Wednesday, 8 January 2014

10 Museums in Turin you shouldn't miss out

What's the best way to spend a rainy and cold morning when your heating is not even working properly?
Going to visit some museums, of course, exp. one that has recently opened (in 2009) and that I've always been rather curious about.

I'm talking about the Criminal Antropology Museum here in Turin [via Pietro Giuria 15].
This museum is dedicated to the figure of the doctor and scientist Cesare Lombroso, who lived and worked in Turin in the second half of the 19th century and stated a theory based on physiognomy that was claiming that criminals could be identified by certain physical charachteristics.
This theory is very controversial and had been proved wrong already in the early years of 1900; but the aim of the museum is actually to show how he developed it, including also the limits and errors of it.
I've found this visit interesting because the museum is well organized and offers a rather complete background of society and culture back at those times - which is helpful to get a more comprehensive look at his work. After all Lombroso was a positivist and his aim was to find scientifical evidences that could be helpful to prevent and fight criminality. The path he took has been proved wrong and could also have some rather dangerous consequences - but anyway he put the seeds for modern criminal antropology and for the study of deviances.
Some could find this museum rather creepy: it hosts a collection of human skulls and of death masks, so if you think you might be sensitive to this sort of stuff, you'd better not visit it.
But aside from this, I've liked it very much.
I'm interested in anything that's '800 - how things were working back then, and this museum is not only about Lombroso himself, but about how the science was developing during those years.
I've enjoyed sitting down on the wooden steps at the entrance, that reproduces the anatomic theater of the Medicine faculty, watching the introducing video on the Italian society of those ages, with two men debating about positive and negative sides, what progress has brought that is good, and what still was a big problem.
I've also enjoyed the part of the museum dedicated to the Lombroso's studies about the connection between genius and psychosis - about how the dividing line sometimes seems very thin and about how some people considered psychotic have shown signs of being artists and viceversa.
There's a collection of works made by people convicted in a psychiatric asylum back in those times: there are the most different kind of objects, from origami birds to reproductions of their cells - and I've found it so touching. Psychiatry back in those ages had kinda assertive ways to cure people's mental problems, but these ones still found a way to express themselves, even in the isolation and without many chances to get to have things they could use to create stuff.

Funny. I keep a similar origami bird on my nightdesk as well...

The visit to this museum can also include tickets to the nearby museums of Fruit and of Human Anatomy.
These are very tiny museums and rather peculiar ones, so I guess they can be truly appreciated only by those who have a (professional) interest in these fields. But still - why not taking a look anyway?

[*] Natural Sciences Museum
[via Giolitti 36]
I've actually never visited this museum - or better, I've actually never paid the ticket to see it - but I know it very well, since I used to work for it and I've got to have more than one deep sneak peek from behind the scenes.
But I'm adding it to the list just off sentimental reasons (also because it had been one tough cookie workwise!).
It's actually quite small, and for what concerns its collections I guess they can be defined average; but I think it's still worth a visit, exp. if you have children.
A friend of mine used to say it's her favourite museum, and I reckon it has a certain appeal.
The zoology section is interesting, exp. because it includes some embalmed animals which nowadays are extinguished and that are all lined up in a setting that recalls Noah's Ark.
Keep also an eye on the exhibitions they host: I've seen some very interesting ones!

museo regionale scienze naturali torino

[Ps. at the moment while I'm writing the museum is temporary closed dued to an explosion occurred in summer and makes some temporary exhibitions around. Please check out their web site to see if they have re-opened and/or where you can find their collections!]

[*] Cinema Museum
[via Montebello 20]
Nowadays this museum is probably one of the symbols of the city - and not only because it is set inside the most iconic building of Turin, Mole Antonelliana. But, of course, the setting makes it totally unique.
I recommend to buy the ticket that includes the elevator to the top roof of the Mole: the elevator starts from the middle of the museum and you should not suffer from dizziness because its walls are transparent. If you don't, it's really exciting to see the museum from above while you are going up. And once you are up, the view is breathtaking: the Mole is one of the tallest buildings in Turin, and it's in a privileged position, so you can dominate the whole city from there.

mole antonelliana

Going back to the museum, besides being probably the most popular, it is also the most interactive and funny of the city's museums.
Italian cinema is born in Turin, and the exposition starts from the early pre-cinematographic optical devices, some of which can be tried. I always have so much fun to do it!
In the main hall there are some sort of niques dedicated to the different cinema genres and the reproductions of some famous sets. Then you can rest a bit on a chaise longue and watch some short movies about the history of cinema and a patch of scenes of the most famous films shot in Turin.
I think that the greatest side of this museum is that it is really able to evoke the magic of the cinema, in all the colours and atmospheres it can engage.
Before ending your visit don't forget to take a look at the bookshop: they also sell DVDs, of course, and it sometimes happens you can find some rare pieces there!

