Museums, Restaurants, and Street Art in Turin, Italy
Museums, Restaurants, and Street Art in Turin, Italy
You can learn a lot about a city through its museums. In northwestern Italy, you’ll find several great museums in Turin that make it a fascinating place to visit. Want to know more about the city’s place in Italian history, especially during World War II? How about the importance of cars to its history and economy? For film buffs, what about a tribute to Italian (and American) film in an iconic building? Continue reading to learn more about these museums plus a great display of street art. After your museum visits, you can walk to some good restaurants and cafes where you can sample some local dishes.
Museo Diffuso della Resistenza
The Museo Diffuso della Resistenza Torino (Resistance Museum of Turin) is one of the city’s most compelling attractions. Housed in an 18th century military complex, it shows how Turin’s citizens survived the horrors of World War II. In the build up to the war, the Italian dictator, Mussolini, joined forces with Germany and the Axis powers. In response, a strong underground movement of partisan resistance groups sprung up in Turin and around the country to fight Fascism.
A mix of video testimonials and written quotes from survivors tell moving stories about life in wartime Turin. Not surprisingly, people who escaped the city had different stories from those trapped inside Turin during the bombing. In addition, you can visit an intact bomb shelter in the basement, where many partisans hid safely for many months to escape the Allied bombing.
Afterward, we spoke with a museum curator, who told us a moving story about her grandfather. Though he started off as a Fascist, he switched sides and became a partisan. Sadly, he died as a prisoner in a nearby detention center. His death for his beliefs inspired the curator to devote herself to promoting freedom and tolerance through art.
You may not connect North Africa and Turin. But less than a 10-minute walk from the Resistance Museum, there’s a great Moroccan restaurant called Hafa Cafe. In fact, it serves up excellent mezze plates and regional treats both inside and on a cobblestone plaza.
We got to the cafe in the late afternoon and had a delicious, al fresco meal. Luckily, even though it’s a small place, Hafa Cafe has a big menu with lots to choose from.
For a deep dive into Italian (and European) history, it’s hard to top the Museo Risorgimento (Unification Museum). It does a great job showing how major events like the French Revolution shaped Italy’s journey to becoming a nation.
The mix of videos, documents, and artwork help to make this story come alive. Even so, after spending two-plus hours there, we got tired and sped through the final galleries.
To avoid the crowds, try a mid-afternoon visit during the week. That way, you can take your time and build up an appetite for your next meal.
Since 1903, Caffe Torino has been a local landmark. Its iconic “Martini” neon sign lights up the arcade out front. Either inside or on the plaza, you can order full meals or just get pastries and coffee.
When we got there, it was just after dusk on a summer weeknight, when Piazza San Carlo was quiet. As you might imagine, this was a perfect time to enjoy an al fresco meal and see the pretty buildings lit up at night.
Museo Nazionale dell’Automobile
The Museo Nazionale dell’Automobile (National Car Museum) traces the history of cars from the late-1800s to the present. On each floor, you can see some great, rare models. While most are from Italy, many are from France, Germany, or the U.S.
The museum tells how Turin’s large auto industry helped to shaped the city’s modern history and its economy. For more than eighty years, local workers made some of Italy’s most famous brands in Turin. Then, in the 1970s, the industry declined, and many people moved away. Since then, the industry has bounced back, even if it’s smaller than before. Below, the large glass floor map shows the hundreds of companies in the supply chain that once made up Turin’s car industry.
The Original Eataly, a Great Foodie Spot
The original Eataly, about a 10-minute walk from the Museo dell’Automobile, is a great shopping and dining spot. Best of all, you can get specialty food items that make perfect gifts or grab a quick meal in the food court.
If you’ve visited an Eataly in the U.S., you’ll appreciate the big selection of goods and the wide aisles in this flagship store. Plus, when you go to Turin’s Eataly, you’ll get to see one of the city’s less touristy neighborhoods.
Museo Nazionale del Cinema
Last but not least, you must check out Turin’s Museo Nazionale del Cinema (National Museum of Cinema). Located in the iconic Mole Antonelliana building, it traces the history of film around the world. A fun place to visit, the museum’s collection includes over 7,000 films and 150,000 posters. To our surprise, the museum had books and posters about American movies. In fact, we saw lots of Marilyn Monroe posters outside and lots of books about American film stars (Cary Grant, Mae West, others) in the museum store.
Near the museum, we also saw some fun street art. At first, we didn’t know what to make of it. Later on, we learned that a local cultural group, “That’s A Mole,” holds an annual contest for the most creative takes on Turin’s most iconic building. As a matter of fact, all of the contestants must base their entries on the rounded shape at the top of the Mole building. Even though it was a tough choice, this piece of street art was our favorite.
Turin is a city that treasures its history and architecture. Once the capital of an empire, it also briefly served as Italy’s first capital. Even today, its many grand buildings speak to its glorious past. But Turin isn’t just locked in a time warp. It’s an alive and interesting city that’s home to some great museums. With Turin as your base, you can explore all of northwestern Italy. Milan is only two hours away. Plus, you can use Turin as a jumping off point for visiting Gran Paradiso National Park (less than two hours away by car).