We spent 44 hours in Turin spread over 3 days. It was not enough!
I am still processing both literally and figuratively the images this amazing city left me with. There are so many, I am quite frankly a bit overwhelmed.
Many things jump at you in the former capital of Italy: the crazy driving, the world-class museums, the fabulous buildings with zigzaggy balconies and mansard windows, the constant stream of cultural events, the huge parks, the powerful river Po, the chocolate, the gelato and the mesh of long straight streets which intersect at perfectly right angles.
So, I thought that before I dive in head first and introduce you to Turin the way I saw it, I should start by telling you about my favourite place in this dynamic city.
This eclectic building is Palazzo Madama. Its story stretches back to the 1st century BC and it owes its name to the fact that two queens (it. Madama) of the House of Savoy chose it as their residence.
Inside we found ourselves in a sumptuous entrance hall.
On each end of it grand staircases led upstairs to a place straight out of an architectural fairytale. Designed and built by Filippo Juvarra, it represents an attempt to renovate the whole palace in the baroque style. However, only the front section was completed.
Access to this part of Palazzo Madama is free of charge, so, if you are in Turin, you can go there as many times as you want and admire its beauty.
Once we had our fill of baroque grandeur, we went back downstairs. There a small door led us to the ticket office and from there to the actual entrance to the collections and the exhibition spaces.
The first room we stepped in had a number of medieval wooden altarpieces adorned with the most whimsical and even terrifying figures.
This creature actually fills me with dread and as I am writing this late into the night, I instinctively start scrolling quickly so as to avoid looking at this picture each time I need to go up and down my text. At the same time, I cannot help it, but admire the imagination of the unknown master who carved it perhaps reliving a nightmare that had terrorised him.
From there we went through several rooms exploring the art and the artefacts. It is amazing how some pieces seem to talk to you and touch you deeply even though they had been created many centuries ago.
Others you can’t stop looking at due to their sheer shock value.
It is also always interesting to see in such museums of antics and antiquities what has survived the passage of time and the destruction by human hand and natural disasters.
The collections of the Civic Museum of Antic Artefacts in Palazzo Madama in Turin were splendid, dazzling us with their golds and their emotional subject matters.
Then a more subdued room with funeral stele and gravestones followed.
From there we went downstairs to the moat floor which houses the lapidary, several pieces of ancient mosaics, a ceramics depository and then leads to the exuberant garden.
I particularly loved exploring the ceramics depository which was a huge room with cabinets up to the ceiling which were full with plates, figurines, cups and everything else you can imagine made of china and porcelain.
The garden offered us a much needed respite and also gave us a beautiful close-up of the medieval section of Palazzo Madama with its towers.
Dozens swallows were darting above our heads in and out of their nests. Butterflies fluttered around us. Water features quietly murmured. Small trees were covered with abundant fruit.
It was idyllic.
We found a secluded corner and just enjoyed a moment together as a family. It was so peaceful that it was easy to forget that we were in the heart of Turin – a city of close to two million inhabitants.
When we were ready to continue exploring Palazzo Madama, we took the modern lift nestled in one of the medieval towers.
Up we went to the first floor which captivated me with its rich collection of paintings, art and furnishings.
Even the window shutters were imaginatively painted and patterned.
The ballroom took my breath away.
It was grand and magnificent. With ceilings so high above us that they could have easily been the sky. With walls decorated exuberantly with sculptures and frescoes.
An exhibition called ‘Time Table: The Table through the Centuries’ was taking place there. Glass displays showcased the layouts of the crockery, cutlery, china and glasses typical for different bygone eras.
From the ballroom we walked around the rest of the baroque rooms, each of which surpassed the previous with its lavish art and ornamentation.
I particularly liked the room of the Royal Madam with its fainted looking glasses which reminded me a bit of the Hall of Mirrors in the Palace of Versailles.
Another highlight was the ceiling of this room which had been turned into an art gallery.
Among the magnificent furniture there was also an old palanquin adorned with exotic female figures.
I felt like I could spend hours there exploring every little detail, admiring every work of art and still there would be so much more left to discover and learn about.
Next we went up to the second floor which contained a lavish collection of china, jewellery, fabrics and glass.
One last ascent – to the top of the panoramic tower – afforded us beautiful views over Turin – the city we had just arrived in and which had already captured our imaginations thanks to the amazing collections hidden in the bosom of Palazzo Madama.
Tune in again in the next few days as I will be telling you more about taking in Turin and my highlights from our first visit to this dynamic city.
I have already started to make plans about returning there before the end of the year.
If you find yourself in Turin, make sure that you include Palazzo Madama in your list of things to do and see. You will love discovering its treasures and their story.