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In Travel & Visitors Guide

Slaloming through the guidebooks to Torino

Turin, Italy, like England's Manchester, Scotland's Glasgow and, yes, even Milwaukee, was for many years an industrial powerhouse. So important was it in the manufacturing of cars and other things that English and American bombs decimated it during World War II.

But, while Turin -- which is called Torino in Italian and will go by that name around the world for the 2006 Olympics -- holds on to that image outside its confines, the Piemontese -- and first Italian -- capital is a very different city these days. In fact, it is arguably Italy's coolest city, with great music, club, lit, art and film scenes. Thanks to the Olympics in February, the world will finally get to hear about it.

That's because while even two years ago you were lucky to find 10 pages about the city in an Italian guide book, there are now a number of books dedicated to Torino and its region of Piemonte.

In case you're headed to the Olympics -- or just want to learn more about this regal (literally) Italian city -- here's a guide to the guides.

For our money, nothing beats the Time Out guide to the city ($16.95), which in about 250 pages breezes through the history, the sights and the details (hotels, dining, etc.). But it also feels up to date and realizes that we want to do more than see museums. So, there are sections for kids, the gay scene, clubs, shopping (record shops, too, not just Cartier). Well organized, easy to read and easy to use and, thankfully, not very heavy, the Time Out guide is essential.

Just in time for the Olympics, which take place in Torino, but also in the mountains and valleys to the west, comes "A Civilized Traveller's Guide to Turin" (The Little Bookroom, $14.95). Despite the somewhat haughty name, this pocket sized guide, written by Eugenia Bell, an American of Torinese parentage -- is actually a chatty, opinion-filled romp through the best the city has to offer. There are no photos, however, so it's not likely to give you a visual feel for the city. But Bell knows the town and boils it down to the essentials and some hidden treasures, too.

Pictures? You want pictures? Then Dorling Kindersley's "Eyewitness Travel Guides Turin" ($22.50) is for you. Less focused on hotels and transportation, the DK guide is chock full of photos and punchy blurbs that show the colors and sights of Turin. In the dining section it even has photos of some specialty foods of Torino and Piemonte, so you'll know exactly what bunet looks like before you order it (OK, there's no photo of the sumptuous chocolate pudding called bunet, but you get the picture). The DK guide also pays a lot of attention to the Val di Susa, Val Chisone, Val Pellice and Val Germanasca -- which sit between Torino and the French border -- where many Olympic events will be held.

There are also two recent guides dedicated to Piemonte, the region of Italy, of which Torino is the capital.

"Lonely Planet Piedmont" ($14.99) is compact, ever-so-lightly illustrated but smartly written and full of the basics and with a bent toward the younger or more "alternative" traveler. Since it covers the entire region there is plenty here, too, about the areas which will host Olympic events. Lonely Planet also has a slight smaller "Best of Turin" ($14.99) which packs the highlights of the city into 128 pages.

"National Geographic Traveler Piedmont & Northwest Italy" ($21.95) is bigger and top-loaded with color pics. Focusing on more traditional museums and sights, the National Geographic guide does not, however, neglect to remind readers that Torino has some of the best art galleries in Italy and is one of the best cities in Europe for booklovers.

The pocket-sized "Footprint Turin" ($11.95) crams in all the highlights and might be good enough for anyone hoping to get in and out of town in a short amount of time, while checking out the major sites.

The Touring Club of Italy's guide to Torino is paired with its guide to Milan, as has been the case for years. "The Heritage Guide Milan and Turin: A Complete Guide to Italy's Capitals of Business, Contemporary Art, Industrial Design, and Fashion" ($16.95) has a lot of useful information, but doesn't appear to have been updated in the past few years, so be sure to call ahead and don't trust the details like hours and prices.

Online, don't miss the fabulous city guide,, which has information on history, dining, sights, hotels, clubs, cinema, shopping and more and has a really useful locator system that allows users to click on a museum or restaurant, for example, and see all the other listings for the neighborhood on a detailed map. There is also an English version, just click on the link on the top right.

Everything you need to know about the Olympic games in and around Torino, Feb. 10-26, can be found at

Now there's no excuse to ignore Torino on your next visit to Italy, whether it be next month for the Olympics or next summer with the family.


OMCreader | Feb. 2, 2006 at 6:51 a.m. (report)

Eric said: Juve Juve...Va Fanculo

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OMCreader | Jan. 25, 2006 at 6:01 p.m. (report)

Toby said: Seems like a cool place. I wish I was going.

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