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Things They Don’t Tell You About Turin, Italy

Thursday, April 9th, 2009

Merda Rosa Sculpture

Myriad travel resources will tell you that Turin houses one of the best cinema collections, and the world’s second finest Egyptian museum; that it’s the birthplace of solid chocolate, and home to international megacompanies Nutella, Fiat, and Martini. Her porticoes are charming, her historical monuments are noble, and her post-Olympic celebrity status continues to nudge Italy’s former capital city out of obscurity and into the spotlight as a quickly evolving European destination. Yet every city has its quirks, few of which ever make it into publication: poop on the sidewalks, unruly drivers, uncomfortable bathrooms. I am in no way out to discourage the people of the world from coming to visit this fine city, but I do want to give them a few hints about what lies behind the picture perfect postcard view of Turin.

1. Look out for Italian drivers!

It’s a great city for walking, but look out for Italian drivers! Though local Piemontese are quick to say “It’s much worse in the South,” I have stopped listening to my iPod when I take to the sidewalks as crossing the streets safely takes my full, undivided attention. Main two-way thoroughfares are flanked by hazardous exterior turning lanes, in which drivers regularly disregard the stop signs and red lights despite the presence of mothers pushing baby strollers or elderly couples waiting patiently on the curb. “Pedestrian right of way” seems to be a thing of fairy tales (and my Northern Californian home). In sum, do not assume the driver will stop.

2. Watch out for dog poop!

In addition to a steady left-to-right scan, glance down once in awhile to avoid the daily collection of feces left behind by local dog owners. One lovely feature of Italian culture is the small talk that usually pops up between strangers, often in the form of complaining; I’ve found that a popular topic – after the long winter, the economic crisis, and Barrack Obama – is the widespread problem of dog poop on the sidewalks. Photograph: a local artist from the San Salvario district, just south of the center, created a satirical sculpture installation titled “Merda Rosa (Pink Shit)” in response to the lack of municipal attention to this visual and olfactory offense. The lack of grassy lawns makes it extra hard to clean a mucky shoe, so take care to sidestep the little piles.

3. Be careful of bike thieves and pickpockets!

As in any urban area, people will try to steal your wallet. Keep your wallet deep in your purse/bag, keep your purse/bag securely closed, and be sure to monitor it with added caution when taking public buses. Just last week my wallet was stolen directly out of my purse while my attention was elsewhere, and in the following days I was surprised to learn that most every local I talked to about the unfortunate incident had had their own wallet stolen at one time or another. So, this is not a warning for tourists only!

They will also try to steal your bike. The owner of a florist shop near Porta Nuova train station told me that she has had six bikes stolen in the past five years, from right outside of her shop! If you want to explore Turin by bike (a fantastic option when the weather allows it, especially if one takes the paths along the River Po), be sure to lock it every time.

4. How to survive public restrooms

Other small, unexpected difficulties can arise from the strange layout of public bathrooms, how to properly open front doors, and the appropriate way to break a large banknote. As many public restrooms consist only of a porcelain hole in the ground over which the desperate must uncomfortably squat, and more often than not lack a hook for one’s jacket and/or handbag, I recommend enlisting the help of a friend to take turns holding one another’s belongings. Doors into shops and residential buildings are often latched, and must be opened by was of a doorbell-like buzzer. Look for the word suonare (ring). Lastly, the best place to break a large bill into smaller change without fear of inconveniencing cashiers is in one of the tobacco shops that can be found within three blocks of practically anywhere, as they are properly equipped with lots of change.

Someone once said that true love doesn’t mean loving someone despite their faults, but because of them. One could say that these cultural idiosyncracies don’t diminish, but enhance Turin’s charm. Come, and see for yourself!

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About the author

Venere Travel Blog writer lauren aczon

Born and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area, Lauren Aczon is an American girl living in Turin, Italy. She just received an English undergraduate degree from Colorado College (Colorado Springs) in May, and takes great pride in the fact that her first steps into the so-called Real Postgraduate World have included lots of gelato, train rides, British novels and awkward conversations in broken Italian.

7 responses to “Things They Don’t Tell You About Turin, Italy”

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  1. Mike Coyle says:
    April 15th, 2009 at 14:49

    I think the problems you highlight are not only for Turin but Italy in general.
    I live in Turin and it is a beautiful city, with problems too, as above plus more. I find the people are quite snobbish in general, more than in other cities. Just watch the rich ladies window shopping with their noses in the air. And the road layout is a nightmare. I hate driving around the city, I always end up in the wrong lane!
    It is useful to warn tourists about problems, no point having a perfect picture of everything.
    But Turin is amazing, so people should come and visit. My parents rated it as the best place they visited (equal with Rome) on their tour of Italy.

  2. John Coyle says:
    April 15th, 2009 at 15:17

    My wife and I love to visit Turin. It is a beautiful city, and just the right size – not too large. Can’t say that we noticed the “dog poop” but we shall keep an eye out for it in future. Good selection of hotels at reasonable prices. I find there are good usually deals on offer through

  3. Scott Thomson says:
    February 27th, 2011 at 01:51

    Lauren – I’m a CC graduate as well – glad to run into other CCers out in the world doing interesting things. Our family is moving to Torino this summer and will be there for the next 5 years. If you’re still living in Torino, we’d love to connect with you and glean some of your insights.

  4. Richard Marques says:
    February 21st, 2012 at 02:31

    Hi, Richard Here.
    I believe to have some answers on the Poo Problem.
    I Currently have a world wide service catering to the Poo industry.

    I firmly believe we can not only solve this problem, but also create some additional jobs/employment.

    Note: We have taken poo collection to a new level.
    Contact me so we can discuss this matter.

    Warm Regards, Richard

  5. Richard Marques says:
    September 18th, 2012 at 15:40

    Are you interested in solving this Poo Problem?

    We have spent the last year proving that we can solve this age old problem…

    Would enjoy interested responce…


  6. Rob says:
    April 19th, 2015 at 11:15

    Well, i live in Turin and I don’t think is beautiful, although it has potential. Things to take into consideration before you come and visit Turin.

    Its very dirty, you will find more than poo on the streets unfortunately…
    There’s no gardeners, every piece of grass you see in the city looks abandon even in the nice areas/ parks etc with a couple of exceptions( yes only a couple, very sad)
    There is an infestation of mosquitos, because the government doesn’t want to invest in disinfestation procedures. Most of them are mosquito tigers…
    The roads are a mess, full of holes and it feels like there has been an earthquake.
    People are so snobby, they can’t find faul in their city…but will find fault in you…
    The main tourist atracctions are not Italian( egyptian museum, cinema museum )
    My advice? Go to Milan instead it is the biggest and better version.

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