Every Italian city has its own unique style, and Turin is no exception. Everything about the Piedmont capital harks back to a golden age of romance. Its Alpine backdrop is simply beautiful and its stunning mix of Baroque and Art Nouveau architecture had me swooning down its many porticoed boulevards. Even its public transport vehicles are rich in style and elegance.
The number 15 bus from Turin’s city centre terminates around twenty minutes later in the small suburban town of Sassi. Walking around this quiet, sleepy town may make one wonder what was the point of coming out all this way. Stumbling across Sassi station only a stone’s throw away from the bus stop however, soon explains why.
There is only one destination that one can travel to from Sassi station, but the destination and the form of transport to get there are simply charming. For over one hundred and twenty years a funicular has carried passengers from Sassi station up a steep 425 metre high hill to the summit of Superga where a beautiful baroque basilica keeps guard over the city below.
The funicular departs once an hour on the hour from Sassi between 10am and 6pm, taking around 18 minutes to reach the summit, before making the return journey hourly on the half/hour. It operates every day except (strangely) on Tuesdays with extended hours on Saturdays and reduced hours on Sundays and holidays.
Whilst I waited for the funicular to arrive I had a look around the station.
Close to the top of the hour I wandered out onto the platform to see the funicular arrive.
The funicular was punctual leaving as planned on the stroke of the hour. The views on the ascent were tantalising …
… and the steep gradient, averaging 13.5% was noticeable.
On arrival at Superga, a short albeit steep walk from the station soon proves to have been worth all the effort.
The basilica was built on the orders of Vittorio Amedeo I in the early eighteenth century in honour of the Virgin Mary for protecting Turin from progressing French and Spanish armies. The architect Filippo Juvarra lavished the building with beautiful Baroque design both inside and out.
The beauty of the basilica can make one forget to take advantage of the altitude and enjoy the views of the city below. With only forty minutes before the funicular returns to Sassi (otherwise it’s an hour long wait for the next one or a long walk down) it is easy to spend all the time in and around the basilica.
A single ticket (Biglietto urbano) purchased on a bus/tram is cheap and gives unlimited hop-on-hop-off access for 90 minutes across the bus and tram network. The ticket must be stamped in the machines on the first bus/tram of the journey. A Biglietto urbano can also be used on Turin’s new (and reliable) metro network, but only one metro journey is allowed on the ticket.
Travelcards valid for either one, two or three days can be purchased from the Tourist Information centre at Porta Nuova station and are well worth the wait in the queue to purchase one. Variations of these travelcards can also offer discounted entry to some of Turin’s finest museums. Not all travelcards offer access to the Sassi-Superga funicular and a Biglietto urbano is not valid on it at all, but tickets for the funicular can be bought separately from Sassi station if required.
On lines that use both buses and trams, the bus/tram-stop timetables distinguishes between the two modes of transport by listing the tram arrival times with a diagonal strike through the line number.
The stunning Mole Antonelliana – the symbol of Turin
Lisbon trams, funiculars and possibly the loveliest lift in the world – a short film