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The Italian city that was once capital of the realm is still considered a capital of cars, cinema and chocolate, though it may be terra incognita for most visitors to Italy. But as we discovered during a recent trip, once you unshroud Turin, you will find a never-ending supply of things to do…and foods to eat.

If Turin (or Torino, as they call it locally) seems rather French, it’s not a coincidence. The city (and the country prior to 1946) was ruled by the Savoy dynasty, which also had lands in bordering France (and Switzerland).  Still, while much of the architecture is French in nature, the savoir faire of the city is all Italian. Here are some ideas for things to see and do.

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Mole Antonelliana

Artful cinema

A building designed as a synagogue in the 1860s is now a temple for cinephiles. Plan to spend hours at the National Museum of Cinema, a chic interactive homage to moviedom. Watch film clips and plunk yourself down on a red chaise lounge to view spectral images above. Also be sure to take a gander at original costumes, scripts and other memorabilia, all displayed with distinctive flair.

Once in the museum, don’t miss the Cupola Ascent. Go up the elevator to take in panoramic vistas of the city and the surrounding Alps (remember, Turin was home to the 2006 Winter Olympics). If you want the view without going to the museum, separate entry is available.

Palazzo Reale | Flickr CC: Almusaiti

Stunning antiquities

Turin’s other big internationally-renowned collection is in the Egyptian Museum. Dating back to 1824, it’s the largest Egyptian repository outside of Cairo.

Palazzo Reale served as home to the House of Savoy for many years. The elegance of the 17th century is reflected in the palace’s richly decorated rooms. A tour ticket includes admission to the Royal Armory, Archaeological Museum and Galleria Sabauda, containing the royal art collection of the Savoys.

National Museum of the Automobile | Flickr CC: Karen Roe

Cool cars

The National Museum of the Automobile is a rollercoaster ride through the history of car-making. There are plenty of cool cars here—including racing wheels and some of the earliest Italian models, including a Bernardi from 1896 and a Fiat from 1899, which was the Turin-based company’s first year in business.

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Shroud of Turin | Flickr CC: John Mosbaugh

That shroud

The thing for which Turin is best known can’t usually be seen. Few visitors get to be material witnesses to the Shroud of Turin, a linen cloth believed to be the burial cloth of Jesus that features what appears to be his face. The shroud is located at the Cattedrale di Torino and though the actual shroud is rarely displayed, visitors do get to see a facsimile. Plus, the Cathedral itself is worth a visit, as it’s a classic example of Renaissance-era architecture.

Bicerin | Photo courtesy of Laura Powell

Chocolate Tourin’

Turin has been the Italian chocolate capital since 1678 and the city is still chocolate central. Your chocolate tour should include a taste of Giandujotto, the local specialty flavored with Piemonte hazelnuts (think Nutella on steroids). Among the best places to buy it are Stratta, Gertosio, Odilla and Candifrutto.

Another chocolate specialty of Turin is bicerin. The decadent drink combines layers of coffee, thick melted chocolate and milk. The best place to indulge is the cozy Caffè Al Bicerin, a place that’s been managed by women since it opened in 1763.

Eataly | Flickr CC: Jared Eberhardt

Market eats

One other must-see for foodies: The world’s very first Eataly, a sprawling marketplace and food hall dedicated to Italian cooking and dining traditions. The easiest way to get there is via Metro. Get off at Lingotto Station.

If you plan on being in the city for more than a day, get the Torino + Piemonte Card. It offers free admission to more than 100 museums, fortresses and royal residences throughout the Piedmont region.

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Tagged: Europe

Laura Powell

Laura Powell

Laura is a 20-year veteran travel journalist. She was CNN's first travel reporter, and has written for publications ranging from Alaska Airlines Magazine to The Washington Post. Find her at the www.dailysuitcase.com or on Twitter: @dailysuitcase

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