Turin district guide







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Turin district guide                            (Back to Turin main information page)

"Do you know Turin?" asked Nietzsche. "It is a city after my own heart ? a princely residence of the seventeenth century, which has only one taste giving commands to everything, the court and its nobility. Aristocratic calm is preserved in everything; there are no nasty suburbs." Although TURIN 's traffic-choked streets are no longer calm, and its suburbs are as dreary as any in Italy, the city centre's gracious Baroque thoroughfares, opulent palaces, sumptuous churches and splendid collections of Egyptian antiquities and northern European paintings are still there - a pleasant surprise to those who might have been expecting satanic factories and little else.

Turin's suburbs were built by a new dynasty, Fiat (Fabbrica Italiana di Automobili Torino), whose owner, Gianni Agnelli, is reckoned to be the most powerful man in Italy. Although the only sign of Agnelli's power appears to be the number of Fiats that cram Turin's streets (as they do those of every other Italian city), it's worth remembering that Fiat owns Alfa Romeo, Lancia, Autobianchi and Ferrari too, accounting for more than sixty percent of the Italian car market. But there are other, more hidden branches of the Agnelli empire. Stop for a Cinzano in one of the city's many fin de si?le caf? and you're drinking an Agnelli vermouth; buy the La Stampa or Corriere della Sera newspapers and you're reading newsprint produced by the Agnelli family. Support the Juventus football team and you're supporting the Agnellis who own it; or go for a Club Med skiing holiday at the nearby resort of Sestriere and you'll sleep in hotels built by Agnelli's grandfather. Wielding such power, Agnelli and friends are seen as a political force in a country where governments are relatively transient. Foreign governments often take more notice of Agnelli than they do of Italy's elected leaders: as Henry Kissinger once said, Gianni Agnelli "is the permanent establishment". Terrorists too recognized where the roots of Italian power lay: the Red Brigade was founded on the factory floors of Fiat, and Fiat executives were as much targets as were politicians.

The grid street-plan of Turin's Baroque centre makes it easy to find your way about. Via Roma is the central spine of the city, a grand affair lined with designer shops and ritzy caf?, although nowadays on the grubby side. It is punctuated by the city's most elegant piazzas, most notably Piazza San Carlo , close to which are some of the most prestigious museums. Piazza Castello forms a fittingly grandiose, if hectic, conclusion to Via Roma, with its royal palaces awash in a sea of traffic. From here you can walk in a number of directions. To the west, Via Pietro Micca leads to a cluster of pedestrianized shopping streets, more relaxed than Via Roma and a good area to head to during the evening passeggiata in summer. North lies Piazza della Repubblica , a vast and rather shabby square given over to a daily market. To the southeast, the porticoes of Via Po forge down to the river, a short walk along which is the extensive Parco del Valentino , home to some of the city's best nightlife. Beyond lies the engaging Museo dell'Automobile , while the hills across the river , which are peppered with the Art Deco villas of the richest Torinese, shelter the Basilica di Superga and the Stupingi Pala


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