By Debi Lander
Millions of tourists flock to Italy’s Rome, Venice, Florence and Milan — yet Turin, in northern Italy, stands underappreciated. The city is home to the famous Shroud and was once Italy’s first capital. More than 50 museums and monuments offer visitors intriguing options.
Mystery draws those curious about the Shroud of Turin, a linen relic that many believe is the burial cloth of Jesus. It displays a finely detailed negative photographic image — front and back, of an anatomically correct man. He appears to have been tortured, beaten, and crucified. The sacred cloth lies securely hidden in a vault in Turin’s Cathedral of St. John the Baptist and only makes rare public appearances.
In 1988, carbon dating of a small piece of the Shroud determined the fibers from AD 1260 –1390, thereby proclaiming it a fake; however, new technology and research reveal many clues about why the carbon dating could be wrong. Currently, momentum is growing for new analysis. If you find the Shroud fascinating, I suggest a visit to the church where a copy is on display.
The second reason I recommend a visit to Turin concerns the Egyptian Archeological Museum, the world’s oldest Egyptian museum and largest outside of Cairo, Egypt. It houses objects obtained by collectors throughout the centuries, as well as in the Italian Archaeological Mission’s excavation sites between 1900 and 1935. I spent an entire day examining sarcophagi, mummies, tomb treasures, pottery, jewelry and ancient scrolls. The museum was remodeled when Turin hosted the 2006 Winter Olympics and again renovated in 2015. Today, modern lighting and technologically designed cases present the stories of ancient Egypt in an understandable way. Children and adults find the place mesmerizing.
The Savoy kings ruled the region for a thousand years before 1861, when Italy declared its independence. The demanding UNESCO World Heritage Centre deemed the complex of 14 royal abodes worthy of their list. The Savoy family used the Palazzo Reale or Royal Palace from 1646 until 1865. Climb the ingenious marble Scissor Staircase and feel the grandeur and wealth they possessed. Neighboring Palazzo Madamma, formerly a medieval fortress, also graces the heart of the city making both easily accessible.
A 10-year-long restoration, costing approximately $250 million, rescued the must-see Royal Palace of Venaria from ruin. The Versailles of Savoy is a former so-called hunting lodge on the outskirts of the city. The 20-acre UNESCO site showcases a spectacular Hall of Diana, reminiscent of Versailles’ Hall of Mirrors, a Great Gallery brimming with priceless paintings and statuary, the Chapel of Sant’Uberto, and period furnishings, armor, and monumental gardens.
A roundabout trip to the top of Superga Hill brings you to the Basilica of Superga, the underground Royal Tombs and site of a tragic air crash. Ascend steps to the roof and enjoy magical views of the snow covered Alps, the Po River and the city center below.
Film and movie buffs delight in the National Cinema Museum inside a building known as the Mole Antonelliana. Visitors can recline and watch the museum’s vintage films. The Mole’s spire, the tallest city landmark at 550 feet, rises above a grand vault. For 360-degree views ride the elevator to the observatory.
Football fans inaugurated Juventus Stadium in 2011. The state-of-the-art soccer facility bestows no barrier views and contains the memorabilia of the Juventus Football Club.
While Turin misses the celebrity status of Paris or Rome, don’t pass it by. Tourists find prices far less and can still indulge in fine Italian food and wine. Explore its wonders soon.
Visit www.bylandersea.com to read more of local travel writer Debi Lander’s stories and travel tips.
Photo courtesy Debi Lander
Sarcophagus cover and mummy