Jaillan Yehia

Why I Love Turin – Italy’s Underdog Artistic City

Written by Jaillan Yehia

Post Categories: Art & Culture | Continents | Europe | Italy

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Turin's Mole Antonelliana Building

One thing that pulls me back to Italy time and time again is its underdog cities – yes I love Rome and Florence, but give me unsung urban heroes like Genoa and Turin and I’m truly happy….

We all remember how the city of Bilbao put itself on the tourist map by luring visitors away from its sunnier Southern Spanish counterpart cities with the promise of art and culture in the Basque country.

The well-documented ‘Guggenheim effect’ which sees art breathe new life into once-industrial areas is much in evidence in Northern Italy’s own factory city turned modern art epicentre, Turin.


The covered walkways of Turin

While it’s commendable to give us a highfalutin subtext to our city breaks, once the Gehry building was ticked off the list I spent my time in Bilbao in standard city-break mode: mooching around town, photographing the food market, picking up souvenirs and stuffing my face with Serrano jamon and local cerveza, but the fact that it was all imbibed with a side order of culture made me feel positively virtuous.

So in the case of Turin I was ready to see a bit of art as a starter if you will, before embarking on a grissini and Carpano pilgrimage via other Piedmontese specialties such as those little sugary Leone pastilles and then really spoiling myself with some Ferrero Rocher, also a product of Torino.

Specialita Piemontesi

Specialita Piemontesi

I hoped that any brain power I expended unfurling modern art messages on my tour of the galleries would help me work up a Buon Appetito, because as much as I adore Italy and as much as it has to offer, not much can really overshadowed the joy of Italian food.

Focaccia - seriously is there anything better than Italian food?

Focaccia – seriously is there anything better than Italian food?

So the fact that I began to resent each meal for being an unwelcome interruption to the bona fide feasts of the mind which Turin’s art scene served up came as rather a surprise.

installations at Turin's Merz gallery

installations at Turin’s Merz gallery

‘Turin?’ People kept asking me, ‘Didn’t it host the Olympics?’ In fact 2006 Winter sports, Fiat and Lancia production and the eponymous Shroud may be Turin’s most well-known claims to fame but the modern art scene is so highly developed here that the Fiat factory is now home to a gallery stuffed with Emins and Hirsts.

The old Fiat factory testing ramps - now home to the Pinacoteca Agnelli art gallery

The old Fiat factory testing ramps – now home to the Pinacoteca Agnelli art gallery

Contemporary art fair Artissima also succeeds in filling the 20,000m² Olympic hall each year with 50,000 visitors who come to see the rather different spectacle of 170 exhibitors showing their cutting edge wares.

Year-round Turin’s no slouch in the art department , but visit at Christmas time if you can for the big draw – the Luci d’Artista, Turin’s high-brow answer to Christmas lights which takes the city-wide endeavour to become a living, breathing contemporary art project to the streets and illuminates it.

Luci d'Artista in Turin

Luci d’Artista in Turin

Much is made of the fact that there’s a high speed train taking you to Milan in around an hour and the people of Turin are at once keen for you to know this, yet simultaneously hopeful that you won’t choose to get the train to Milan after all, and with this much great art – and food – on offer, why would you?

 More Info

Turin's famous Leone Pastiglie

Turin’s famous Leone Pastiglie

You can find out more about Turin by visiting Turin Tourism Online.

Check out my round up of Turin’s Top 5 Modern Art Galleries

See a photo essay of Turin’s amazing public Christmas light installations

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