When you think of Italian tourist magnets, what cities come to mind? Rome. Florence. Venice. Maybe even Milan. But Torino—or Turin, as it’s better known to folks in the States? Not so much.
The 2006 Winter Olympics helped boost Torino’s global image – before, it was known largely for displaying the “Shroud of Turin,” the reputed burial cloth of Jesus Christ – but this stylish northern Italian metropolis still flies largely under the radar. Through Sunday, August 5, this elegant yet industrial city (it IS, after all, the birthplace of Fiat) is banking on its status as a place where the hip and happening hang out with “Torino Young City 2012,” a promotion designed to place it in “the center of the international map for young tourism.”
Chosen 2010’s “European Youth Capital” thanks to its vibrant culture and youthful spirit, Torino’s been building on the moniker this summer with “Young City” theater productions, music and mural art festivals, and creative workshops. The city is legendary for its open-air, after-work and pre-dinner aperitivi scene – similar to the American “happy hour,” but with full appetizer spreads – at trendy bars and cafes in its gentrifying San Salvario (think Wicker Park and Bucktown before the artists moved out and the yuppies moved in) and Quadrilatero Romano quarters. Special accommodation, shopping, eating, drinking and transportation offers exist for those under 30 thanks to“Youth City” discounts. But even though the promotion ends Sunday, visitors to Torino will still find cool culture here year-round, from hip boutiques to open-half-the-night dance clubs to elegant restaurants and cafes.
And you HARDLY need to be a youngster to fall for Torino. In preparation for the 2006 Games, this bustling city of nearly 1 million residents transformed itself from a gray, industrial haven into a tourist-friendly spot without losing its soul. After first visiting in 2005, I gave Torino a second look during a recent trip to northern Italy. Watch “TCW Travel Connection” for more on this underrated urban gem.