Hiking in Piemonte, Part 1: Around Turin
- Written by Diana Zahuranec
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I once wrote that I wished Piemonte had more places to hike. I thought that it lacked a wilderness that I craved.
I was wrong.
Now that I’ve spent several years here, I’ve had time to explore the territory. And Piemonte is not lacking at all for incredible hikes, some of them less than an hour away and surrounded by plenty of mountains and forests. And, of course, vineyards.
Now I wonder if I’ll ever get to hike all the trails that I want to.
Read about my other hiking destinations in Piemonte here:
→ Hiking in Piemonte, Part 2: The Mountains and Alps
→ Hiking in Piemonte, Part 3: Vineyard Walks
Here is where I’ve been so far, written in order as they radiate out from Turin – some of these can even be done in half a day if you’re visiting the city. Note: Something I wish I’d always done is bring wine! A bottle and several plastic cups in the backpack to pair with a bag lunch is just the thing for celebrating a successful climb to the top.
1. La Superga.
The Basilica of Superga sits in a large piazza and overlooks the city of Turin for the best view around. Inside is the Royal Crypt, the final resting place of many members of the royal Savoy family, including Carlo Alberto.
Come visit this monument for those two reasons alone, and stay to explore the forest paths that venture out around the mountain. Some loop down and back in just 20-25 minutes, while others go all the way down to the city. You can take the historical rack tramway (the only one in Italy), drive up, take a bus (15, 61, or 68 in the direction of Sassi – not sure how far up it takes you) or find one of the trails that starts at the bottom (I never did that, just hiked around the top).
2. Parco della Rimembranza.
This park, also called the Parco della Maddalena, has over 220 acres of forested land and 27 miles of trails, so it falls more on the hiking side of things than a simple walk in the park. Though if you have non-hikers along, assure them that it’s easy and civilized. Good to know: there are picnic spots, so don’t forget a bag lunch and some wine!
At the top of the park is the bronze Faro della Vittoria, or Victory Torch, built in 1928 for Italy’s victory in WWI; it was relit in 2014. The view from the Superga takes the cake, but this piazza’s panorama is also beautiful.
3. Mont Musiné.
This was the most butt-kicking hike I found that’s close to Turin, and for this, plus its great view, it's very rewarding. Be warned: the first third section is so eroded from its steep grade (or from ancient Druidic rituals, according to folklore) that you will need hiking boots. The first two hikes on this list you can get away with wearing sneakers. Mont Musiné not so much. Though I say this, and I went with a friend who not only wore slippery shoes, but she had never hiked before, and she performed admirably (not without slipping though!) and had fun. Anything is possible.
At the top is a large cross that can be seen from Turin on a clear day. Here, UFO sightings have been reported since the 1970s, too.
4. Sacra di San Michele.
While Mont Musiné is rewarding because it makes you feel like a Serious Hiker, this is the trail I’ve been on more than all the others. I keep coming back to it for its surroundings, ancient history, and the prize you get at the top – Saint Michael’s Abbey. The trail starts in the small town of Sant’Ambrogio di Torino, just 20 minutes by train from Turin. In the town, you pass by a beautiful, old stone church before the road begins, turning onto a trail that begins with a very steep grade. It is inlaid with stones because it was once used by pilgrims, and later by entrepreneurial sled-pullers of lazy pilgrims, to reach the ancient abbey of Saint Michael at the top. They had to wear spiked shoes because so many feet over hundreds of years wore the stones away until they were slippery. Wear sneakers, hiking boots, or golf cleats.
The view from the trail. The mountain in the background is none other than Mont Musiné!
The Abbey at the top is incredible: literally built from and into the rock of the mountain, you ascend dangerously steep steps inside to the windswept terrace at the top. Go into the church and under a pillar at the back of the pews is the actual peak of the mountain.
Along the trail, you might see wild boars, totally unconcerned about humans watching them. Don’t get too close.
At the end of the trail, if you didn’t bring a bottle of wine with you, treat yourself to a craft beer at the Birrificio San Michele down in town, whose beers are named after characters from famous operas and whose label is adorned with a retro print of the abbey itself.
Next up: hikes in national parks and in the Alps…and roads and trails in the vineyards of wine country.
I love Piemonte’s food and wine, the city of Turin, and my proximity to the Alps! My goal and challenge is to see as much of the region as possible using public transportation, but if you have a car I’d appreciate the ride. My intro to wine was at the Univ. of Gastronomic Sciences, and I love visiting family wineries, plus discovering Piemonte's craft beer scene. I’m hard-pressed to choose a favorite wine, but Nebbiolo never disappoints (from Barbaresco to Ghemme). As for beer, the Birrificio San Michele makes an incredible beechwood smoked brew.