What if you got the chance to do the medieval period over? The Piemonte city of Torino did just that.
The Borgo medievale con Rocca, that is the medieval village with small castle, was built on the left bank of the Po river in the Parco del Valentino by a group of intellectuals and artists for dell’Esposizione Generale Italiana di Torino del 1884. It was to be a typical village as you might find in Piemonte in the 13th century.
Here it is as you walk down the deserted streets in fall:
It is a fabulous fake, as you can see. But the nice thing about fakes is that you can wipe out all the intervening years and subsequent “improvements” and start again with “real” medieval architecture in an environment without modern things like cars and dish antennas. Then, as time goes on the village lives and ages in the real world as a “younger” version of itself.
The world doesn’t have to be kind to the youngster, of course. There are no rules for this sort of time shaping. In this case our medieval masterpiece was shaken and shattered by an RAF night bombing on the eighth of November in 1942. They’ve managed to put the borgo together again, so don’t worry, you can visit it. And should.
The medieval village is set in a park that is the most popular in Torino—amongst locals. The Parco del Valentino was opened by the city of Turin in 1856. It was Italy’s first public garden.
Surrounding the medieval village is a wonderful garden, Giardino Roccioso, which is particularly colorful in fall.
Heading east from the village you’ll pass the Castello del Valentino, a royal residence of the House of Savoy and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Behind the castle the is the Orto Botanico (Botanical Garden), opened in 1729, with an orangery, heated greenhouse and herb museum with a collection of over 4,000 species of local flora and medicinal herbs. The Boschetto (grove) of exotic species dates back to 1830-40.
Continuing east, you’ll hit another green area marked by the Fontana Luminosa, a fountain whose spray changes color with illumination at night. The area includes bars and cafes which make it a favorite evening area.
The park also has represented the fast part of Italy’s motor city. Between 1935 and 1955 some major auto races were held on the paved streets of the park. The 1935 Gran Premio del Valentino was won by Tazio Nuvolari, the Flying Mantuan. The 1948 Italian Gran Prix was held here as well, won by Peiro Dusio.
To this day the Parco del Valentino hosts the yearly open air car show called the Salone dell’Auto Torino in March.
When you’re ready for a river, trees and gardens, royal palaces and more in a compact area, head for the Parco del Valentino on the left bank of the Po.
You can download a printable pdf map of Parco del Valentino here
Where to Stay
If you’d like to stay in a place of automotive history, you might choose the NH Torino Lingotto Congress. There’s a racetrack on top, left over from the Fiat factory days.
To stay closer to the Parco del Valentino, the Madama Cristina Bed & Breakfast gets exceptional reviews.