Turin’s most unique building was once the tallest in Europe. Building started in 1863 on what was originally meant to be a synagogue; later, city fathers decided to make it a monument to Italian unification (at the time, Italy was ruled by the House of Savoy from its power base in Turin). Set on a squat brick base, the Mole rises through layers of windows and pseudo-Greek columns to a huge ribbed cupola and needlelike spire, all of it looming 167m (548 ft.) above the streets. It is now home to Italy’s National Film Museum.

 

Over the years, the film museum’s exhibits have been updated with interactive displays, mobile tagging, digital captions, and augmented-reality features, with buttons to push and hands-on activities to keep kids happy. The first galleries track the intriguing development of moving pictures, from shadow puppets to risqué peep shows and flickering images of galloping horses filmed by Eadweard Muybridge in 1878. Displays use clips, stills, posters, and props to illustrate aspects of movie production, from "The Empire Strikes Back" storyboards to the creepy steady-cam work in "The Shining."

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A major highlight of a visit includes a panoramic elevator ride through the roof of the museum’s vast atrium and up 85m (279 ft.) inside the tower to the 360-degree observation platform at the top. The view of Turin and the surrounding countryside, backed by the Alps, is stunning. Note: You can choose to bypass the museum and only do the panoramic elevator for a cost of 7€ (5€ if you have the Torino+Piemonte card). Lines form on weekends, so try to come early if you can.