When you think of Turin, the sights that probably flank your head – courtesy of Hollywood – are those of people sipping on fermented grape water, smoking cigars in lounges and gossiping about what their neighbours had for supper last evening.
All prejudices aside, however, Turin is actually one of the Italian cities that welcome guests with a smile. And that’s why I decided it best to head there for a weekend of sightseeing late last year. There’s much grandeur to witness in the region as it’s touted as Italy’s ‘Royal City’.
The name stems from the galore of palaces, boulevards and historic cafes – and it’s something that must be seen to be believed. The city is known to be of ancient origins, with settlement estimated as early as 218 BC, before the Romans finally took over ruling the land. The rest, as they say, is history.
Nevertheless, one of the must-visit spots in Turin is the National Museum of Cinema. I say that because Tollywood (not to be confused with Tollywood from Hyderabad, India) is the birthplace of cinema in Italy. It came into existence decades before Hollywood and Bollywood – and short movies were aired in Turin as early as 1907. So, there’s much to soak in when you’re in the museum.
The blood, sweat and tears of everyone involved in filmmaking is smeared (figuratively) on the several costumes, props, cameras and even posters. Apart from that, you can also visit the Museo Egizio, which is an archeological museum that specialises in Egyptian archeology and anthropology. There, you can see, first hand, more than 3,000 artefacts, which include famed paintings, statues and even writings on papyrus.
This was also the setting for the entrance hall scene in The Italian Job wherein robbers tow the security van to transfer the bullion to the getaway cars. A quick search online of Turin will show you some of the places you can visit during your time there, but keep in mind that there are several thousands of landmarks there – so it would be wise to plan your trip ahead of time.
My favourite place Smack my head and call me crazy, but my favourite spot is the Royal Armoury of Turin. I’m not advocating gun use here, although you’ll definitely be enthralled by the collection of arms and armours inside the museum. If I were to juxtapose that, I’d say that the Basilica of Superga is worth visiting too. It’s a great place to meditate and find peace.
Highlights Turin is a city that has much to offer – and it’s definitely a place where you’d have to spend at least two weeks exploring. If you have the time, you should make friends with the locals and ask them to show you around. They can also tell you about the history of the city and the buildings. Turin consists of several thousands of buildings that are over 100 years old! That combined with the cold and dry winters adds to the rustic feeling.
Lowlights The weather can be a tad harsh for tourists visiting from Oman. Albeit, I enjoyed every bit of it. Another concern is that the food can get a bit expensive and museums can be very crowded.
Souvenirs The varieties of gifts you can buy from the shops and museums are virtually endless. You can find amazing chocolates, coffee blends and even trinkets in the stores.
Getting there There are no long bus or train journeys to take to reach Turin. You can hop onto an Etihad flight from Muscat and land in the city for about RO200 (one way).
Where to stay Because my name does not begin with Bill and end with Gates, I did not opt for the star-rated hotels in the city – and you should do that too. Airbnb offers you great stay options for less than RO25 per night.