Turin … Sassi, Sexy and Super(ga). Travelling in style around the romantic Piedmont capital without breaking the bank

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.

A thing of beauty. One of Turin's many delightful old style trams with the Gran Madre di Dio in the background (contented sigh)

A thing of beauty. One of Turin’s many delightful old style trams with the Gran Madre di Dio in the background (contented sigh)

A typical Turinese tram interior. Simply charming (and clean!)

A typical Turinese tram interior. Simply charming (and clean!)

Such a simple yet elegant design but sadly doesn't swivel even though it looks like it should (I tried several of them out to no avail)

Such a simple yet elegant design but sadly doesn’t swivel even though it looks like it should (I tried several of them out to no avail)

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.

Sassi station, one of the most endearing stations I have ever come across on my travels

Sassi station, one of the most endearing stations I have ever come across on my travels

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 start and end of the line. The Basilica di Superga in the distance

The start and end of the line. The Basilica di Superga in the distance

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.

A display funicular carriage on the neighbouring platform to whet passengers' appetites

A display funicular carriage on the neighbouring platform to whet passengers’ appetites

...

Sun-bleached photos of the original funicular on display outside Sassi station

Sun-bleached photos of the original funicular on display outside Sassi station

The quaint entrance to Sassi station and museum

The quaint entrance to Sassi station and museum

Celebrating the station's history in the restaurant with memorabilia adorning the walls and one of the original horse-drawn carriages between tables

Celebrating the station’s history in the restaurant with memorabilia adorning the walls and one of the original horse-drawn carriages between tables

Personally, I'd rather not have a horse's bottom in my face whilst sitting for dinner here, even if it is a false horse's bottom

Personally, I’d rather not have a horse’s bottom in my face whilst sitting for dinner here, even if it is a false horse’s bottom

Close to the top of the hour I wandered out onto the platform to see the funicular arrive.

Waiting in anticipation

Waiting in anticipation

The funicular coming into the platform

The funicular coming into the platform

Absolutely beautiful (by the way there were passengers and a driver on board on arrival. I waited until they had disembarked to take this shot)

Absolutely beautiful (by the way there were passengers and a driver on board on arrival. I waited until they had disembarked to take this shot)

...

The charming interior of the funicular carriage

The charming interior of the funicular carriage

Original features inside the driver's carriage, more decorative than operational now. The less than romantic looking electric lever that does operate the carriage is deliberately not in shot

Original features inside the driver’s carriage, more decorative than operational now. The less than romantic looking electric lever that does operate the carriage is deliberately not in shot

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.

Along the final stretch of the journey up the hill the gradient can be as much as 21%

Along the final stretch of the journey up the hill the gradient can be as much as 21%

On arrival at Superga, a short albeit steep walk from the station soon proves to have been worth all the effort.

The gorgeous Basilica di Superga

The gorgeous Basilica di Superga

One cannot appreciate its colossal size until one is right up to it

One cannot appreciate its colossal size until one is right up to it

...

...

Huge columns seen from the entrance to the basilica

Huge columns seen from the entrance to the basilica

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 stunning altar and interior of the Basilica di Superga

The stunning altar and interior of the Basilica di Superga

...

Looking up at the dome

Looking up at the dome

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.

The view through the Superga trees

The view through the Superga trees

Turin and the Alps beyond

Turin and the Alps beyond

The River Po

The River Po

The Mole Antonelliana to the right of the River Po, and the white domed roof of the Chiesa di Gran Madre di Dio to the left of it

The Mole Antonelliana to the right of the River Po, and the white domed roof of the Chiesa di Gran Madre di Dio to the left of it

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.

TLT x


... but to see the Mole Antonelliana in its entirety one has to go to the steps of the building and strain one's neck looking up at it. It is almost impossible to capture the whole building in a photograph even at such close proximity due to its vastness and how close other buildings are to it

The stunning Mole Antonelliana – the symbol of Turin


Lisbon trams, Lisbon funiculars parked up at night - do Lavra (1)funiculars and possibly the loveliest lift in the world – a short film


This entry was posted in Italy, Turin. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *