The magnificent baroque city of Turin, overlooked by the snow-tipped Alpine ranges, is in itself a living museum to the history and heritage displayed in its grand palaces, soaring churches, Roman remnants, great civic buildings and plethora of museums. However, the tangible history of superb architecture and artefacts isn’t all this iconic city has to offer as it’s one of the greenest cities in the whole of Europe, ornamented with no less than 25 glorious parks and green spaces as well as wide, tree-lined boulevards, pretty small gardens and shaded walks along the banks of its two rivers, the Po and the Dura.
Parco del Valentino is the largest and oldest of the green spaces here and was opened to Turin’s citizens in the mid 19th century. Popular for its romantic gardens, miniature forests, meadows and rose gardens, it holds a 19th century €medieval’ village and castle and is set along the banks of the River Po. It’s the perfect place for a picnic and for getting away from the bustling city centre.
The Riserva Naturale Speciale del Bosco del Vaj is a huge nature reserve set in the northeastern corner of the city, containing a diverse variety of indigenous flora and fauna. Great for a family visit, an information office can point visitors to areas of special interest and to the ancient and charming church of San Geniso within the park. Turin University’s Orto Botanico has been in existence since the 18th century and was based on a former garden going back 500 years. The original flowerbeds are its major glory, along with a traditional herbarium, an orangery, greenhouse and museum. Rock plants are a fairly recent specialisation, set on an artificial hill constructed in the 1960s.
The 16th century Giardini Reali, Royal Gardens, are set within the Royal Palace grounds and designed in the French style, all the rage in those far-off days. Their main feature is the beautiful Fountain of the Naiads and Tritons, reputed since its construction to have magical powers. North from the heart of the city with its Turin city centre hotels lies the massive Parco Regionale La Mandria, so huge it encompasses ancient farmsteads as well as hunting lodges used by the Savoy rulers. Some 30kms of ancient walls surround the park and there are well-marked walking and cycling trails as well as a tourist train taking visitors to its finest attractions.
Just a short drive from the city are many other beauties and historic sites, with the small town of Avigliano a favourite on summer days for its two lovely lakes. Set 25kms fro the city centre, the town’s Sacra di San Michele abbey is a symbol for the region. Another nearby town, Aosta, is a must-see for its outstanding Roman military settlement, built by Roman legions around the time of Christ. The well-preserved ruins include an amphitheatre, a Praetorian Gate, a bathhouse and apartments for the legionnaires. An added bonus if the town’s 11th century cathedral with its glorious stained glass.
A day trip to nearby Salluzzo, just a short drive away, is a must for lovers of antiques, as the town is known for its old quarter antiques stores set in medieval winding streets. It’s also known for its crafting of furniture, renovated medieval castle and Renaissance palace. Asti, 55kms from Turin, is another source of architectural splendour, with a high number of medieval and Renaissance buildings. Known once as the City of 100 Towers, the towers which remain include the Torre Troyana and Torre di Comentini. A visit in September gives the added bonus of seeing the town’s famous horse race, the Palio.
About the Author
- Architecture Baroque
- Architecture 1800s-today
- Turin Art
- Turin cafès
- Turin Design
- Shroud of Turin
- Olympic Turin
- Olympic Mountains
- Turin – The Markets
- Turin the nightlife
- Get in and around
- Turin food and wine
Where to stay in Turin
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