Renaissance to Modernism: Tracing Turin’s Architectural Tapestry

turin architecture

To dive into Turin architecture, I had to call in the big guns. My What to See in Turin piece took me back to adventures in the city from my early expat days. Today I am still awed by Turin’s architectural wonders: Renaissance to Baroque, Rococo to Neo-Classical, Art Nouveau (my favorite!) So, my proprio Torinese guide and travel designer Elena happily accepted the assignment. After this read, the kiddo and I are heading to Turin stat for a feast for the eyes! Buon viaggio! Val 

turin architecture

Turin, northern Italy’s enchanting city that I call home, captivates with a centuries-old architectural heritage. From the ornate grandeur of its Baroque period to the sleek lines of contemporary design, Turin’s buildings offer a glimpse into its vibrant past and progressive present. With its rich history as the capital of the Kingdom of Savoy and then the first capital of Italy, Turin has played host to the rise and fall of empires. As such, the city’s unique blend of architectural styles keep visitors returning to admire and learn.

Wandering the city streets even locals like me marvel at the opulent palaces, domed churches, and grand squares that harken back to the city’s illustrious past. Turin’s Baroque treasures, like the awe-inspiring Royal Palace of Turin and the grand Church of San Lorenzo, showcase intricate details and ornate splendor. But Turin is not stuck in the past. The city embraces modernity with architectural marvels like the towering Mole Antonelliana and the contemporary skyscrapers of the Lingotto district.

Turin’s treasure trove of architectural wonders begs discovery. So, prepare to be riveted as we journey through Turin’s architectural heritage, where past and present converge to make a spectacular tapestry of history and innovation.

Baroque architecture in Turin 

Let’s start from the top. First, for anyone asking, what it is, let me explain. 

What is Baroque architecture? While the style came to life in Rome, the term “baroque” is from the Portuguese word “barocco,” which means misshapen pearl. The highly ornate and decorative Borque style architecture,first emerged in the late 16th century. While the style emerged nearly simultaneously in capital cities of Italy and France, Rome is usually heralded as its birth place. 

In Turin, the architectural, urban, and territorial model that defined the European capital during the Baroque period was influenced by the new spatial concepts of Absolutism. In architecture, the style of Absolutism emerged in the 17th and 18th centuries, characterized by grandeur, symmetry, and ornate detail. These concepts shaped European capital cities into unique hubs of communication and symbolism, emphasizing symbolic values.

The Baroque period, especially in Piedmont, was marked by the notable integration of politics, architecture, urban planning, art, and courtly rhetoric. Find in various aspects, like the churches protected by ducal and royal patronage, religious congregations, courtly residences such as the Royal Palace and suburban estates, urban developments like streets and arcaded squares designed to reflect sovereign authority, noble palaces, and hillside vineyards. These elements distinguish a sophisticated and cultured society capable of seamlessly blending architecture and art.

The city’s Baroque masterpieces, like the breathtaking Royal Palace of Turin and the majestic Church of San Lorenzo, showcase intricate details and decorative splendor. 

best things to do in turin
The Turin Royal Palace of Turin.

The Royal Palace of Turin

Italy’s most important residence of the Savoy dynasty is the Royal Palace of Turin. It features an enormous Swiss Hall on the first floor with 2nd floor access to the Royal Apartments, then to the Gallery of the Shroud with entrance to Guarino Guarini’s Chapel. From the 17th century, the Palace added a large fireplace and frescoed decorations by the Fea brothers of Chieri, sharing stories of the Saxon Princes (from central-eastern Germany).

The green stucco walls with bronze candelabras, once gas-powered, date back to the time of King Carlo Alberto. But the Scissors Staircase remains undoubtably the most famous feature inside the Palace. With great skill, architect Filippo Juvarra created a staircase with four ramps: first the central one, then two divided lateral ramps (one to the right and one to the left), and finally the last ramp, almost suspended in the void. The grand staircase, and the whole building in general, remains Baroque architectural masterpiece.

How to visit the Royal Palace in Turin:

See it all with Royal Palace of Turin priority entrance tickets. Find details here.

The Church of San Lorenzo

Church of San Lorenzo
Church of San Lorenzo in Turin in Piazza Castello.

The Church of San Lorenzo, with its curved façade and stunning interior frescoes, is another example of exquisite Turin’s Baroque architecture. The church was built to honor Duke Emanuele Filiberto’s triumph in the 1557 Battle of San Quintino in Picardy, which occurred on Saint Lawrence’s feast day. It was designed by Father Guarino Guarini (1624-1683). 

