Monday, 23 April 2007

Turin Sightseeing

Sightseeing in Turin Italy - The Piazzas
by David Leigh

Almost everything you want to see in Turin is located right in the old city centre and as the area is relatively compact it is easy to do much of your sightseeing on foot. Much of Turin's character comes from the many squares, known as piazzas in Italian, many of which are lined by arcades that provide cooling shade in the summer and shelter from the wind, rain and snow in winter.

Right in the centre of the city is Piazza Castello, a wide cobbled square that was commissioned by Carlo Emmanuele I and first designed by Ascanio Vitozzi in the 16th century. The square was the power base of the Dukes of Savoy where nowadays pedestrians, cars, buses and trams all vie for priority. The central point of the city, it is where Via Po, Via Roma and Via Garibaldi converge.

Right in the middle is the "castle" that gives the square its name - Palazzo Madama, which is a mediaeval castle built on a Roman gate and with a baroque façade. The arcades surrounding the square offer good shelter from the sun in the summer, while in the winter the square is equipped with an ice rink. Palazzo Reale, the Royal Armoury, Teatro Regio and the Royal Library all overlook it, the latter containing works by Da Vinci. Also nearby is the church of San Lorenzo, the original home of the Turin Shroud when it arrived in Turin in 1578.

In the centre of Piazza San Carlo is the "Caval 'd Brons", a bronze statue of Emanuele Filiberto, while hiding in the cooling arcades lie a variety of shops, cafés and restaurants. Two famous Torinese restaurants can be found here, Caffé Ristorante Torino and Ristorante Caval 'd Brons.

Carlo di Castellamonte was responsible for the design of the piazza in the mid 17th century, while El Caval 'd Brons was sculpted by Carlo Marocchetti in 1838. Remaining open at one end the square is flanked by an arcade-lined parade and topped by the churches of San Carlo and Santa Cristina on the southern side.

Piazza Vittorio Veneto is also another square that is as unmissable as it is unavoidable. Although the centre of the square is used for parking, there are many cafes with tables outside to enjoy one of Turin's legendary aperitifs and although the city can become unpleasantly hot in the summer, it is on the banks of the river Po and therefore good for some breeze, however gentle.

Although the city centre is small and easy to navigate on foot, it is easy to overdo it a bit and cram too much walking into one day. The Turismobus Torino is ideal for overcoming this problem as it allows you to see a lot of the city without having to do much of the in-between walking - simply hop on and off and you can see exactly what interests you most, although it currently only operates on Saturdays, between 10:00 and 18:00.

The bus departs on its circular route once an hour, and although times are published it should be noted that it is not punctual by any means.

For more information on Sightseeing in Turin see http://www.bella-torino.com, with advice on all aspects of your stay.

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