36 Hours in Turin, Italy

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WHEN it comes to urban reputations, being home to the Shroud of Turin and the headquarters of Fiat isn't a lot to coast on. But Turin, Italy's fourth-largest city, also has the elegant cafe culture of Trieste by day and the vibrant aperitivo scene of Milan by night, all while being nestled in Piedmont, arguably the finest food and wine region in Italy. Recently, the city inaugurated a stadium for the popular Juventus soccer club and reopened a pair of stellar museums highlighting the city's multifaceted importance throughout Italy's history. Turin, it seems, is revving its engine.

Friday

4 p.m.1. SWEET STROLL

The famous gelato chain Grom (Piazza Pietro Paleocapa, 1/D; 39-011-511-9067; grom.it) started here, but for an artisanal, only-in-Turin experience, try the superior scoops of pistachio and torrone at the gelateria Alberto Marchetti (Corso Vittorio Emanuele II, 24 bis; 39-011-839-0879; albertomarchetti.it). Take this creamy treat on a stroll through some of Turin's prettiest areas, beginning at the expansive Piazza San Carlo, which is ringed with elegant Baroque buildings. Then march up Via Roma under the grand porticoes -- Turin has over 11 miles of arcaded sidewalks -- to the heart of the city, Piazza Castello. There, two regal House of Savoy palaces, Palazzo Madama and Palazzo Reale, sit in unassuming splendor; beyond the Reale is the chapel in which a certain shroud is squirreled away.

7 p.m.2. APERITIVO HOUR

The city where vermouth originated cherishes its aperitivo culture, possibly the best in all of Italy. The liveliest neighborhood for partaking in this pre-dinner tradition is the Quadrilatero Romano, so snag a table at Pastis (Piazza Emanuele Filiberto, 9; 39-011-521-1085), where your aperitivo -- a Punt e Mes (4.50 euros, or $5.60 at $1.24 to the euro) is a good choice -- will be accompanied by a free spread of stuzzichini (snacks). Or wander through the cobblestone streets to the funky bar Zonk (Via Gian Francesco Bellezia, 20; 39-335-657-4487), where 9 euros will buy a cocktail and unlimited access to the generous buffet.

9 p.m.3. SLOW SUPPER

The Slow Food movement, which emphasizes locally sourced products, began in Piedmont, and one of the best restaurants in town devoted to the philosophy is a relative newcomer, Ristorante Consorzio (Via Monte di Pietà, 23; 39-011-276-7661; ristoranteconsorzio.com), a convivial spot with modern bare-bulb lighting. The excellent five-course set menu (30 euros) recently began with luscious beef tartare seasoned with sea salt and olive oil, and concluded with silky panna cotta drizzled with Barolo chinato. Reservations essential.

Midnight4. ONE APPLE A DAY

Hordes descend on the thumping clubs built into the murazzi (embankments) along the Po River where the dancing grinds into the early morning. But this riparian crowd skews very young (and very drunk). For a more sophisticated scene, flirt with fashionable Torinesi at One Apple Concept Bar (Via Lovera di Maria, 1; 39-011-197-19445; oneappletorino.it), a trendy hot spot that was opened in July 2011 by Daniele Conte, brother of the manager of Juventus, Antonio Conte. D.J.'s keep the party humming late.

Saturday

10 a.m.5. MORNING BICERIN

Swap your morning coffee for a bicerin -- a layered concoction of coffee, hot chocolate and foamy milk, served in a tulip-shaped glass (5 euros) -- at Caffè Al Bicerin (Piazza della Consolata, 5; 39-011-436-9325; bicerin.it). Dating back to 1763, this historic cafe, with its eight marble tables and dark wood boiserie, was supposedly the first to serve the drink, which pairs perfectly with a slice of moist hazelnut cake (4 euros).

11 a.m.6. BACK TO THE BEGINNING

March 2011 marked the 150th anniversary of the unification of Italy. In Turin, the first capital of the unified kingdom, the celebration included the reopening of the newly renovated Museo Nazionale del Risorgimento Italiano (Via Accademia delle Scienze, 5; 39-011-562-1147; museorisorgimentotorino.it), which explores that historic period and its heroes. Here, beneath beautiful frescoes, put faces to the names -- Cavour, Garibaldi, Mazzini, Vittorio Emanuele II -- now immortalized in Italian street nomenclature. For still older history, a block away is the Museo delle Antichità Egizie (Via Accademia delle Scienze, 6; 39-011-561-7776; museoegizio.it), home to one of the largest collections of Egyptian artifacts outside Cairo.