Under Guarini’s guidance, the lower level of the church was adorned with vibrant polychrome marble cladding. Departing significantly from Turin’s traditional styles, Guarini mostly eliminated black marble, instead using predominantly local white stone. He also incorporated various prized colored marbles from the Apuan Alps, Veneto, Trentino, and Liguria.

How to visit the Church of San Lorenzo in Turin:

To get the most of your visit, do a guided tour with using the site’s audio guide, group tour, or book a personal private Turin tour (hit us up for this!) Find opening hours and self-guided options here. 

Turin’s Baroque architecture along the city streets

See the influence of Baroque architecture in Turin’s public squares, such as Piazza Castello and Piazza San Carlo.

  • Piazza Castello, which is surrounded by the Royal Palace and the Palazzo Madama, exudes grandeur with its symmetrical layout and ornate fountains.
  • Piazza San Carlo, known as the “Salon of Turin” features exquisite Baroque buildings adorned with statues and elegant porticoes. These squares serve as gathering places for locals and tourists alike, offering a glimpse into Turin’s architectural splendor.
baroque architecture in turin
Piazza San Carlo, one of the city’s most iconic squares dates back to 1638 as part of its southward expansion under the Duke of Savoy. The piazza connects to Piazza Castello by the city’s main street, via Roma. In the piazza, find Turin’s Baroque churches of Santa Cristina and San Carlo as well as old cafés, once meeting places among academics.

Neoclassical architecture in Turin

Transitioning to the 18th and 19th centuries, Neoclassical architecture in Turin gained prominence. Inspired by ancient Greek and Roman styles, Turin architecture from this period features Neoclassical buildings with more restrained and symmetrical aesthetic. One of the most famous examples of Neoclassical architecture in Turin is Palazzo Carignano, designed by Guarino Guarini.

Risorgimento Museum
Located in Palazzo Carignano, Turin’s National Museum of the Italian Risorgimento was the first and remains the biggest of the 23 most important Italian museums dedicated to the Risorgimento. By law via a 1901 decree it is also the only one considered “national” due to the depth of its collections.

In 1679, Prince Emanuele Filiberto di Savoia Carignano (1628-1709) commissioned Theatine architect Guarino Guarini (1624-1683) to build a new urban residence near the Castle, in the then newly-expanded area towards the River Po. For the Prince, Guarini designed a marvelous city residence in the shape of the letter C with a central body and two lateral wings. The building’s wings overlooked a courtyard. Beyond the courtyard was a large garden, which no longer exists. The garden extended to the stables, which now houses the National University Library of Turin. The rest of this elegant building, now the Risorgimento Museum, features a harmonious façade adorned with classical columns and intricate details.

Another notable Neoclassical landmark in Turin is Teatro Regio, an opera house celebrated for its not only its architectural beauty, but also it’s entrancing acoustics. Designed by Carlo Mollino, Teatro Regio boasts a neoclassical exterior with a grand staircase and stunning auditorium adorned with gold leaf decorations. The theater continues to host world-class performances, allowing visitors to experience both Turin’s architectural and cultural heritage.

Art Nouveau architecture in Turin

Turin Art Nouveau style
Find the gorgeous Turin’s Art Nouveau style Casa Fenoglio-La Fleur as you exit the Principi d’Acaja metro in the San Donato neighborhood of Turin.

During the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Turin embraced the Art Nouveau movement that bloomed in Paris. Known as “Liberty” in Italy, Art Nouveau architecture in Turin is characterized by flowing lines, decorative motifs, and its use of materials such as wrought iron and stained glass.

One iconic Art Nouveau example of Turin architecture is the Casa Fenoglio-Lafleur (address: Via Principi d’Acaja, 11, 10143 Torino), designed by Pietro Fenoglio and Enrico Paul Lafleur. The striking building features a façade adorned with floral motifs and wrought iron balconies, showcasing the elegance and craftsmanship of the Art Nouveau style.

The covered shopping arcade of Galleria Subalpina (address: Galleria Subalpina, 16, 10123 Torino) is another Turin architecture landmark in the Art Nouveau style. Designed by Pietro Carrera, the Galleria Subalpina features a glass roof, decorative mosaics, and intricate ironwork, creating a unique and vibrant atmosphere. It serves as a testament to Turin architecture embracing modern and artistic expression during the Art Nouveau era.

