Five things to do for free in Turin is a guest post from one of my favorite expats, Diana Zahuranec who lives in Piedmont’s capital city. She leads me on fantastic adventures in Turin, Instagramming all the way! Stay up-to-date on Turin happenings via her blog and social media channels. Links below.
Five Things To do For Free In Turin
By: Diana Zahuranec
The city of Turin has been growing in popularity. It was named as one of 52 places to go in 2016 by The New York Times and has definitely seen a moderate influx of tourism. But all in all, it is not touristy. This means less English is spoken and far fewer tourist amenities are available—but it also means fewer crowds, a more authentically Italian atmosphere, and overall less expensive to visit than places like Florence or Rome. Even so, who doesn’t appreciate free activities?
Here are five things to do in Turin that do not cost a dime (or a euro)
1. See the city from above.
One of my favorite things to do in Turin is definitely taking in the view. The panorama of this Savoy city is graceful, its colonnaded streets and garden-green piazzas rarely broken by modern skyscrapers. And in the distance on a clear day, the backdrop of the snow-capped Alps can’t be beat. Every European city has a bell tower to see the city from on high, but not Turin. Its symbol, the Mole Antonelliana that houses the National Cinema Museum, is the preferred lookout tower. Only thing is, the line can be forty-five minutes or more of waiting and it costs €7.
Go up to the Basilica di Superga, instead, located at the top of colline torinesi, or Turin hills. Its silhouette can be seen from all over the city and beyond. If you have a car, drive up the Strada Comunale di Superga; if you don’t have a car, you’ll have to dish out either for a bus ticket (€1.50) or a ticket for the Tranvia (€6 roundtrip). Check out their website for detailed info in English on reaching the Superga. Hiking is also an option: click here for a good map of the area (and explanation of the trail in Italian).
One skyscraper does mar Turin’s horizon, to the outcry of the Torinesi when it was completed in 2015: the Intesa Sanpaolo bank near the Porta Susa train station. Get this tall guy out of your panorama by stepping inside and riding up to take in the bellavista from inside!
2. Visit the Queen’s Villa and Vineyard, a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Yep, you read that correctly: on the free things to do in Turin list is a visit to the UNESCO World Heritage Site – at least, it’s gratis for now (this may change in the future). Perched on the hill behind the round Chiesa della Gran Madre di Dio (more simply known as the Gran Madre), the Villa della Regina also has a great view of the city. The villa and its vineyards were constructed in 1615, and its grounds were cultivated with grapevines. After WWII bombing destroyed the Villa and vineyards, it was left in disrepair until 1994, when it began to be reconstructed.
Balbiano Winery of Andezeno (20 km from Turin) manages the vineyards currently. They replanted the area with the native Piedmontese grape called Freisa—in almost all certainty, the same variety that was planted here centuries before. Read more about the project and wine here: Where to find one of the world’s last and oldest urban vineyards.
3. Visit a museum for free on Sunday.
On the first Sunday of every month throughout all of Italy, selected museums are open for free. In Turin, these include several royal palaces and archaeological museums:
- Armeria Reale
- Palazzo Reale
- Palazzo Carignano
- Galleria Sabauda
- Museo dell’Antichità
In addition, various museums are open for free on other selected days of the month. For the complete list, check out this page (in Italian), but I do want to point out these three great museums, free on the first Tuesday of the month:
- GAM: Modern and Contemporary Art Gallery
- MAO: Museum of Oriental Art
- The “Rocca” castle in Valentino Park
Bonus: One of my favorite museums is basically always free (they ask for a donation). It’s the Pietro Micca Museum, which commemorates a soldier who perished in the underground tunnels of Turin while protecting the city when it was under siege by the French in 1706. It was after this Siege of Turin, by the way, that the Superga (free activity #1) was built, in gratitude for Turin’s victory.
4. Step back in time.
By the Po River in the San Salvario district of Turin is Valentino Park, the backdrop for another of my favorite things to do in for free in Turin. In addition to being a large and popular park for dog walkers, runners, and bikers, there is a faux medieval village that was built to host the Ancient Art section of the 1884 Turin Expo. It was planned as a perfect and faithful reconstruction of a medieval village and castle of 15th century Gothic Piedmont style. It really feels like you’re visiting an authentic village from the 1400s!
The shops and enoteca are open and running, and the castle is completely outfitted with all medieval rooms and areas, from the kitchens to the chapel, and even a beautiful botanical garden blooming with medicinal plants, herbs, and flowers. The village is free to walk through, and although the castle requires a ticket, it is free on the first Tuesday of the month (see #3 above).
5. Go window shopping in all weather.
Rain or shine, Turin is always a pleasure to walk through. That’s because some of its most picturesque areas and shop-lined streets are covered in 18 km (11 mi) of porticoes. The sidewalks underneath are wide, clean, and well-lit at night. The main shopping street of Via Roma is covered—it goes all the way from the central Porta Nuova train station to Piazza Castello; so is the diagonal Via Po that leads from Piazza Castello to the spacious Piazza Vittorio Emanuele and the Po River; and the roads near Via Cernaia and Pietro Micca are also worth visiting for bars, window shopping, and gelato (you’ve saved your money up until now! So why not enjoy a treat?).
That’s Diana’s list of things to do for free in Turin. Got any other favorites to add? And, if you are planning a day trip to / from the Langhe and Turin, read How to do a Barolo Day Trip from Turin. And, for another activity, check out Vermouth Lessons at Casa Martini in Turin.
For more tips on exploring Turin, follow Diana on her blog and on social media:
Diana Zahuranec is the managing editor and a writer for The Grand Wine Tour. She is also a writer, editor, and translator at Wine Pass, and has her own blog, Once Upon a Time in Italy. She loves Italy’s food and wine, exploring Turin, and hiking in the Alps. Studied cultural anthropology and food culture. Will go out of her way to find the best pizza, panino, and gelato in the city. Always brings a book!