[*] Egyptian Museum
[via Accademia delle Scienze 6]
Together with the Cinema one this is surely the icing on top of Turin's museum heritage - if not actually the very most of the cake.
It is considered the second most important of the world, following just the Cairo one, for the amount and importance of the finds. These finds mostly date back to the first half of the 20th century and back then the law allowed archaelogists to keep half of what they were finding during escavations - while nowadays everything that comes to light must stay in Egypt.

museo egizio torino

It seems that Turin has some kind of special connection with Egypt, although it is not really explained through historical facts, but just through legends. There are some claiming that an Egyptian prince had travelled up to here in the mountains and had a very important role in the foundation of the first core of the city. Just legends - but that's their role: being charming and explaining things that cannot be explained otherwise.
I guess that every single inhabitant of Turin in his 30s or younger knows the museum very well, because it's THE mandatory destination for school trips at every grade. But I've enjoyed doing some more visits even some years after the school had finished - exp. since 2000 where the set designer Dante Ferretti worked at the preparation of the Statues room, which now is really enchanting.

[*] Oriental Arts Museum
[via San Domenico 9]
If you are charmed by Orient and eager to know more about far away cultures don't miss this museum!
I think I've visited it about 3 times but never got tired of it.
The collections are divided for country and are enhanced by a charming dressing.

I love this guy here: his name is Kongo Rikishi and he's a guardian to the Buddha

I've personally enjoyed the Japan section in particular - maybe because it has more paintings, and paintings are my favourite form of art.
I would have probably enjoyed some more informations here and there, and a bit longer captions; but the staff is very kind and usually well prepared, if you have any questions.

[*] FC Juventus Museum
I must admit that I no longer follow soccer that much, but back in my teenage I used to be a total fanatic and my heart was striped in black & white, hopelessly devoted to the One Lady of the Italian soccer world, FC Juventus Turin.
Building a new, smaller stadium of which they are the owners, has been one brilliant move. And opening a museum attached to it has been even more brilliant.
FC Juventus is the oldest Italian soccer teams among those that are currently active, and moreover one of the most popular and successful. Even if you are not a supporter, but a soccer fan anyway, this museum offers something worth to be seen.
The visit can also include a tour of the stadium, which brings you also in the areas which are usually closed for the public and open only for journalists or the players themselves, such as the locker room, the relax area or the interviews area.

juventus stadium

[*] Risorgimento Museum
[via Accademia delle Scienze 5]
Turin has also been the cradle of the historical process that, back in the second half of the 19th century, transformed Italy in one unified country as it is nowadays.
This period is called "Risorgimento", a term that evokes images of awakening and rising, intended for those parts of the country that were being ruled by external foreign powers. It's one of my favourite historical periods, because it involves many heroical figures and episodes and all in all it's an intense period, maybe the only one ever when Italians actually felt nationalism pride.
Well, visiting this museum makes sense if you have studied this period, or if at least you know a little bit about it. But if not, it still could be an effective way to get in touch with an important page of Italian history.
Great location here as well: Piazza Carignano is one of my fave squares in the city, a small and cosy salotto.
palazzo carignano torino

[*] Automobile Museum
[corso Unità d'Italia 40]
To my real shame I've just visited this museum when I was 7 or something, so I really have blurry memories about it.
But I just couldn't avoid inserting it in the list: Turin is deeply connected with car industry, its history and its culture have been deeply moulded by the presence of FIAT, and therefore this museum kinda represents an essential landmark for the city's identity.

torino auto

In fact it doesn't tell only about the history and evolution of the car as a piece of technology, but also about the social and psychological issues connected to it: how it has become a status symbol and how it has grown of importance in our world.

[*] Ancient Art Museum
[Piazza Castello]
Inside Palazzo Madama palace, would be worth a visit just for the location.
But its collection is also very charming. It's about figurative arts (drawings, paintings, ceramics, sculptures) starting from Middle Ages and coming till 20th century, and it hosts some quite important masterpieces such as the painting "Portrait of a Man" by Antonello da Messina.
Last floor of the palace hosts a cafeteria where I recommend to stop: there's an amazing view over Turin's downtown, the atmosphere matches the royalty of the palace and it's another thing that is totally worth the price of the ticket by itself.

palazzo madama torino

Also take a look to this mouthwatering initiative: "Merende Reali" (Royal Afternoon Snacks) takes place once a month turning over one of the royal residences in Turin and its neighborhoods and offers a very abundant and yummy snack made of hot chocolate and different kinds of biscuits and pastries.

[*] Antiquity Museum
[via XX Settembre 88]
It's the archaelogical museum of the region and hosts all the archaelogical finds that have taken place here in Piedmont.
The collection is rather wide and interesting, and is organized according to the period.
Also the setting is interesting, since the museum is located in the Royal Palace: just behind Piazza Castello with its dome, and in front of the Roman remains of Porte Palatine - very suggestive.


Moreover, it has a very cute and friendly guardian ;)


  1. I very well remember when I met huge Kongo Rikishi for the first time, during our joint visit at MAO... it is really impressive! :)
    As I would like to visit the Criminal Antropology Museum soon, be prepared to answer some silly questions about things that might... erm... upset a sensitive cat ;)