Galleria Subalpina
Find the mesmerizing Galleria Subalpina in the historic center of Turin between Piazza Castello and Piazza Carlo Alberto.

Rationalist architecture in Turin

In the early 20th century, Turin played a significant role in the Rationalist architectural movement. Rationalist architecture puts emphasis on functionality, simplicity, and the use of modern materials such as glass and steel. Turin’s rationalist architecture is best exemplified by the renowned Fiat Lingotto Factory on via Nizza, designed by Giacomo Mattè-Trucco. The innovative building, once a car factory, features a rooftop test track and a striking façade with horizontal bands of windows. Today, the Lingotto building has been transformed into a multifunctional complex that houses a hotel, shopping center, and exhibition spaces.

Torino Lingotto Building
In the city’s Lingotto district, find Turin’s famed Lingotto building. The structure once housed the Fiat car factory and today remains its administrative headquarters as well as a lively commercial center with shops and restaurants. On the building’s roof sits Fiat’s 1.1-kilometer / .7 mile Fiat test track where cars were trialed. Today, walk the track; on Mondays, visitors can test drive the first electric Fiat 500.

Contemporary architecture in Turin

Today the journey of Turin architecture continues with contemporary design. The construction of several structural wonders, which seamlessly blend into its historic surroundings, including the magnificient Mole Antonelliana.

Mole Antonelliana: The Symbol of Turin

Mole Antonelliana

As the symbol of the Turin, the Mole’s unusual designed was created by engineer Alessandro Antonelli (1798-1888) in 1862 on behalf of the University of the Israelites. Its was intended to be a grand public synagogue to mark the end of discrimination on religious grounds. Changes made during construction sparked significant opposition, particularly as the designer aimed to erect a pavilion featuring a skeletal structure on a very tall drum, resulting in a towering elevation.

By 1869 the building was near completion, but the Israelite community refused to continue its funding as technical adjustments significantly increased expenses. Four years later the construction was taken over by the Municipality, finally reaching completion in 1889 under Alessandro’s son, engineer Costanzo Antonelli (1844-1923).

The internal decoration finished around 1905 by architect Annibale Rigotti (1870-1968). As Antonelli intended, the Mole reaches a height of 167.5 meters / 1803 feet. Back then, making it Europe’s tallest masonry building. From 1908 to the 1930s, it was home to the Risorgimento Museum. The Mole now house=s the National Cinema Museum (since 2000). In recent years, it sits among Italy’s most visited museums. As Italy’s tallest masonry building, the Mole remains among the most country’s most well-known monuments, even depicted on the 2 cent euro coin minted by the Italian Republic.

In recent years, Turin has also seen the emergence of contemporary skyscrapers in the Lingotto district. The modern skyline of Turin is defined by buildings like the Intesa Sanpaolo Tower, designed by Renzo Piano, and the Unicredit Tower, designed by Cesar Pelli. These skyscrapers stand as symbols of Turin’s growth and development as a modern city, while still respecting the architectural heritage that surrounds them. And, of course none dare reach the heights of the Mole!

Must-visit Turin architectural landmarks

As a city with such a diverse architectural heritage, Turin offers a multitude of must-visit landmarks for architecture enthusiasts. In addition to the Royal Palace, Church of San Lorenzo, and Teatro Regio, other notable Turin architecture sites include:

  • Palazzo Madama, a historic palace with a blend of medieval, Renaissance, and Baroque elements.
  • Turin Cathedral, home to the Shroud of Turin.
  • Basilica of Superga: Perched on the hills overlooking Turin, the Basilica of Superga offers stunning views of the city. The baroque-style church, commissioned by the Savoy family, serves as a mausoleum for many members of the family.
  • The Lingotto building: The must-see Lingotto building is not only known for its architectural significance but also its vibrant mix of commercial and cultural activities. Visitors explore the rooftop test track, visit the Pinacoteca Giovanni e Marella Agnelli art gallery, and enjoy shopping at the Eataly food market.
Shroud of Turin
The Turin Cathedral houses the fabled Shroud of Turin. The coveted linen is believed to Jesus Christ’s burial garment; preserved in Turin’s royal chapel since 1578. The Holy Shroud measures 4.3 meters / 14 feet 3 inches long and 1.1 meters / (3 feet 7 inches wide with two faint brownish images suggesting a body was aid lengthwise along half of the shroud while the other half doubled over the head to cover the body’s entire front, face to feet. A replica displays in intervals in The Cathedral. The original rarely sees the light of day for preservation purposes.
Basilica of Superga
The Superga Basilica dominates the city’s skyline on a hill 14 km / 8.6 miles outside Turin. Its striking Baroque dome by Filippo Juvarra features a 131-step spiral staircase to the dome’s exterior balcony for a breathtaking view of Turin and the Alps.

