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New Newport News News: Torino edition

 
Torino is also called Turin. If everyone in Europe would just learn English and settle down with one spelling for places, life would be easier for them. Several locals I talked to thought so too.
Next morning we packed to leave Genova. We have new large suitcases, since the airlines have changed the rules about how many bags you can bring. They are nice, with wheels, but quite tall and more awkward to carry. Consequently, when we found the gorgeous wrought iron elevator acting up, we were reluctant to bump down the stairs [though we were only on the 2nd floor]. Ron did so, however, and was gallantly coming back to get mine, when the manager said there was nothing wrong with the elevator and brought it up to get me. Thus loaded, the little conveyance stopped stubbornly between floors and the manager began to fret. I told him everything would be ok / calm down / no worries. I was concerned for his well-being. Happily, after a lot of button punching and sotte vocce Italian encouragement, it brought us to the 1st floor. Of course, then we had to bump the suitcases down the flight of steps out front to the sidewalk.
Not daunted, we walked over to the train station, past the column commemorating Genova native Columbus [portrayed wearing rather fetching tights]. Ron had arranged our train tickets online, so we had reserved seats, which was well indeed as many people had the week off for Easter and were heading out of town.
The train tracks stitch through the mountains for a total of 22 tunnels in the first hour of travel. The second hour revealed a California landscape of hills, gullies, dry streams that run wild in the spring. Small farms cling to the hill sides and every flat place has a factory. When we gained the top of the plateau, we saw vast fields protected by straight groves of trees. We saw a flock of sheep beneath one grove, apparently keeping undergrowth down. The groves did not seem to be fruit bearing, so we came to believe there must be a prevailing wind down from the Alps that is a threat to crops. Crops included silage and vines. Couldn’t tell much more since we think we were going more than 100 mph.
The ride took only a couple of hours, so we arrived ready to take Torino by the horns. [yes, bad pun; Torino is “little bull”]. We detrained at Puorto Nuovo, the newest of Tornino’s train stations, where we found a convenient grocery store for Coke Zero and discovered a Pylones [www.pylones.com] which we first encountered in Paris several years ago. I was the soul of restraint, though it was hard for me.
We took a taxi to Le Petit Hotel [why French, I wonder?] where we took a restorative nap. Our room opened onto an interior courtyard with wrought iron walkways around each floor. I kept waiting for Shakespeare’s company to show up to give a performance, as this inn design was the inspiration of the Globe Theater.
We strolled across scenic piazzas to arrive at the Museo Egizio di Torino = Egyptian Museum. I had read that Torino had the largest collection of artifacts outside Egypt. Many of the early archaeologist / plunderers of Egypt were Italians and the rich families of Torino, seat of the Savoy dynasty of Liguria, were ready buyers.
The complete, unrobbed tomb of Kha and his wife Merit was the stunning highlight of the exhibit and they wisely saved best to last. We greatly enjoyed the other exhibits which included everything from gold jewelry to sewing thread; from nesting [like Russian dolls] sarcophagi to a dramatically lit chamber of statues. But our jaws literally dropped to see the treasures of Kha, all the more so since he was an engineer type of the middling class. He took to his tomb a wonderful array of things beloved in life to rich gifts too good to use in life. His furniture, golden cubit stick the pharaoh gave him, his day-to-day cubit stick—wonderful things to paraphrase Howard Carter upon opening Tut’s tomb. Merit predeceased her husband and was apparently buried in the coffin meant for him, repainted with her name. She took her magnificent human-hair wig in its box and her make-up and beauty potions with her.
One last treat awaited us, some 6000 year old artifacts. Naqqada is the term used to classify pre-dynastic Egyptian goods and Torino had the finest of these we’ve seen. These people buried their dead in the flexed position in the hot dry sands where they were naturally mummified. One complete burial was displayed; its occupant nicely dried and surrounded by his weapons and food pots. Statuary and pottery were displayed nearby.
Leaving the museum with a replica Merit make-up pot and a book of photos of Kha’s goods, we walked over to Via Garibaldi to shop. This street turned out to be the outdoor equivalent of a US shopping mall, with clothes, jewelry, shoes, food and t-shirts all aimed at a teen crowd. We had Coke Zeros and some veggie chips, crowd watching and resting.
