The new frontier of trendy in Turin is Monferrato Street (Via Monferrato in Italian).
Take it from someone that for more than 10 years has toured the city in all its nooks and crannies in search of beauty, someone that has experienced entertainment in all its best events, someone that has changed apartments so often through its various neighbourhoods (damned owners who don’t want to make a contract in order not to declare the income!!!) to know almost all of them.
Today, if you want to truly experience Turin, you must take a walk in Monferrato St.
Do it, at least once, trust me! And you will want to come back.
If you are visiting Turin, go beyond Piazza Vittorio Veneto, and cross the Vittorio Emanuele I Bridge, which the people of Turin call the Gran Madre Bridge.
Here you will be struck by the spectacular view of the Church of the Great Mother of God (“Chiesa della Gran Madre di Dio” in Italian) with the lush greenery of the hill in the background. The church was built at the behest of the municipal administration to celebrate the return to the city of the Savoy royal family, following the Congress of Vienna in 1815. For this reason, right in front of the church is a statue depicting Victor Emmanuel I (Vittorio Emanuele I in Italian) in Roman attire (to exalt his power).
The shape of the Gran Madre reveals the declared choice of the architect Ferdinando Bonsignore, to make a temple the same as the Roman Pantheon. The result is a beautiful neoclassical building based on a central circular plan, with a pronaos, placed on top of a high staircase, like on a pedestal. The architectural and decorative details (e.g. the two statues at the top of the staircase that represent Religion and Faith) merit a bit of contemplation: and so you can comfortably admire the church sitting at the tables of the brand new Parisian-style kiosk, Lumen, which you can find just over the bridge on the right.
When you are ready for another panoramic sight, head to the left of the church: the beautiful pedestrian street that opens before you with a shower of umbrellas is Via Monferrato Street. The umbrellas were placed not more than two weeks ago, and today Monferrato St. is undoubtedly the most photographed street in Turin. The initiative was undertaken by the merchants (not all, alas!) of the street, who financed the work. In reality the idea of covering a commercial street with coloured umbrellas was born in Portugal in 2012, in one of the main streets of Agueda (a town of about 50,000 inhabitants in the centre of the country), with a functional purpose: to create shade to allow tourists to go shopping even during the hottest hours of the day. Having been a huge success, this installation reappears every year during the Agitagueda Art Festival, which is held in July and which, thanks to the brilliant installation of whom the author is not known, is getting great participation. The initiative has been replicated over the years in many cities and countries and so also in Turin, we now have a colourful street that is surely attracting many passers-by.
This also gives us some insight into the inhabitants of Turin and the nature of being Turinese.
The merchants of Via Monferrato Street probably had not welcomed its pedestrianization as decided by the city’s administration at the end of 2016, which at the same time rejected the project for creating an underground car park under Gran Madre Square (which would have favoured those customers who came here by car) and also rejected the (self-financed) project for the recovery and transformation of the nearby Michelotti park into a citizen themed park connected to Zoom. This would have brought many visitors and lots of tourism with definitive returns on the territory for the tourist development of this area of the city.
Nevertheless, less than a year after the inauguration (and after more than a year of construction work and inevitable inconveniences) the merchants of Via Monferrato St. have been hard-working, intelligent and far-sighted and have invested in this operation. With the excuse of taking a selfie beneath the art installation of the floating umbrellas (because when would it happen again?), you can walk in one of the most chic streets of Turin, born at the end of the 19th century, and admire the buildings of the “Belle Epoque” period, in the Liberty style (of which I talked about here), which characterizes all of this block. The whole street is lined with boutiques, whose shop windows have for years defined Turin’s elegance, craft and antique shops, and design ateliers with unique objects and furnishing accessories.
Immediately on the corner with Piazza Gran Madre you will find a bar that has been active since 1911 and continuing down the street you will find the historic Monferrato Restaurant, which in the 1920s was the Monferrato Hotel. Further on, there is Roby and Roby’s Gastronomy that makes the best agnolotti and plin that I have ever tasted. They offer many traditional Piedmontese dishes, which they accompany with regional DOC and DOCG wines. With seating available both inside the shop and in the outdoor area, you can actually eat at the gastronomy, which has been so cool for some years!
Immediately after, on the right, you will see the historical sign of the Salsamentario, the sausage factory founded in the late nineteenth century that specialized in the artisan processing of cold cuts and sausages. Today, ironically, it has become a raw food and vegan restaurant, very nice … but unfortunately, the original sign has been altered, covering the beautiful representations of the boar and the pig with a layer of black paint. The historic wine bar, always super-busy from the early evening cocktail hour until after-dinner drinks for a good glass of wine with friends is located at the end of the street. It is Piolino, active since 1947.
For years, Via Monferrato St. was the street of butchers and greengrocers. But there was also room for artists and painters. Where today there is the para-pharmacy, there was once the small art gallery of Paolo Pisotti, (an artist originally from Borgo Po), who also attracted other painters and sculptors to the area.
For every activity that has closed over the years, a new one has opened and in Via Monferrato St. there is always life and one always finds something new to do. The latest arrivals are an ice cream parlour, a fish restaurant, a hairdresser, a cell phone shop, a coffee pod shop, a beauty salon, a gluten-free pastry shop, a bar with outdoor seating, and a Syrian restaurant.
There are so many things you can enjoy in Via Monferrato Street: history, aesthetics, aperitifs, boutiques, elegance, shopping … or just to take a selfie with umbrellas!
So, did I give you at least one reason to go there?
Address: Via Monferrato, 10131 Turin, Metropolitan City of Turin
Hours: the street is always open, shop hours vary.
Where to Stay – Hotels in Turin
Whenever we travel in Italy, we always try to stay at an NH Hotel. They are simply the best! The rooms are comfortable and well-appointed. The staff are always very friendly and helpful. And they have the most delicious breakfast! In Turin, we are fortunate to have several NH Hotels but there are definitely two centrally located that we can highly recommend: the NH Collection Torino Piazza Carlina and the NH Torino Santo Stefano. Both are beautiful hotels in the city centre, walking distance from all the main tourist attractions.
If you are looking for something a little more economical, we can also highly recommend the Le Petit Hotel, a sweet little hotel in the heart of Turin, just next to Piazza Solferino and walking distance to all the main attractions and museums.