Archive | Discovering Torino

Casa dolce casa (home sweet home)

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La Palazzina di Caccia di Stupinigi (near Torino)

You might wonder why we have so many palaces, parks and luxurious residences in Torino… You probably remember that the Savoia family had ruled the Regno Sardo Piemontese from 1720 to 1861 when Vittorio Emanuele II (king of the Regno Sardo Piemontese) became king of Italy. Torino was bound to become the first capital of Italy.

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Palazzo Reale, Piazza Castello

For these reasons, today we can admire so many royal residences, such as the ‘Palazzo Reale’ in Piazza Castello, ‘La Palazzina di Caccia’ in Stupinigi, ‘La Reggia Reale’ in Venaria and many others.


La Reggia Reale di Venaria

I’d like to draw your attention to La Reggia Reale di Venaria included in the UNESCO Heritage List in 1997. The Palace was designed and built from 1675 by the Savoia family who needed a base for their hunting expeditions and in the heathy hill country north of Turin.The name itself comes from LatinVenatio Regia meaning “Royal Hunt” as this was its first purpose (so says Wikipedia). I torinesi (those who come from Turin) love to say that La Reggia is ‘una piccola Versailles’ and, as I was in Versailles… I can tell you that it is true…Una Versailles… molto molto piccola!

Nowadays the heathy hill country has become a healthy, wonderful and multi-faced park: La Mandria. Here animals are protected and it’s possible to see beautiful deer, fallow deer, hares, squirrels and more.cervo_manuale_815

Many people from Torino, Venaria and the surrounding areas love spending Pasquetta (Easter Monday) in this park. I was there at Pasquetta and saw many people collecting wood to make their own barbecue. It is an Italian tradition to go for a picnic at Pasquetta. Others brings their own picnic ready to go and others prefer to get something to eat from the delicious bio ristoranti (organic restaurants) and cafés.


Dulcis in fundo (an expression that comes directly from Latin, means “the best for last”)… Some people don’t enjoy only the picnic in il parco La Mandria. In fact, there is an area called ‘Il paradiso dei ricchi’ where Villa Agnelli is located among oak trees, birchs and golf courses. It was robbed this Easter and the robbery included the precious royal jewels apparently which, somehow, belonged to the Agnelli family! La televisione says that the robbers had keys and that they knew exactly where their target was, in fact, everything else was in perfect order… UN FURTO AD ARTE we can say in Italian… which means A ROBBERY ACCOMPLISHED WITH ART… of course, we are in Torino!



Andiamo al mercato!


Italian Beginners Cork It’s with great pleasure that I saw open-air markets taking off here in Cork as I used to go for my shopping to different markets in Turin. In fact, we have 42 open-air markets and 6 covered ones… and if you like antiques, a good bargain or just looking at old stuff… we have il Balon every other Sunday.

South of Italy against North of Italy

Ok, let’s go for some shopping now… fancy some fresh, earthy and yummy food: andiamo a Porta Palazzo Europe’s largest open-air market. Porta Palazzo is open 6 days a week and it is located in one of the oldest part of the city. It is an amazing feeling to go there for some shopping and find yourself among Roman’s vestige: this the Porta Palatina which (Wikipedia says) is the Roman Age city gate. The gate provided access through the city walls of Julia Augusta Taurinorum (former name of Torino). La Porta Palatina represents the primary archaeological evidence of the city’s Roman phase, and is one of the best preserved 1st-century BC Roman gateways in the world. It’s always good unire l’utile al dilettevole (to get to do what is useful with what is amusing). 

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Grande Torino


La Basilica di Superga has a special place in my heart. From here we can appreciate a beautiful view and enjoy this majestic church built between 1717 and 1731, under Vittorio Amedeo II Duke of the Savoia family and designed by Juvarra, one of the most famous Italian architects. During the Spanish war of secession Torino was under French attack and in 1706 that Duke Vittorio Amedeo II went on the Collina di Superga and promised a church to Our Lady  if the Savoiardi were victorious…. as you can see they won and this is the ‘church’… but only tow loaves of bread a month for Pietro Micca’s widow…

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La collina di Superga became also sadly famous as on the 4th of May in 1949 at 17:03 when the ‘Grande Torino’ football team had their fatal plane crash and they all lost their lives. Since then, the 4th of May was designated ‘world football day’ by FIFA. It was a tragedy and the Torino fans, including my father, still remember and talk about that great team who were so good they made up almost the entire national team at that time.

The funeral

The funeral


Some of you may know that in Torino there are 2 football teams: Torino and Juventus. When I was a child my father used to tell me that the original people from Torino (I Torinesi such himself and his family) would support the Torino team, while people who migrated from the South in order to find a job in Fiat, would support Juventus. I don’t know if this is true, but Wikipedia says that Juventus Football club was bought by Edoardo Agnelli in 1923… so it might be.