We walked back to our hotel and changed to go out for a really nice dinner. Ron had researched several places online. We had scoped out one on our walk earlier and found the menu didn’t list any prices. Since we had to ask, we knew we couldn’t afford it. So we chose the Ristoante Sofferino, rated #3 in Tornino.
Try though we might, we were always a bit early for 8 pm dinner. We sat outside at the bistro table patiently waiting, when a waitress popped out with a glass of pink champagne!
Italian restaurants typically offer meals in 3 courses, with an option of dessert. Roughly equivalent to salad or soup, pasta dish, then entrée, each is served alone. In other words, your entrée doesn’t come with veg on the side. Italian cooking is delightful and varied, with the best bread on the planet. Portions are small enough that you don’t get stuffed. And we saw very very few fat Italians.
We slept with our gallery door open to the soft night air, troubled only by a occasional pounding, which Ron decided it was the chef in the restaurant adjacent preparing dough for fresh pizza.
Next morning we hoofed it over to the Galleria Sabauda, repository of the art treasures of the Savoy family, including the first 2 kings of the united Italy. It is a wonderful if eclectic collection, annoying only because they would not allow any photos, but neither did they sell a guidebook or even postcards. :-p
After a caffe lunch of Coke Light and grilled veg on foccacia, we strolled through the huge royal piazza to the Duomo, where the Shroud of Turin is kept. You cannot see the shroud, or even the box it is in, but a vast marble tomb for it. I was glad to see the suggested prayers told God that we use the occasion of the shroud to thank Him for his Son’s sacrifice, rather than making any assumptions. The Duomo is a wedding cake of a Baroque church, with no surface unembellished and no color left unused. It was built on the demolished older church when the Bishop decided that some more MORE was needed. Outside is the old campanile tower and the remains of a wheel-of-fortune [refers to the unpredictability of life, not the TV show] mosaic floor from the previous church, recently unearthed and covered with a glass pyramid.
Crossing the piazza in front of the Duomo, and the trolley tracks, we made our way to the 1st century Roman gate. Nearby, an incongruous statue of Augustus Caesar helpfully pointed out the police station, turning away from the Roman wall.
As I write this, I marvel at how much walking we did in Torino. The old town is not very large, but from the Roman gate, we retraced our steps through the royal piazza where we met a hurdy-gurdy man. He asked me if I like Italian music. “No,” I admitted, “but my brother does.”
“Here’s one for your brother,” he said. He took a stack of punch cards from a box and fed them into the machine, where it played, like a player-piano. These punch cards are identical to the cards used in jacquard weaving—and in the computers we used in the early 1970s.
On to the Piazza di Republica, where there is a large street market of meat, veg and flowers. Everyone was packing up and hosing the place down, so we continued on, after locating the laundromat we needed. We then walked over to the Mole [MOE-lay], which is 548 ugly feet tall. We were not inspired to go in, so we have some more time in the day and decided to go down to the river and walk.
The Po River runs roughly west to east from the Alps to the Adriatic Sea. It must be most impressive during the spring thaw, but it has been tamed by embankments and escarpments. We tasted the waters [as is our custom] and rested while watching the men secure their boats to the dock.
Working our way back to the hotel, we stopped for Coke Zeros—Pepsi has only a tiny market share in Europe. I’m going to leave out all the times we “stopped for Coke Zeros”.
We strolled through several very narrow streets, all called Il Mercante [“the stores”] off of Via Garibaldi. We located Pepito’s [“little Joe’s”], one of Ron’s chosen-off-the-Internet places. This time we arrived only 10 mins early. This time we sat at an outdoor table, made hazardous only by the proximity of the rear-view mirrors of cars driving past. The food was delicious; we are now quite fond of Mediterranean cooking and I have tried out a few new things in my own kitchen.
Through the course of our meal, we taught our waitress such Southern-isms as “mighty fine” and “sur e‘nuf.” We overheard her inside teaching the phrases to her co-workers. Now if we can just get the rest of Europe educated…..


N4 38 Torino edition
[2011] for photos, visit
www.bucklesfamily.net

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