PIEMONTE'S PRIDE & JOY
15.03.2013 - 17.03.2013 12 °C
A weekend in Turin. Why? I can hear you ask. Industrial, congested, characterless, accurately lampooned in "The Italian Job" (the original movie that is). Right? Nope, wrong. Since the 2006 Winter Olympics, and more recently the 150th anniversary of Italia's unification in 2011, Turin, or Torino, has had a successful facelift, and is now a bella citta well worth a visit.
Whisking the kids out of school a bit early on Friday afternoon, we rushed to catch our favoured Italotreno, which got us there in a tick over 2 hours - pretty good for a 334 kilometre trip including two stops in Milano. Our hotel accommodation was right near Porta Susa station (a spanking new station gradually replacing Porta Nuova), so the sometimes precarious initial transfer in a new city was easy on this occasion. Unpacked the bags, and then a stroll into the centro for dinner. We (I) somehow conspired to muck-up the directions to the recommended pizzeria, but we ended up at another place in town which was pumping with locals, and served up some decent Napoli-style pizza.
Saturday was a beautiful day weatherwise, and we took full advantage with a lot of walking and general sightseeing. Cappuccini and to-die-for pastries in the gorgeous Caffe Mulassano was the right start, and this fortified us for the fascinating, and extensive Museo Egizio - an amazing collection of Egyptian treasures unrivalled outside of Cairo so they say. After an unusual lunch of toasted waffles with prosciutto and cream cheese (a northern Piemonte specialty), we had a peek at Palazzo Reale and the Galleria Sabauda, which houses art collected by the Savoys; Torino's most historically important family. It was then down to the Po River via Piazza Vittorio Veneto, one of many incredibly impressive piazzas in this city. We eventually ended up in the sprawling Parco del Valentino, where the kids enjoyed a well deserved play.
Sunday was (almost literally) the polar opposite on the weather front, so we scaled back our plans and decided to cover just two major sites. Mole Antonelliana is Turin's most recognisable symbol, and extends 85 metres up - a journey that can be covered in a groovy glass lift that goes right up the middle of the building. An even bigger highlight however was the Museo Nazionale del Cinema, which is located inside the tower. It gives you a comprehensive yet fun look into the history of cinema, and is very cleverly pieced together.
We then scurried off to find a metro station as the weather deteriorated, and after a few twists & turns, ended up at the extensive Eataly supermarket. The slow food movement was started in Piemonte by some journalists that were dismayed by the encroachment of fast food into the Italian lifestyle. It didn't take long to gather momentum, and is now a very strong force for the promotion of locally grown produce, slow cooking, and slow eating! Eataly is a Turin supermarket that is closely affiliated with the movement, and supports local growers. It was an interesting place to visit - full of locals, and stacked to the gunnels with great produce. We had some enjoyable pasta for lunch, and then headed back to the hotel to pack for the train.
We all had a lovely couple of days in Torino, and Lisa and I thought it compared favourably with Bologna as a destination for people who might want to live in a non-touristic, but beautiful and significant city in Italy. And I didn't even get around to mentioning Juventus ...!