Home of Italy’s most successful club and arguably its most revered, Turin is a football city whose past is steeped in myth and tragedy. Its two clubs, current champions Juventus and Serie A’s Torino both gained new stadia in modern times, Juve’s a praiseworthy all-seater converted from an unloved arena on the northern outskirts of the city.
But the traditional football hub stretches south, along the corso Unione Sovietica that leads to the Fiat car plant and Mirafiori housing estates. Behind Fiat are the Agnelli family who have been financing Juventus since 1923. Shortly afterwards, Turin’s two rival clubs each had a home ground set up either side of today’s corso Unione Sovietica, then called the viale Stupinigi.
In an echo of the story in Milan, Torino were formed in 1906 by disgruntled members of Juventus, at a time when Turin was the football capital of the burgeoning game in Italy. Juventus are the most popular in Italy, whose fanbase of seven million include many economic migrants from the south. But generations of the local workforce are loyal Torino folk, supporting the working-class club who played at the Stadio Filadelfia from its opening in October 1926. Nearby, seven years later, the Stadio Benito Mussolini was unveiled, home to Juventus and stage for the two great Central European sides of the day, Austria and Czechoslovakia, at the 1934 World Cup.
After the war, the Benito Mussolini became the Comunale and witnessed a number of landmark Italian international matches – England’s 4-0 win of 1948 in front of 85,000 being one.
Torino were then at the height of their fame, Il Grande Torino, winners of five straight titles. It all came to a bitter end with the Superga air crash of 1949. The scene of that disaster, the Basilica, looks down over the city way the other side of the river Po. The day of the funerals, nearly a million lined the streets to honour the 31 who died.
Juve’s own disaster came in 1985, at the Heysel Stadium in Brussels, when 39 of their fans were crushed to death before a European Cup final against Liverpool.
No wonder that the stadium Juve soon moved to, the Stadio delle Alpi, echoed with empty space between pitch and terrace. Though soulless for many league clubs, the stadium was brought to life by the epic World Cup semi-final of 1990, a nail-biter between England and West Germany that ended in Gazza’s tears and a penalty shoot-out win for Franz Beckenbauer’s men.
The crumbling Filadelfia, meanwhile, saw its last calcio in 1958. Torino moved to the Comunale, reconstructed for the 2006 Winter Olympics as the Stadio Olimpico di Torino. In 2016, it was renamed the Stadio Olimpico Grande Torino in honour of the fallen side.
The Filadelfia remained a haunting ruin and the subject of decades of debate over its potential resurrection. In 2015, it was announced that the club would build a smaller ground within it, a pitch for training and the youth team. A completion date was given: October 17 2016, 90 years after the original venue opened. In the end, the revamped ground opened in May 2017, and now contains the club HQ and training pitch. A classic Torino bar still stands opposite.
Built on the site of the former Stadio delle Alpi, the Juventus Stadium, owned and run by the club itself, offered a shining example to all major clubs in Italy otherwise trapped in antiquated municipal arenas. That notwithstanding, the Zebras missed out on the chance of winning European silverware on home turf when Benfica beat them in the semi-final of the Europa League in 2014 – though the final saw the Portuguese side losing out to Sevilla. In 2017, it gained the sponsor’s name of the Allianz Stadium.
At home, Juve now dominate the Italian game in the same way they did decades ago, with seven straight title wins and Champions League final appearances in 2015 and 2017.
Turin Airport is 16km (10 miles) north of town, a short drive from the Juventus Arena. An express train (€3.70) runs every 30mins to little Dora train station just north of the city centre, journey time 20mins. A taxi (+39 011 5737 or +39 011 3399) to town should cost about €40 and take 30 minutes.
The main train station, for services from Milan 1hr away, is Porta Nuova, south-east of the grid-patterned city centre. From there, trams run to either Juventus or Torino, both too far to walk.
Public transport consists of a metro, trams and buses with a day pass (giornaliero) costing €5. A single ticket (biglietto ordinario urbano) is €1.50.
By Juventus Stadium, the Hotel Master is a three-star with 46 rooms, not always booked for big matches. Another excellent choice reasonably close to the stadium, the family-run, three-star Hotel Castello is set in a 17th-century building. Also on the same side of the city as Juventus, the Hotel Residence Sporting is in the same building as the Maffei Sports Centre, with a pool, tennis courts and football pitches.
Porta Nuova train station, convenient for transport to both stadiums in town, is surrounded by hotels, mostly age-old and mid-range. These include the three-star Urbani and Due Mondi, and, now in the Best Western group, the notch-above Genio, with its own gym and spa. For a different kind of lodging, Una Stanza in Famiglia is a comfortable B&B.
In the city centre, opened between the wars, the Grand Hotel Sitea is elegance itself, with a gourmet restaurant and luxurious treatments. The four-star Victoria is a polite spa hotel in a similar upscale bracket.
The Po-side strip of bars, the Murazzi, on the west bank between the bridges of Umberto I and Vittorio Emmanuele I, is the hangout. No one venue is particularly football-focused but Alcatraz, Arcata 35 and Olé Madrid attract a cross-section of local youth.
Of the many expat bars, a short stroll from Porta Nuova station on corso Vittorio Emanuele II, Murphy’s (aka ‘Six Nations’) has rugby as its focus but posts a schedule of soccer games, its terrace facing the TV screens in the window. Alongside, the Shamrock Inn is another favourite while on the other side of the road nearer the station, the 1870 Huntsman has upped its game, with TV screens and pool tables inside, its windows kept open onto the street in summer. Open daytime too. Nearby, behind corso Vittorio Emanuele II nearer town, the Jumping Jester is also open by day, when tables fill around the corner with diners. It gets more pub-like after dark.
Just the other side of Porta Nuova, Buck’s Sport Café is more American in style, burgers and hot dogs the focus – plus Serie A on TV.
Near Porta Susa station, the Isle of Skye has a full range of Tennent’s beers as well as Sky HD.
There’s another hub of sport-friendly faux pubs in Turin’s tourist centre, between piazza Castello and the Mole tower. Roar Roads attempts to raise itself above the competition with a range of rarer beers, served by pretty waitresses – without skimping on the TV football. On the next street over, the Shakespeare is more pub-like and puts calcio first.
For all kinds of shirts and souvenirs, including but not exclusively those of Juventus, Sola Michele on via Urbano Rattazzi, just round the corner from the Jumping Jester pub, is a handy store close to Porta Nuova station.
Standing atop the hill of the same name east of Turin, the Baroque-style Basilica of Superga is 18th-century church, dome and resting place of the Dukes of Savoy. It is also the site of the plane crash of 1949 that wiped out Il Grande Torino, the greatest side in the club’s history. Returning from a match in Lisbon, the plane failed to land in Turin and headed for fog-bound Superga, where it slammed into the side of the church. All perished and Italy went into mourning. Accessed by a rack railway from Sassi (bus No.61, tram No.15 from town), panoramic Superga encourages reflection.
The Museo del Grande Torino e della Leggenda Granata that once stood here has since been moved to the Villa Claretta Assandri in the western suburb of Grugliasco (via GB La Salle 87; Sat 2pm-7pm, Sun 10am-7pm; €5, free under 10s).