Despite its stuffy airs and graces and its reputation as a grey industrial city, Turin has managed to brilliantly transform itself Architects from around the world, including Jean Nouvel, Aimaro Isola and Renzo Piano, worked on the renovation of the city to prepare it for the Winter Olympics in 2006, knocking down dilapidated warehouses and cleaning up the outdated and quaint districts of the city, among other things.
The regulating plan of the city, drawn up in 1995, already divided up the area into three major sections. To the north, alongside a translucent market hall, the former gas plant becomes a major academic centre, complete with a diamond-shaped roof designed by Norman Foster, whilst a little further along, a factory smokestack is transformed into a Church tower by Swiss architect Mario Botta. To the west, industrial wasteland running along the former railway is converted into a futuristic area (the Spina Centrale), whilst in the south, the former Olympic village is gradually being turned into a residential area.
The aim is to create a network where underground transport systems can coexist with more traditional routes, making for smoother links. This is why the new metro line will run as far as the polytechnic college and why a new rail network is being built.
Located on the banks of the Po, Italy's longest river, Turin is also home to many works from the Baroque period, including churches, squares and porticos. Here, too, major renovation work has been performed on such monuments, including the Venaria Reale, the main hunting residence of the Savoie family, built in the 17th Century. Having been used as a barracks from Napoleon's era to the Second World War, the Venaria Reale contained no furniture, and after considering demolishing it in the 60s, it was later converted to a museum dedicated to the Savoie family. The restoration project, funded by the European Union and the Piedmont region, was structured around several key areas, namely, the restoration of the gardens according to French and Italian models; the acquisition of interior furniture from other museums both in Turin and across Europe; the organisation of a tour emphasising the architecture of the building and recounting the history of the Piedmont region from the 17th Century until the arrival of Napoleon; and finally, the notion of dialogue between ancient and contemporary.
A decidedly high-tech city, Turin was also the first to experiment with the 'Luci d'Artista' ('Artists' Lights') festival, the dramatisation and illumination of several of the city's monuments, an event which takes place every year and lasts for several weeks.
Crocetta market, open from Monday to Saturday, is the place to go for all types of clothes, from big labels to unbranded garments.
The very picturesque Porta Palazzo market with its 900 stalls also offers a wide variety of products. After the Second World War, only southern Italians worked there, the explanation behind its great social diversity, and it is said to have acquired 'the Turin soul of southern Italy'.
The Spina Centrale, a former industrial district which has become a communication hub that links the city's historical centre with the Lingottohub was designed by a studio in Milan. Alongside the Lingotto, the 213 ft-high Olympic Arch makes for some impressive views.
Last but not least, shoe enthusiasts will be pleased to know that Turin is home to countless shoe shops, and even though they are not necessarily cheaper than in other European countries, it is nice to just window-shop along the Via Garibaldi, for example.
The Agnelli Art Gallery, created by architect Renzo Piano, houses 25 works from the family's private collection which was bequeathed to the city of Turin.
There is also an Egyptian museum, which houses a variety of treasures from the Pharaonic civilisation.
The glass lift at the Mole Antonelli, which is home to the very entertaining National Cinema Museum, is definitely worth a visit, although those who don't like heights may want to sit it out! Opened the same year as the Eiffel Tower, the Mole sent the same shockwaves through Turin as the Eiffel Tower in Paris. Having started out as a synagogue project, it was rejected by the Hebrew community and handed over to the city before becoming the Cinema Museum of Italy's answer to Hollywood, with nearly 9,000 items on display.
The Venaria Reale, nicknamed 'Little Versailles', and its 198 acres of gardens, is a good place to head if you fancy a nice stroll, and it has already attracted nearly 950,000 visitors in its first year of opening.
Santo Volto Church, one of the largest churches in Europe, stands on a spot once occupied by a factory and it still features the 7 original industrial smokestacks, one of which even supports the bells and features materials such as brick, wood and red stone from Verona. The contrast between the exterior of the building and its interior is striking.
A Chocolate or Coffee Pass may be a good idea for those who would like to get acquainted with the local delicacies and have the chance to uncover some of the city's historical cafes, with their often theatrical decor. A book of 10 coupons valid for 24 hours (?10) or 48 hours (?15) can be used for several people.
If you're a fan of skiing though, you might like to check out the resorts that lie just a 2-hour drive from Turin, particularly the Suze Valley.
The people of Turin can be a little oversensitive and do not always appreciate being likened to the rest of Italy, so be careful what you say!
Those who like to sample local delicacies will be in their element when they see the variety of high-quality products Turin has to offer, starting with gianduja. Created in 1870 to contend with a cocoa shortage, it also includes hazelnut, which is simply delicious. New creators, sometimes offering surprising combinations which are the result of scientific research, have sprung up alongside the traditional chocolatiers.
Biccerin, a drink consisting of chocolate, milk and coffee, is also worth trying, though it's not the best idea if you've just had a traditional meal.
The aperitivo, an authentic ritual in Turin, is taken twice a day, at lunchtime and in the evening. The city's young (and not so young) inhabitants come together over a buffet of eggy bread, sausages, olives and cheeses, usually served with a vermouth (a drink first created in 1786 on the corner where the Via Viotti meets the Piazza Castello).
For a true source of inspiration, foodies should head to Eataly, a luxury supermarket selling a wide variety of products from all over Italy, from traditional pasta dishes to more creative saurces, not forgetting a wide variety of spices, chocolate and other sauces. We recommend that you take a large bag with you so that you can bring back everything you want. Moreover, you really can't leave without trying the giandujottis, traditional Turin hazelnut ganaches.
Car lovers may also like to visit the Carlo Biscaretti Museum and bring back a collectable miniature from the home of motor design.
Both the men and women of Turin like their fashion, including bags, jewellery and accessories and the narrow little streets of the centre are just oozing with department stores and little boutiques.
The NH Santo Stefano is new, well located, comfortable and pleasant. ...