The Palazzo di Reale, or Royal Palace of Turin, was originally the Bishops Palace in old Turin, when the city became the capital of Savoy. It was taken over by Duke Emmanuel Philbert and became his residence until his death in 1580, at which point his son, Charles Emmanuel I moved in.
Though already large and opulent, the Palace grew in magnificence following the marriage of Charles Emmanuel's son, Victor Amadeus, to French Princess Christine Marie. She is responsible for modernizing the palace to 17th century standards, employing renowned architect Filippo Juvarra. The most famous of his additions is Scala delle Forbici, a magnificient staircase. Christine Marie eventually moved into a different palace, la Palazza Madama, also rebuilt by Juvarra. Today, the palace is a premier example of classic European aristocracy. It houses a museum dedicated to the House of Savoy, and its armory is a point of interest, as it contains a wide variety of historical arms and armor.
Most cities have iconic buildings that serve as the symbol of the city – the Eiffel Tower, for instance, suggests Paris to even those who have never been there. The city of Turin in northern Italy has such a symbol, but both Turin and its iconic building are just enough off the tourist radar that they aren't quite world famous. This, of course, means you'll be one of the rare people “in the know” when you visit Turin and see the Mole Antonelliana.
The Mole Antonelliana looks a bit like the top of a tower that's missing most of the actual tower. The dome isn't round, but instead the four sides of the dome curve upward toward a spire that shoots up to a height of 550 feet.
Turin's low skyline makes the Mole Antonelliana stand out for its height, but the shape of the building and its tall spire would make it noticeable almost anywhere. The building was built in the late 1800s, and is named for the architect Antonelli.
Behind the high altar in the Cathedral of San Giovanni Battista, also known as the Duomo di Torino is the Chapel of the Holy Shroud, containing one of most famous and controversial religious relics in world history.
The Shroud of Turin, as the Holy Shroud is popularly known, or Sacra Sindone, is a piece of linen cloth said to have been laid over the body of Jesus Christ following his crucifixion. It bears the faded image of a bearded, longhaired man who appears to have wounds consistent with Bibilical traditions of those suffered by Christ at his execution.
Whatever the shroud's authenticity, it is certainly old, and its existence has inspired and renewed the faith of innumerable Christians throughout history. Given its importance, the Church has gone to great lengths to preserve it; currently, it is housed in a climate-controlled case filled with a special atmosphere comprised of argon and a little bit of oxygen, and it is rarely displayed.
Turin's iconic Mole Antonelliana building is more than just its most recognizable landmark—it's also home to one of the city's top museums. Italy's National Cinema Museum was founded in 1953 with a private collection of film memorabilia. In 2000, the museum was moved to the Mole Antonelliana tower, giving it the title of “tallest museum in the world.”
Pieces in the museum's collection include Darth Vader's mask from “The Empire Strikes Back,” the alien costume from “Aliens,” and a mask from Fellini's “Satyricon.” There are vintage movie posters, film screening rooms, and items collected from movie sets. The museum's library includes more than 12,000 movie reels, 300,000 film posters, 80,000 pictures, and 26,000 books.
The first public gardens to be opened in Turin still exist as the Parco del Valentino, one of the city's most popular parks. Opened in 1856, the Parco del Valentino covers more than 123 acres in Turin along the left bank of the Po River. The park includes the Castello del Valentino, the University of Turin's botanical garden, and a replica medieval village – complete with a castle – built for the 1884 Turin International Expo.
The park was once the setting for car races—these were held between 1935 and 1954, all known as the Gran Premo del Valentino.
Turin is home to legendary car makers Fiat and Alfa Romeo, so it's only fitting that it's also home to Italy's National Museum of the Automobile. The Museum of the Automobile (Museo dell'Automobile) was founded in 1932, making it one of the oldest automobile museums in the world. It officially opened in 1960, in the building it still occupies, which was designed specifically for the museum. It was extensively renovated and expanded in 2011. The collection contains nearly 200 cars, including some of the first cars made in Italy – an 1896 Bernardi and an 1899 Fiat – as well as racing cars made by Ferrari and Alfa Romeo. There are cars from eight different countries on display, plus an extensive library on automotive history.
The Piazza Carignano is one of Turin’s most majestic squares and is overlooked by the equally handsome, redbrick and white alabaster palace of the same name. Built between 1679 and 1685 by Baroque maestro Guarino Guarini as one of the royal homes of the ruling Savoy dukes, the Palazzo Carignano gained huge national significance when in 1861 it became the occasional home of Italy’s first king, Vittorio Emanuele II, following the Unification struggles that began in 1848. The palazzo now houses the Museo Nazionale del Risorgimento as well as the elaborate, circular meeting rooms that were briefly the location of Italy’s first united government, which was formed in 1861 and lasted four years.
Dominating Turin’s Piazza Castello and with the appearance of two buildings uneasily glued together, Palazzo Madama began life as a fortified castle and has a medieval façade looking eastwards that was built by ruling house of Savoy in the 14th century. The later, ornate Baroque addition faces west and was added by the famous architect Filippo Juvarra in the early 18th century at the request of Marie Jeanne of Savoy, who gave her nickname to the palace. Juvarra was appointed court architect by the Savoy dynasty and went on to design much of Turin’s glamorous arcaded face lift in the 1860s. Palazzo Madama also reveals a Roman gate and foundations, medieval towers and a series of courtyards and apartments constructed in Renaissance times.