The 2006 Winter Olympics were held in Turin –??? “Might have been your first clue, Lisa, with regards to climate.” People dressed in full length down filled coats might have been another CLUE…not to mention the kids getting on the train with snowboards…oh, and , THOSE are the ALPS in the background there…. Trenitalia rumbled thru tunnels, snow-covered valleys, stopped at every little village ever known to mankind, and arrived in Turin, northern Italy which happened to be snow-free – THANK YOU!!! But, it was a bit on the chilly side!
I am sure that I received the attic room that was occupied by either the red hair stepchild or the newest-country-maid in a semi renovated old house turned hotel, in Turin. A single twin bed for an anorexic adolescent did not factor into the equation which ended in the sum of “good night’s sleep”. The receptionist, imagine “female hunchback of Notre Dame”, an elevator that must have been the first prototype for Mr. Otis Elevator’s company, and a staircase with thread bare red carpet contributed to the eeriness of the 5 story building. The good part was fan-tab-u-lous morning cappuccino served by a little Italian man who always smiled, but never spoke! All that aside, though, Turin was awesome. And, the hotel was conveniently located….
Many many museums of every size, shape and content – The Egyptian Museum with one of the finest collections of Egyptian artifacts in Europe(Italian explorer brought massive amounts back in 1904 +/- a few years!), the 2nd floor of the Egyptian Museum housed a collection of Flemish and Italian paintings (didn’t quite get the connection there..but..), the Turin Mountain Climbing Museum hosted by same club(not ALOT of visitors at that one, but great building and interesting history of mountain climbing gear), Oriental Art Museum w/an amazing collection of fabrics/ceramics and Hiroshige drawings, and the Resistance Movement Museum were checked off the list. The remaining 190 museums ranging from Contemporary Art Museum to the History of Plaster(!) to Museum of Criminal Anthropology to the Bottle Cap Museum(!!!) were left to another time.
And…you know…the norm…. huge churches, buildings, great antique stores, designer clothes’ stores, trattorias, pizza, espresso, chocolate, original L’Oreal building, Po River — I hate to say this, but after a while, at least for me, here in Italy, it is like anything after 1750 — “you are so-o-o-o the new kid on the block”!!!
Hop On Hop Off Bus provided a quick city tour through the hills where the “high society” lived in their villas/homes and many are still in the family and well maintained.
Chocolate/Martini & Rossi/ Vodka/ pastries, and focaccia — huge items here — Bottom line: Turin, I would come back in a heartbeat, hike in the mountains, rent a car and tour the country sides and see all the castles that open from mid April to mid October. Great feel to the city — bicyclists, joggers, furs and hiking shoes..
On to Parma — well, let’s just start with the food — cut to the chase here — freshly made ravioli stuffed w/swiss chard and parmesan cheese in olive oil and butter sauce, followed by suckling pig cooked in calvados apple liqueur w/sliced apples, followed by creme caramel w/eau de violet and cappuccino.. I eat one meal a day – lunch at 1:00pm – so I will not be charged extra baggage weight if I ever board an airplane again. I am not kidding you — these people live for food. I know I am doing something wrong when I order my lunch. Why? Because, it takes me about 30 seconds — one reason is I have no idea what I am ordering because it is in Italian. Two, I pick something from the 1st course and the 2nd course that I have not had before. Three, I usually point with my index finger to the item, smile, waiter smiles and that’s the extent of the conversation. But when the Italians order, it is a full-blown conversation. Do they talk about where the cheese comes from, the age of the meat, the type of sauce, how it is prepared???? — I don’t know, but it takes them 5 – 10 minutes of animated discussion w/the waiter — so — obviously, I am NOT in the know here.
Parmesan cheese and other cheeses… essence of violet for perfumes and cooking oils…dairy farms for the cows that produce this cheese… a university town with ongoing symphonies, plays, musicals etc.. and shopping Oh, that is the other thing, besides eating, Italians love to shop — again, fabulous shops w/just coffee machines or just chocolate or just pens, pencils and rulers(??-that was a new one!)… and of course, the church– taken me a while to fully comprehend the magnitude of the Catholic Church until I came to Italy — I don’t know how long it took to build some of these, but to think of workers just doing frescoes, or wood work or marble or tile or mosaic flooring…. it is truly mind boggling… as one person said “Italy is one big national treasure.” … so true.
Took a day trip to Modena — balsamic vinegar fame — forget that generic “balsamic vinegar” from Safeway or Smith’s — never again — 150€ for a bottle – stores upon stores selling every type of vinegar. The city had an old feel about it — and wasn’t “white-washed” shall we say, for lack of a better word. Seemed to be a bit slow on the “welcoming the tourist trade” — few tourist signs. It is great to go into some of these places, sit and watch the world go by in a slower fashion than what I am accustomed to in the US. I was so lucky though, because a church that was built in 1100 was open ( only open a few days a years) and inside were these amazing terra-cotta figures of Christ, Joseph & Mary and a few apostles around him — couldn’t take a photo but — did get a photo of this carved wooden Virgin Mary — truly something to behold…
I am beginning to see people on tours — how does one see Europe in 21 days? How do you spell E-X-H-A-U-S-T-I-N-G..?
On to Bologna…
Take good care,