2 p.m.7. CAFE CULTURE

For a taste of Turin's classic cafes, order the house aperitif at Caffè Mulassano (Piazza Castello, 15; 39-011-547-990; caffemulassano.com) and nibble on tramezzini, crustless finger sandwiches the cafe claims to have invented (3.50 euros each). There are only a handful of tables in the high-ceilinged, mirror-walled spot, so if it's full, try the nearby Baratti & Milano (Piazza Castello, 27; 39-011-440-7138; barattiemilano.it), another refined cafe with crystal chandeliers and bow-tied bartenders. After lunch, indulge in a few giandujotti (chocolate and hazelnut confections that are a local specialty) at the chocolate shop Guido Gobino (Via Giuseppe Luigi Lagrange, 1; 39-011-566-0707; guidogobino.it).

4:30 p.m.8. A SMALL SPREE

Turin's best shopping is not at flashy designer emporiums but at discreet boutiques like Verdelilla (Corso Re Umberto, 27; 39-011-517-2701; verdelilla.it). The wares at this charming shop, which is hidden in an inner courtyard behind a stained-glass gate, range from delicate bracelets to glittering bead-encrusted camisoles. At Kristina Ti (Via Maria Vittoria, 18; 39-011-837-170; kristinati.it), try on silver silk dresses and retro ruffled bikinis from the respected hometown designer Cristina Tardito. Or browse well-priced leather goods and handcrafted pottery at Brodo (Via Palazzo di Città, 14; 39-011-199-12997; ibrodo.it), a small shop that opened in October.

8 p.m.9. MOLE TWO WAYS

Florence has its Duomo; Turin has the Mole Antonelliana. Crowned with a massive dome and conical spire, the soaring building is the symbol of the city. Skip the cinema museum inside, but do ride the glass elevator to the observation deck for the best view of the city (and, before sunset, the nearby Alps). Afterward, dinner is just steps away at Sotto la Mole (Via Montebello, 9; 39-011-817-9398; sottolamole.eu), an inviting restaurant specializing in regional cuisine. Start with the warm antipasti plate (13.50 euros) to sample cheesy polenta, stuffed onions and red pepper with bagna caôda. Then savor handmade agnolotti -- delectable meat-filled dumplings -- smothered in a buttery, herb-scented sauce (13 euros).

11 p.m.10. NEBBIOLO NEXUS

In Piedmont, the region of which Turin is the capital, the noble nebbiolo grape thrives, producing big, bold Barolos and Barbarescos that are among the greatest wines in Italy. To taste what the fuss is all about, splurge on a bottle off the vast wine list at Tre Galli (Via Sant'Agostino, 25; 39-011-521-6027; 3galli.com). Those who prefer white might consider a sparkling Moscato d'Asti, or rare finds from farther afield, like the superb 1996 Bianco Miani (55 euros). With the Black Keys' latest album on repeat and a cool crowd gathered around the worn wooden tables, this hip wine bar pulls corks late into the night.

Sunday

10 a.m.11. ART OF THE AUTO

Turin has long been the backbone of Italian car production -- the "T" in Fiat stands for Torino, after all. But these days, the pride of the industrial Lingotto district, once home to a huge Fiat factory, is the sleek Museo Nazionale dell'Automobile (Corso Unità d'Italia, 40; 39-011-677-666; museoauto.it), which reopened last year after extensive renovations. A new metro extension to Lingotto that was completed in March 2011 makes a visit to the museum (8 euros) a cinch. And you needn't be a car buff to be enthralled. By tracing the automobile's progression from the earliest fin-de-siècle vehicles to futuristic concept cars, the museum is fascinating even if you can't tell a gasket from a gas cap.

Noon12. EATING ITALY

A short stroll away is the enormous gastronomic complex Eataly (Via Nizza, 230/14; 39-011-195-06801; www.eatalytorino.it). Yes, there are other outposts now, including a New York location, but this is the original, and it remains a phenomenal shopping experience for food lovers. When filling your cart, consider what will pass customs -- olive oil from Umbria and balsamic vinegar from Modena, sure; rabbit sausage and prosciutto crudo, no. For those, your best bet is to take a seat at one of the specialized ristorantini and order a mixed salumi plate for a final Italian feast.

IF YOU GO

The polished Grand Hotel Sitea (Via Carlo Alberto, 35; 39-011-517-0171; grandhotelsitea.it) has 120 spacious rooms with classical furnishings and white marble baths in a central location near Piazza San Carlo. Rates include a generous continental breakfast buffet; doubles from 158 euros.

Town House 70 (Via XX Settembre, 70; 39-011-197-00003; townhouse.it) is part of a small Italian chain of style-conscious boutique hotels. This outpost is in a historic building near Piazza Castello, with 48 modern rooms and suites featuring simple, minimalist décor. Doubles (including breakfast) from 119 euros.

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This article originally appeared in The New York Times. First Published June 30, 2012 1:00 PM


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