Budget Travel

The best samples by mail to do in Turin after you've blown your financial allowance on Eurovision

As with every major Italian city, elegant Turin has its fair share of world-class museums and galleries commanding an admission fee. But for budget travelers, the wide porticoed streets and grandiose squares of Piedmont's understated capital create a beautiful starting place: Turin's ornate baroque architecture makes it a ravishing destination to take in Italian elegance without having to spend a cent. Or become familiar with a nearby on the free walking tour.

Many museums, including the blockbuster Museo Egizio, can kids under five, any visitor on their own birthday (bring ID with evidence of birth date), and also to every donna (woman) on International Women's Day (8 March). Or purchase a Torino+Piemonte Card (EUR29 every day and night) to unlock the city's unmatched banking center of Unesco-listed Savoy palazzi (palaces) and a large number of other sights for 'free'.

Get around by walking or by low-impact tram

Unsung Turin is relatively compact and affordable when compared with Rome, Florence and other more touristed Italian cities. It is nothing to cruise around downtown Turin by walking and the reward is soul-soaring views from the surrounding Alps at each turn. Or pay EUR4 to rattle around by tram all day having a one-day trains and buses ticket.

Watch out for that revival of historic tram line 7, temporarily suspended through the Covid pandemic. Launched to promote the environmentally low-impact type of trains and buses, the 'mobile museum' takes visitors on a circular tour of Turin's main squares and avenues in vintage, racing-green tram wagons from the 1930s and 50s.

Poke around an icon of early 20th-century architecture

No single building is more evocative of Turin's Herculean industrial heritage than its landmark Fiat factory in Lingotto. One among Italy's most hallowed examples of early 20th-century industrial architecture, the 1923 car factory closed in 1982 and was later redesigned by Italian architect Renzo Piano like a retail center, congress center and exhibition hall. Allow ample time for browsing and consuming the aura of the enormous, five-story building.

The rooftop – with a 1920s test track now used to take new-gen e-Fiat 500s for any debut spin and recently planted urban garden with yoga and meditation areas – is just accessible through the ticketed Pinacoteca Giovanni e Marella Agnelli. Going to the modern art gallery and track is free of charge if however you are a guest in the DoubleTree by Hilton Turin Lingotto hotel, within the original factory hall.

Time travel on Piazza Castello

Amble around regal Piazza Castello, the city's most elegant square framed by the 17th-century Palazzo Reale and Palazzo Madama – the palace's rear may be the original medieval construction, while the baroque facade was added in the 1700s. Contemplate its dual-faceted facade to time-travel in the 16th century, once the palace was owned by the powerful Medici family, to 1871 if this had become the first seat from the Italian Senate Italy's unification.

Plog and play green at Eataly

Piedmont spawned the global Slow Food movement and its capital cradles the Eataly mothership – an astounding space celebrating regional food, wine and culinary culture in Lingotto's Fiat complex. Themed dinners, masterclasses, cooking workshops and live cooking demonstrations usually involve a charge, however the green-thinking food hall hosts plenty of free tastings, events and happenings too. Plogging within the Lingotto neighborhood (an eco-friendly combo of jogging and obtaining litter), Vermouth tastings and kid-friendly educational workshops are regular freebies. Check Eataly's Facebook page for the month's diary.

Weekend with locals in Parco Valentino

The passeggiata (afternoon stroll) is as sacred in Turin as any other Italian city. At weekends families flock towards the seemingly endless, grassy grounds of 19th-century Parco Valentino to stroll across the Po river banks, peruse botanical gardens, snap selfies in front of mock chateau Castello del Valentino and kick balls around. Joggers enliven serpentine footpaths during the day, romancing couples come dusk. Don't miss the Borgo Medievale, a duplicate 15th-century village filled with fortress, prisons and beautifully recreated kitchen, herb and flower gardens.

Get lost in the Roman quarter

Delve into the heart of Roman-era Augusta Taurinorum within the Quadrilatero Romano neighborhood, an atmospheric tangle of tiny cobblestoned streets and squares. Admire remains from the Roman city walls and red-brick Porta Palatina, the colony's well-preserved gateway in the 1st century BCE. Little remains of the Roman Amphitheatre or the second smaller theater that stood on the website in which the Cattedrale di San Giovanni Battista now is. Nip into the cathedral to enjoy the peal of bells emanating from its freestanding belfry and learn about the Holy Shroud of Turin, stashed away in a concealed casket in the 15th-century cathedral.

