Turin: an amazing bike tour

Have you heard or read that Torino is an elegant city with astonishing Royal Palaces, baroque chapels that are home to the most important relics of Christianity, beautiful parks and an excellent expertise in chocolate making? That is all true.

However, Turin is much more than that. As you already know I bought a bicycle recently by taking advantage of the financial support of the government which covers 60% of the price. Thus I started exploring the city a lot by bike both because it is a good way to stay in a good shape for those like me who are not fitness obsessed, and also because it allows to enjoy the city in a different way.

Have you ever wondered how many times you drove close to a beautiful attraction in your own city and you didn’t even look at it anymore? It’s there, it has always been there and always will be…so we do not bother that much about it. Riding a bike in our own cities is a real discovery. Places are seen from a different perspective, we have time to stop and enjoy the views and we can reflect a bit more on the beauty that surrounds us that we pretty often neglect.

Last time I wrote about a bike tour of Turin I described the amazing Park of Valentino and its attractions. This time I took a completely different route, 90% of which on reserved bike lanes which led me from my home, close to Piazza Statuto (Constitution square), one of the most important hubs of the city, straight to the Hunting Lodge of Stupinigi, just outside the city borders, 11 km to the south (6 miles).

The route is perfectly straight, well served and secure so I stopped at several attractions along the way:

1 – The San Paolo Building

The San Paolo Building – Torino. Photo by Matteo Gazzarata

When two big Italian banks merged into a big corporate (Intesa, from Milan and San Paolo, from Turin), agreement was made to keep the legal headquarters in Turin and to build a new one in the form of a tall and very modern skyscraper. The project was awarded to the Italian Architect Renzo Piano, who conceived a simple but very power efficient building, 37 storeys high, home to both the bank offices, a restaurant and a lounge bar at the 37th and 35th storey respectively. The view from above is fantastic and overarches the Alps to the east and the hillside to the west, and dominates the so called “squared city” which is the central area of Turin still shaped as during the roman times: a perfect chessboard.

2 – The OGR – Workshop for heavy repairs

The Monument before the OGR – Turin. Photo by Matteo Gazzarata

Before the construction of the very modern train station of Posta Susa, where high speed trains start their run, a huge workshop for heavy repairs of locomotives, coaches and train equipments, was occupying a big area here. Although trains are not repaired here anymore, the plant is still there but it has been converted it into a cultural centre, home to temporary art exhibitions, concerts, events and it also includes 3 restaurants. In front of it a very strange monument decorates a roundabout, meant to remind us our past, our present and out future. Two big locomotives stand right in the middle of the roundabout. An old steam locomotive and the brand new “Frecciarossa” that nowadays allows to travel fast across the Country. Just 3 hours and 50 minutes from Turin to Rome, despite the previous 10.

3 – Mario Mertz’s Igloo

Mario Mertzìs Igloo – Turin. Photo by Matteo Gazzarata

Among the several things Turin is famous for, is Contemporary Art. Although I am not very fond of it, it is undeniable that installations do really embellish even the most forgotten areas of the city. In this case the Igloo designed by Mario Mertz, a famous Italian artist, stands in the middle of a big roundabout at the end of a very modern boulevard that allows a speed connection from the north to the south of the city.

4 – The Olympic Torch and Stadium

The Olympic Torch and the Stadium – Turin. Photo by Matteo Gazzarata

The XXth Olympic Winter games were held in Turin in 2006. The city underwent a complete renewal and luckily  benefited a lot from the event, both in terms of new venues, overall city embellishments and especially from the tourist flows that come to the city since then. The previous Municipality Stadium, built during the fascist era, underwent a complete renovation to host the opening and the closing ceremonies (also its name was changed into Olympic Stadium), and the tallest Olympic torch was constructed. Althouhg the Olympic flame doesn’t burn anymore, the torch is there to remind us of those 17 days when the city felt it was the hub of the world and you would feel the electricity in the air. It has been such a great period for us. I do still remember the day when the Olympic Committee announced Turin would host the Games. Everything changed since then.

5 – The Figure Skaters

The Figure Skaters – Turin. Photo by Matteo Gazzarata

Just in front of the Olympic Stadium is an installation called “points of view”. Created by the English sculptor Tony Cragg, it consists of three tall bronze columns whose sinuous elliptical spirals create, overall, the effect of dynamism and, in detail, profiles of human faces. Made in 2005, the work was put in place for the 2006 Winter Olympics. Despite the description and the official title I call this installation “the figure skaters” as the torsion of the columns reminds me of the rotation of these athletes on the ice.

6 – The Pala Isozaki (Pala Alpitour)

The Pala Isozaki – Turin. Photo by Matteo Gazzarata

Nowadays sponsored by one of the biggest Italian Tour Operator, called Alpitour, this amazing Olympic venue was built from scratch following the project of the Japanese Architect Arata Isozaki who conceived a mighty arena for some indoor competitions such as hockey. Being its internal structure very flexible it is nowadays used both for sport purposes as well as a major concert arena. Several pop starts performed here from Lady Gaga to Madonna, Shawn Mendes, Alice Cooper, Il Volo and many more, not to mention all the shows of Cirque du Soleil, who usually start their European Tours from Turin.

7 – The Hunting Lodge of Stupinigi

Hunting Lodge of Stpunigi – Turin. Photo by Matteo Gazzarata

From the Olympic Stadium, the bike lane goes further on a straight line to the Hunting Lodge of Stupinigi. There are no major attractions along this section of my bike tour, unless you want to stop at Mirafiori, in front of the gates of the FCA plant, where the Italian brands Fiat, Alfa Romeo, Lancia and Abarth are headquartered.

After crossing a bridge over the highway I entered a long boulevard heading straight to the façade of the Hunting Lodge, which is visible from a distance. Once there, it’s time to get off the bike and simply enjoy the view. This amazing Baroque residence conceived in the early 1700s  was home to House of Savoy as well to Napoleon. His sister Paolina Bonaparte also lived here for a while. A big bronze statue of a deer stands on the roof to symbolise the nature and the use of the palace while the garden around is shaped as a keyhole for which the palace itself is the key. Take a ride around the brick fence that embrace the park and enjoy the magnitude of this amazing architecture from all side, but be careful that cars go pretty fast here and there is no bike lane.

Hunting Lodge of Stpunigi, side view – Turin. Photo by Matteo Gazzarata

This round trip from central Turin to Stupinigi took me 3 hours but it all depends on how long you stop at each attraction. I also stopped to drink an iced tea at a bar in front of Stupinigi, so it is definitely up to you. I would say that you can make it in 2.30 hours too.

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