Alps, Arcades and Apericena: Studying in Turin

Indigo Officer

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When you think of Italy, you probably picture the sun-soaked piazze in Rome, Tuscany’s rolling hills, or the canals of Venice. One place that might not immediately spring to mind is criminally underrated Turin, Italy’s first capital city and the gateway to the Alps.  

Why Turin?

Packed full of Baroque architecture and miles of marble arcades, Turin is perhaps not stereotypically “Italian”-looking but it definitely is stunning. I originally chose it as I knew very little about it, had never been before, and wanted to be able to easily access the mountains for skiing (although this wasn’t possible in the end due to Covid). I’m so glad I did go to Turin because I never looked back. Being relatively unknown works in Turin’s favour; the fact that it’s not super touristy means you get to speak much more Italian than you might in Rome or Florence.

The university experience

Italian universities are notoriously disorganised, and UniTo is no different. The process of registering was definitely different to at Bristol – we had to organise our own timetables completely and figure out how to navigate the website/student portal with pretty much no help. Some of the information about modules also wasn’t available until the day before term was supposed to start which was pretty stressful. The Infopoint (Via Po 29) is where you have to register when you first arrive and they could also help with various questions we had about picking modules and other general admin.  

Exams were also quite scary – they’re normally oral exams and you can be asked about anything from the course. Mine were via video call as I’d returned home by the time they started in January, but I think they can be in front of the rest of your seminar group. I emailed my professors with some questions beforehand and specified that I was an Erasmus student and Italian isn’t my first language, which meant they were much more sympathetic. 

“Parco Valentino, along the River Po, is perfect for running because it’s super flat”

 It was hard to meet people at times but this was mainly due to the coronavirus restrictions. I’m told that in less strange circumstances Turin and its massive student community are very sociable, with amazing nightlife and plenty of chances to meet new people. My main tip is to make the most of every opportunity to socialise you get. Although it can be daunting, you might need to bite the bullet and make the first move; message people to see if they want to grab a coffee or a gelato. Follow the Erasmus Student Network on Facebook too for events and updates.

“Gelateria La Romana is the best place for gelato (including amazing vegan options). Enjoy it sitting on the steps of the statue in the middle of Piazza San Carlo.”

Finding accommodation

I stayed in an Airbnb in the San Salvario area because I didn’t want to book somewhere before arriving and end up getting scammed. There are loads of Facebook groups where people post spare rooms but almost all of them were looking for someone for the full year and I was only going to be there a few months – it’s definitely worth looking if you’re there for the full year though! I used HousingAnywhere to look for flats, which you can also use to privately message the landlord/agent so I was able to arrange a viewing and then sort the contract with the landlord without having to pay agency fees. Definitely make sure you view the apartment before you hand over any money.

I lived in the Vanchiglia area and couldn’t recommend it more. My flat was literally across the road from the uni (and Turin’s best sandwich shop), five minutes from the river and around the corner from all the student bars in Santa Giulia.

“Buy your fruit and veg from the markets at Via Madama Cristina or Porta Palazzo - it’s cheap, it cuts down on packaging, and it’s an easy way to get some Italian practice in.”

Highlights

My number one highlight has to be the view from Monte dei Cappuccini. It’s just across the river from the city centre and the short walk up the hill is so worth it. Going on a clear day so you can see the Alps is an absolute must. 

Apericena is also quintessentially Torinese. With the traditional aperitivo, you’re served snacks alongside your cocktails. Apericena, which originated in Turin and is served by most bars, takes this a step further – you’ll usually be given focaccia, prosciutto, a range of cheeses, crisps, and even some sandwiches with your drinks. It’s included in the price of your drink, so is ideal for when you’re a bit strapped for cash and in need of some food. 

Finally, travel! Italy has really good fast rail links that are much cheaper than trains in the UK. Before they introduced restrictions on travel between regions, I squeezed in trips to Milan, Venice, Verona and Lake Garda – all were absolutely amazing and you have to see them for yourself. It’s so easy to get to the rest of Northern Italy from Turin, plus there are direct trains to most other major cities as well.

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