Promenade like royalty in the Giardino Reale

Palazzo Reale is ticketed, but its manicured gardens – Giardino Reale – can mooch at leisure and supply a peaceful respite from Turin's busy, traffic-clogged streets. Trees on the garden's lower level frame the end of Mole Antonelliana, a 167m-high (548ft) tower built as a synagogue within the 19th century and an emblem of recent Turin.

Window shop in all weathers

Window-shopping in Turin is particularly delightful thanks to a myriad of porticoes, built for the Savoy dynasty within the 1600s to make sure safe, dry passage between royal residences. Over the centuries the elegant arcades framing regal Piazza Castello were extended to other piazzas and boulevards – clocking up 18km (11mi) of covered walkways in most. Those lacing the length of Via Pietro Micca, Via Roma and Via Po are particularly charming. Beneath the porticoes from the latter, browse old-school bancarelle (stalls) piled high with antiquarian and second-hand books.

Mooching around independent boutiques and cafes tucked inside old-world covered passages – another royal way to encourage wandering through the city in all seasons – is every bit delightful. Galleria Subalpina close to the Museo Egizio; Galleria San Federico, a stone's throw in the Chiesa San Carlo di Borromeo; and Galleria Umberto I, right by Porta Palazzo, are beautiful.

Get high – on the natural and sacred

Hills – foothills of the snow-capped Italian Alps and greener, lower-lying Colline Torensi – encircling the city sport stupendous views. Emblematic Basilica di Superga can be spotted throughout Turin, and while there's a fee to enter the hillside basilica, wandering the vast grounds of the lavish 18th-century church rewards with a scenic 1.5km (mile-long) hike spiked with soul-soaring city vistas.

No religion is required to appreciate the artistry and craftsmanship inside Turin's historic churches – and lots of are free to access. Across the Po from Piazza Vittorio Veneto, 19th-century striking Chiesa della Gran Madre di Dio was built like a mini-Pantheon to commemorate the return of Vittorio Emanuele I. If you've seen the 1969 classic movie, The Italian Job, fundamental essentials church steps driven down by Michael Caine and the gang within their Mini Coopers. Post-church, head uphill to Monte dei Cappuccini, crowned through the bijou Chiesa di Santa Maria del Monte dei Cappuccini and panoramic views across the Po River and Turin rooftops. The show at sunset is spectacular.

Quench your thirst at toretti and stamp for good luck

Bring your personal water bottle to fill for free at one of the city's many drinking-water fountains, handsomely capped having a bull's head. Nicknamed toretti or 'little bulls' in the Piedmontese dialect, your pet is really a symbol of the city and appearance everywhere, be it around the Torino soccer club crest or even the occasional street-art mural. On Piazza San Carlo, rub your foot over the genitals of the gold brass bull embedded in to the stone pavement, beneath the porticoes before historic Caffè Torino Рit brings best of luck.

Lap up local life at the market

Even if you don't spend a cent, mooching Turin's epic Porta Palazzo – one of Europe's largest outdoor markets – is a prime op to learn what fresh produce is within season, improve your epicurean understanding of regional Piedmontese cuisine and meet local producers, farmers and artisans. Butchers, bakers and cheesemongers fill the indoor arcades to bursting.

Equally action-packed along with a fascinating window on local every day life is the open-air Gran Balon antique and flea market which sees 300-odd vendors set up stalls on backstreets winding to the edge of the Dora River around the second Sunday of each month. Bustling with bargain hunters, it's an incredible trove of vintage goods.

Hike along the Po river or up a hill

Lifeblood to the city, the mighty River Po slices Turin and across the north of Italy. Admire its swirling waters and scenic viewpoints along reasonable footpath that begins through the Regina Margherita bridge and trails the massive waterway for 30 minutes to Parco Valentino. The footpath is flanked on one side by the historic city center and, on the other, by verdant colline (hills) peppered with pastel-colored art nouveau villas.

Or hike in the Colline Torinesi ('Turinese Hills') – forested hills, flower-strewn meadows and striped vineyards yielding Collina Torinese DOC wines east of the city. Contact Turin Tourism for trail information and maps, including the Superga Vezzolano Crea linking the Basilica di Superga using the Sacro Monte di Crea in Monteferrato via 64km (40mi) of old-world villages, vines and rolling hills.

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