterpieces upon Torino include Gae Aulenti, who created the Olympics' swooping Palavela ice stadium
Torino is a classical city with a modern soul.
- Torino is sought out as a sophisticated urban destination for young (and young-spirited) visitors from the world over
- They come to savor Torino's artsy culture and hip scene
- And they love Torino's sleek, spotless subway system
- Torino's young attitude was acknowledged with the designation of European Youth Capital in 2010
Luxe-loving Torino presents visitors with a variety of posh hotels.
- The five-star Principe di Piemonte faces fashionable Via Roma. Its spa offers the latest wellness and beauty treatments
- The deluxe Golden Palace Hotel opened just before the 2006 Games. Its palette is Olympic-medal gold, silver, and bronze
- The elegant 114-room Grand Hotel Sitea, a classically imposing property, is ideally set behind the famed Piazza San Carlo
- NH Lingotto Tech is a high-end, ultra-modern hotel with a dramatic glass roof and a penthouse running track whose materials came from the former Fiat car testing track
- Art Hotel Boston is an arty boutique hotel with individually decorated guest rooms and more moderate rates
6. Torino Is a Cultural Gem
Culture reigns supreme in Torino, a refined and royal city.
Torino's world-class museums and festivals extol the glories of Piemonte -- and the world. Torino luxury travelers will be able to discover the pleasures of cars, cioccolato, and contemporary art. Some can't-misses:
- The 17th-century royal palace, Palazzo Reale, served as the residence of the Dukes of Savoy and the Torinese kings of Sardinia and Italy
- Visitors can tour the grand royal apartments of La Venaria Reale, an estate with a sprawling restored Baroque palace and lavish gardens
- These are among the more than four dozen UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Italy
- The famed Museo Egizio (Egyptian Museum) owns one of the most extensive collections of dynastic art outside Cairo
- Movie buffs love the provocative, interactive National Cinema Museum, one of the world's best museums devoted to film. Double feature: panoramic views of Torino from its tower setting in the landmark Mole Antonelliana building
- Old meets new in Castello di Rivoli Museum of Contemporary art, a Savoy family castle now filled with modern art masterpieces
- Free admission to museums is one benefit of the Torino and Piemonte Card
Torino is a hangout city with a vivid café culture.
For visitors and residents alike, lounging in lovely cafés is a highlight of Torino life. Follow your caffeinated bliss:
- Caffe San Carlo has been a go-to since 1842. The look: jeweled chandeliers, marble, red velvet. The thing to order: ice cream made with Torino's traditional Florio recipe
- Caffè al Bicerin, founded in 1763, named Torino's specialty, the bicerin, a hot parfait of chocolate, espresso, and whipped cream. Lucky patrons score a coveted outdoor table on Piazza della Consolata
- Vintage-1858 Baratti & Milano was the the House of Savoy's royal coffee and pastry supplier. Its exquisite pastries sparkle along with its gilded ceiling and antique mirrors
And then there's Torino's happy hour, Aperitivi
Torinesi work hard, and after-work hours are sacred. Torino's tradition of savoring aperitivi (also called apericena) is a delicious indulgence akin to the American happy hour. Torinesi of all ages meet up at apertivi bars, spilling onto sidewalks. Apertivi bars:
- Pour local red wines and also expert Martinis (originated with local vermouth from Martini & Rossi
- Many aperitivi bars serve generous food buffets that can substitute for dinner
- Apertivi bars are especially plentiful in the hip, stylish, late-night Quadrilatero Romano neighborhood in the ancient Roman quarter
- Piazza Vittorio has the poshest apertivi and "beautiful people"-watching
- Young visitors will find a trendy apertivi scene in the San Salvario neighborhood alongside the Po River
Torino means dining and drinking with style.
The enjoyment of food and wine is a way of life in Torino. The surrounding Piedmont region is home to the global Slow Food movement, which celebrates local edibles. Gourmet visitors to Torino can anticipate delights like:
- Lovingly handmade pasta ennobled with local truffles
- First-class Piemontese wines like full-bodied Barolo and Barbaresco
Cuisine connoisseurs will find no shortage of impressive ristoranti in this affluent city. Some Torinese favorites:
- The legendary Ristorante del Cambio, which opened in 1757 and was the meeting place of modern Italy's 19th-century founders. Still exuding elegance and exclusivity, del Cambio has a vast, high-end wine list and tuxedo-clad waiters serving chef Riccardo Ferrero's Piedmontese cuisine (Update to readers: as of March 2014 we ar eunable to determine is Ristorante del Cambio is still open. Please check with your Torino concierge. Grazie)
- On the other end of the tradition spectrum: Combal.Zero, the controversial restaurant from "creator and theoretician" (not Chef) Davide Scabin. Appropriately set in the Castello di Rivoli Museum of Contemporary Art, Combal.Zero entertains guests with its experimental, yet flavorful, takes on ingredients, textures and temperatures
And then there's Torino's chocolate mania.
Come prepared! Bring your sweet tooth for Torino's cioccolatò, a city-wide obsession. Abundant sweet shops, confitteria, offer dozens of innately Torinese candies with names and pedigrees:
- Smooth chocolate cremini and tartufi
- Gianduja, gianduiotti, Rocher, and CriCri, with chocolate and hazelnuts
- Nocciolati, chocolate bars with hazelnuts
- Preferiti, chocolates with a cherry inside
- Cuneese al rhum, chocolates with rum centers
- Cafés and bakeries specialize in pastries that spotlight Torino's luscious chocolate spreads (Nutella is made nearby)
Torino's Cioccolatò festival lures hundreds of thousands of cacao addicts to celebrate chocolate in serious style. In 2013, Cioccolatò will happen in March and November.
Torino's gourmet mecca, Eataly, is a travel destination of its own.
Now a global phenomenon, Eataly is a whole neighborhood of dining and snacking, under one roof. Eataly features all things edible from The Boot:
- Hundreds of varieties of Italian salumeria (cured meats)
- A staggering display of formaggi (cheese)
- Prima classe chocolates
- A downstairs birreria, which pours and sells over 200 global beers, many locally brewed
- Eight specialty restaurants, including a steakhouse, seafood spot, pizzeria, and a Slow Food eatery
- Foodie fyi: New York's Eataly is co-owned by Mario Batali
10. Torino Is Car-Crazy
Torino means the House of Savoy. But it is also the House of Fiat.
Fiat is an automotive dynasty whose dashing monarchs are of the Agnelli clan. Fiat is the jewel in the crown of Torino's passionate car culture:
- The car to rent in Torino? One guess
- Fiat's onetime factory, in the Lingotto neighborhood, is now the Lingotto Pinacoteca. Renovated by celebrated Italian architect Renzo Piano, it is a vast art space funded by the Agnelli family
- The National Automobile Museum, in Torino, of course, is a must for car lovers. Its vast vintage collection of consumer models and race cars is strong on Italian makes like Alfa Romeo, Bugatti, Ferrari, Fiat, and Lancia