A snapshot of sustainability in Torino
Thanks to RyanAir’s regular flash sales we ended up in Turin for a glorious long weekend this October.
To my surprise, it wasn’t the cold and blustery Winter Olympic city I was expecting, where I needed to wear thick fluffy coats and oversized scarves – I wore a denim mini skirt, and even a crop top one day! That, I tell you, is climate change.
We went to Turin with very few expectations other than it being Italy. We made a few notes about some sightseeing spots and the best places to eat (thanks, Oddur Thorison of Conde Nast) but besides that we were ready to do our usual – make rough plans, but focus on immersing ourselves in the lifestyle of the city.
As it turns out, unless you want to go to every museum or stand and crane your neck at every historic building (I totally did this at all the architecture anyway) then there’s not an enormous amount to do. Turin is known as the home of the FIAT far better than it’s role in history for being home to the Savoy royalty yet there are still many of the typical Italian quirks that we expect: lunch at 3pm – always with wine, street cafes buzzing until long after dark, pizza and pasta everywhere and a noticeable sense of style in everyone.
However, aside from the typical Italian and typical industrial traits of the city I noticed a few very obvious signs of sustainability too:
1. ECO BUSES & TOURS
Turin has an astonishing number of cars. I’m not sure if this is because I am spoiled by the amazing public transport in London or whether I was expecting less cars because I was on holiday, but the roads in Turin are constantly busy and the fuggy air over every part of the city, apart from the riverbank parks, is noticeable even to an air-pollution-immune Londoner like me. However, almost as if to counteract the cars there are Boris bike style stations dotted all over the city and lots of the city-wide buses are labelled as eco-buses. In fact, should you visit Turin yourself and choose to take a guided city tour, the open-sided bus that trundles you around the city is an “eco-bus” that runs solely on electric power. A 100% eco-friendly way to see the sights of the city.
2. CAR SHARING & ELECTRIC CARS
Everywhere we walked, which was circa. 15km a day, there are Car Sharing stations, car parks and meeting points specifically for people to car-share. Being British, sharing any kind of public space with other people tends to be a nationwide issue, never mind sharing a space as personal as your car, yet in Turin the typical friendly nature of European people is prevalent. It seems, that for a city the size of Turin (one you can walk across within an hour) a lot of people are willing to share their space, resulting in around 100 car-sharing parking spots across the city. In addition to reducing emissions by car sharing, all of the cars available to hire for sharing are also electric so we also saw lots of charging stations for both car-sharers and owners of electric vehicles. Good work Torino!
3. ORGANIC SHOPS
This one was by far my favourite sustainability spot of the week. Turin’s main streets are like British high streets used to be about 15 years ago: full of brightly lit shops with people milling in and out constantly. Amongst the Calzedonias, Pimkies, Zaras and Ferregamos there are LOADS of organic shops – from food to make-up, selling herbal remedies, natural beauty products and organic and ethically sourced produce. Off the main street we also found lots of vegetarian and vegan cafes and restaurants AND an extensive range of ethical and eco products available in the supermarkets, no matter their size!
So from the outside, although this city appears to be a fairly large, busy, polluting giant just like many others across Europe, there are many treasures to be found for the environmentally and ethically conscious, even simply starting with spending some time in the beautiful green Parco del Valentino in the centre of the city.
I must also add a little side note here, I cannot recommend enough the food in Turin, if you hit the right places (Fratelli de Bufala) you’re in Italian culinary heaven and it’s worth taking a trip just for second breakfast and divine pasta!