Grande Torino

Il Grande Torino

The Agnelli family founded Fiat in 1899. Fiat brought hundreds of thousands of people from the South of Italy up to the North. Turin was said to be ‘the third southern Italian town after Naples and Palermo’. The integration between these 2 different worlds, was not without difficulties. Initially, the people from the South suffered because of discrimination and homesickness while people from the North found the houses they rented to immigrants destroyed with goats camping in their front rooms and tomatoes in their tubs… we don’t know what came first (the goat or the discrimination), but nowadays it is very difficult to find a Torinese purosangue (thoroughbred). In fact, we all are fruit of the integration which finally won over prejudices, misunderstandings and real differences. I am myself a mix between a man from Piemonte and a woman from Sardegna. Grazie a Dio!


Novità tra i musei di Torino… we go to Torino and beneath…

Italian Grinds Leaving CertAnd now, let’s stay in the city centre, here we can really breath, feel and see the history, the art and the culture of this town… even if we don’t know exactly when, how and what happened… we will be able to enjoy that feeling… believe me.

If you love museums… you’ll be spoilt for choice!

Let’s walk through Piazza Castello, Piazza San Carlo, Via Roma and let’s go to the museo Egizio. One of the greatest in the world, second only to the museum in Cairo. Recently renovated, it hosts famous mummies, artefacts, books, enormous statues (I don’t know how they managed to transport them over… probably it wasn’t a Ryanair offer) and much more including great documentaries which help us to better understand the history of ancient Egypt.Triad_of_Ramesses_II_with_Amun_and_Mut

Italian Grinds CorkLet’s keep strolling around the city centre… do you enjoy nature? Non c’é problema… ecco il ‘Museo Regionale delle Scienze Naturali’, I can’t wait to take my son Kevin there… you can see why! 

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If  you’d like to know more about Italian history, something completely new or maybe a subject that’s already close to your heart, we have several museums such as the Museo Storico Nazionale Dell’Artiglieria (artillery), the most ancient museum in Torino with exhibits coming from throughout the world or the Museo Nazionale del Risorgimento Italiano (Italian Resurgence) which is a true journey in Italian history from Italian unification to the 1st world war with artefacts, weapons, uniforms, documents and art on display.

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Talking about museums… there is something new and very exciting in Torino or rather underneath Torino. In fact, quite recently, during the construction of the parking garage for the Porta Susa train station they discovered a tunnel system which is more than 15 km long and consists of deeper main tunnels and service tunnels closer to the surface.

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Allora let’s go to the Museo Civico Pietro Micca and find out what happened to Pietro Micca in one of the tunnels. We can descend and discover the intricate underground labyrinth. I haven’t been there yet, but I read that it is cold regardless of the weather outside. The ceilings are so low that we can’t stand but we’ll have to hunch down to get through. Interestingly, there are bricks that stick out of the wall which helped tunnellers and soldiers to know where they were when lights had to be extinguished. These tunnels were built by duke Emanuele Filiberto di Savoia to protect la Cittadella. He wanted the Cittadella to be the most modern and effective fortification in the world when he decided to transfer the capital of his dukedom from Chamberry to Turin. It consisted of a pentagon with a strongholds at each of its five corners. All around was a wide moat… left empty as the ground was too porous. The Cittadella was started in 1564 and finished in 1577. Apparently, the duke didn’t hesitate to destroy a couple of churches in order to accomplish his project and legends say that the defensive walls were filled with the debris of monuments, headstones, antic Roman ruins and other antique treasures he tore down.Italian Advanced Cork Italian Fun

During the famous Spanish war of succession the Cittadella  was attacked by Louis XIV and his more than forty thousand soldiers.The Torinesi were able to repel the attack thanks to the strategic tunnel system.  Extra holes had been dug and filled with explosive. The tunnellers used slow-burning fuses to time the explosions with incredible precision in order to destroy the cannons of their enemies from below.  And now we’ll finally find out what happened to Pietro Micca.

Margherita Restelli tells us that:

On the night between 29 and 30 August 1706, a battery of French grenadiers found the entrance to the service tunnel and entered it. Micca knew he had to stop them. If they reached the lower tunnel, they would have had easy access to the heart of the Citadel and could have taken it from inside.

Italian Leaving CertHe was alone, and therefore unable to stop the enemy with force. Micca decided to ignite a short fuse, causing an immediate explosion that destroyed the stairs leading to the lower tunnel. The explosion prevented the French soldiers from entering the Citadel, but also resulted in the death of Pietro Micca, who was hurled into the air by the strong blast wave and choked by fumes.