Exploring Turin architecture on foot

Experience Turin architecture on foot by starting in the city’s historic center. Start at Piazza Castello to take in the grandeur of the Royal Palace and the Palazzo Madama. Next, head to Piazza San Carlo to admire the elegant Baroque buildings and the beautiful twin Churches of San Carlo Borromeo and Santa Cristina. Often known as the “drawing-room of Turin”, the historic square features beautiful arcades, elegant buildings, and statues of the city’s patron saints. The square is an important meeting point and a popular spot for locals and visitors alike.

Next, continue toward the Quadrilatero Romano, an area with narrow medieval streets and charming buildings. Here, discover hidden architectural treasures like the Porta Palatina, an ancient Roman gate, and the Palazzo di Città, Turin’s City Hall.

Explore Turin’s vibrant neighborhoods, such as the San Salvario district, known for its eclectic mix of architectural styles and lively atmosphere. The district is home to the iconic Valentino Park, a perfect place to relax amidst nature and admire the beautiful Valentino Castle.

Palazzo di Città
In Pallazo di Città find Il Monumento al Conte Verde that was built in 1853.

Take a Turin architecture tour

Our gastronomic private tours share Turin’s past and present through its architecture and culture. And, also its most famous food specialties like Giandujotto, made with a decadent mix of chocolate and hazelnut cream. 

Murazzi on the Po
While exploring Turin architecture by foot, don’t miss the Murazzi on the Po River, docks and arched boathouses for fishing boats on the River’s west ban near the city’s historic center. The origin of the Murazzi name links to its imposing embankments built in the 19th century to protect the city from flooding.

Architectural Preservation and restoration efforts in Turin

Preserving and restoring the heritage of Turin architecture is a priority for the city. Various organizations and institutions work tirelessly to ensure that these treasures are maintained for future generations to enjoy. The Superintendent of Architectural and Landscape Heritage of Turin, for example, is responsible for the protection and enhancement of the city’s cultural heritage.

Additionally, Turin’s commitment to sustainable development is reflected in the careful restoration of historic buildings. For example, the restoration of the Palazzo Carignano and the Royal Palace employ sustainable techniques to preserve architectural integrity while reducing environmental impact.

Palazzo Madama: A Summary Turin’s History in one place

The extraordinary Palazzo Madama features a range of construction and decorative elements, including the Mediaval Botanical Garden at the foot of the tower. The palace offers something of a summary of Turin’s complete history

  • From its Roman gate transformed in the Middle Ages into a fortress to becoming the castle of the princes of Acaja.
  • In the 17th and 18th centuries, the Royal Madames of Savoy chose it as their residence.
  • In the 19th century, Carlo Alberto placed the Kingdom’s inaugural Senate there.
How to Visit Palazzo Madama

Find Palazzo Madama about about 2 km / 1.25 miles from Porta Nuova and Porta Susa railway stations. Find entry details here

Palazzo Madama

Turin’s architectural legacy

Turin’s diverse architectural heritage is a testament to its rich history and continuous evolution as a city. From the opulence of Baroque palaces to the sleek lines of contemporary skyscrapers, Turin offers a captivating journey through time and architectural styles. 

So, embark on a journey through Turin’s architectural heritage and let the beauty and innovation of its buildings and landmarks leave an indelible mark on your soul. Turin awaits, ready to captivate you with its architectural wonders and enchanting charm.

Book your Turin architecture tour and start planning your Piedmont travel,


From Renaissance to Modernism: Tracing Turin’s Tapestry Architecture, Girl’s Gotta Drink Guest Writer: Elena Pasero

Italy travel planner

About Elena, Travel Designer & Licensed Guide

With a Bachelor’s in Food Culture from the University of Gastronomic Sciences in Bra and a multicultural hospitality career spanning Italy and the USA, Elena is our Girl’s Gotta Drink foodie expert. And, she knows her way around a wine cellar, too! 

A self-proclaimed disaster in the kitchen, Elena’s pursuit of tasty treats makes her the travel planner and tour guide you want! Elena’s always on the prowl for the best eats that showcase her native Piedmont region as well as her adventures across Italy and the globe.

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