A few days later, the steps where Micca had exploded the bomb were quickly bricked over. Micca’s body was buried in a mass grave. A year later his wife asked the duke for a pension and she was granted two loaves of bread per day.

So now we know what happened to this brave tunneller and we can all go and visit this part of Turin.


Just don’t mention art… please… to give you just a little taste, I will just mention that we have  Leonardo Da Vinci’s self portrait…

I dare say that we might have enough of museums, our feet are sore and we are really thirsty… I have something in store for you, let’s go!


Andiamo a prendere qualcosa da bere!

Italian grindsNot too far from the Mole Antonelliana, we have an important ‘visit’ to pay to one of the most ancient cafés in Torino: Fiorio opened in 1780. It was also called caffè dei codini or “cafè ‘dle coe (in Piemontese dialect) as many intellectuals, aristocrats and political characters/personages used to meet up or find their inspiration there. Among the politicians who visited were Cavour, Rattazzie and D’Azeglio, who were all important figures of the Italian reunification. 

Florio’s speciality is gelato (everybody knows it in Torino) and the philosopher Frederich Nietzsche used to love it. We will definitely be able to find a great coffee, an aperitivo or that wonderful gelato… one for everyone in the audience!Italian leaving cert

For those who’d like to try a typical drink that was born in Torino… let’s go to the Bicerin café. It was opened in 1763 and right here was born the drink Il Bicerin, a combination of coffee, milk and chocolate served in a small glass with a metal handle (bicer in Piemontes means glass… from here the name bicerin –> small glass, in Italian we say bicchierino).

And then, let’s go to one of the beautiful restaurants in the city centre… maybe one which offers traditional Piatti piemontesi such as Il fritto misto alla piemontese (do you like fried brain? It is usually veal brain, delicious), la lingua in salsa verde (veal tongue with a great green sauce, buonissima) o la bagna caoda. If you’d prefer a more international type of restaurant or a pizzeria… you’ll be spoilt for choice and I will see you later… I will definitely go to the Piemontese one!

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La Prima Destinazione

North ItalyI’m neither an expert on Torino nor a travel agent, but it is my town and I love it, so if we were to go to Turin for a week (hopefully soon), I would like to take you to see so many beautiful places…
Italian grinds leaving certFirst of all, we’d stay in a lovely place near the river Po and the city centre so we could get around using these great and very handy bikes (PICTURE OF THE BIKES) that are everywhere in Torino. in addition to using the bike in Torino’s many parks, we could also cycle along bicycle paths which cover much of the city centre, surrounding areas and suburbs.


Our first destination… La Mole Antonelliana.

Italian conversation CorkIn my primary school I studied that the Mole Antonelliana was the tallest brick building in Europe, but I’ve recently found out that during the 20th century, it was reinforced with concrete and steel. It was built by the architect Antonelli between 1863 and 1889, and named after him. Apparently it was supposed to be a synagogue, but as it became taller and taller it also became more and more expensive and the Jewish community withdrew their interest and the city of Turin dedicated this monument to their king Vittorio EmanueleI II. It is not only a great piece of architecture (I think, but I’m not an expert!) but it is definitely the best place to have a beautiful and impressive view of Torino and its surrounding mountains. Last but not least, it also hosts the ‘Museo del Cinema’…. So, now, we can say that we have the tallest museum in the world, right in Torino! I was there a couple of times and I can’t wait to go back again with you all. For now I’ll take you there for a virtual tour. It is a wonderful multi-sensory experience, highly entertaining and educational (a bit like our Fluency classes!) for adults and children. Here is the I hope you get the idea. Let’s allow plenty of time for this visit, it is so enjoyable, relaxing and interesting (the Italian interessante, not weird!).            Il north Italia                                               North Italia Torino



Discovering Torino

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I was born in Torino, but this is not an enough good reason to be in love with a town and to recommend all my students, friends and family to visit it. Many of them, my husband included, look at me in a funny way as they think of Torino as a big, industrial and chaotic city with a lot of traffic… I can’t deny that this is an aspect of this town but this is only one of many.

About this cliché, you can see this image of Torino which the Parliamo Italiano book displays. This is one of the books I use during my lessons… many times I thought of throwing it away, only Italian grinds Corkbecause of this picture. Besides this, though, it is a pretty good book.

In spite of this image, Torino is one of the most beautiful Italian cities with its art, culture and parks. So much so this year the New York times selected Torino among their 52 travel destinations for 2016… I’m getting taller as I’m writing it, much taller! Finally, my non Italian friends, my students and hopefully my husband we’ll start to believe me and consider a trip to Turin. Click here to see the article on the New York times. More facts about Torino are coming soon… stay tuned!

Turin has earned a place in the New York Times’ list of must-see destinations, thanks to its successful transformation from Italy’s former industrial capital into a tourist destination.


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