Wednesday, October 17, 2012


Stazione Porta Nuova, Torino
Torino (Turin) was a great big wonderful surprise. I had no idea I would enjoy this northern city so much! It’s elegant yet subdued, grandiose yet simple, and filled with many great museums. Torino is most often known as the home of the Shroud of Turin, the FIAT headquarters  and the city where the 2006  Winter Olympics were held. But it was also the first national capital of Italy, and is the home of some of Italy's finest universities. 

The TVG train from Paris landed me at the commuter train station, Porta Sosta, and it was a short train ride to the other side of town and Porta Nuova. My hotel was a few city blocks from the station, and turned out to be more elegant and cheaper than the hotel I’d stayed in my last night in Paris. The only complaint I had was that the wifi cost 4 euros to use, and in protest, I decided to do without the internet for my one-night stay.

Piazza San Carlo
I’d arrived at the hotel about 5 p.m., and shortly after getting checked in, I took off to explore the city. My hotel was near the central district, and people were already getting out for the evening passeggiata. I stopped into the Tourist Information center to find out when some of the museums opened in the morning. I would only be in Turin until 2 p.m. the next day, so I was limited as to what I could take in during the short time I would be there. I was encouraged to visit the Museo Egizio (Egyptian Museum), as it’s the second best museum of its kind in the world, only bested by the one in Cairo. Since it opened at 8:30 a.m., I decided to put that first on my list of things to do. 

Palazzo Madama
After walking around for several hours, I bought a slice of Ligurian style pizza, and headed back to the hotel.  I was beat after the long train ride from Paris and walking around for several hours once I’d arrived in Torino.

Casaforte degli Acaja, the back of Palazzo Madama
 The next morning, I was up early, took advantage of the hotel’s sumptuous and generous breakfast spread (no such thing at the hotel in Paris!), and headed for the Museo Egizio.  On the way there, I saw something very interesting in one of the piazzas. A well-dressed young man was getting up from a bed he’d made on one of the benches in the piazza. He had a sleeping bag, sheets and a pillow. He folded everything up, packed it into a plastic bag, and stashed the bag behind a pillar in the piazza. Then he walked across the piazza and entered the public library, as if he were going to work there. Or perhaps it was a place he could freshen up. However, I got the definite idea that he was on his way to work. I didn’t stick around to see if he came back out of the library, but I sure wondered about him that day. 

Stashing a  bed behind the pillar
I was one of the first to be at the Museum when it opened. Another surprise: this museum has some really cool stuff in it! I had been to an Egyptian exhibit at the Nelson Art Gallery in the late 90’s, one that made stops around the world, and remember how pristine the artifacts were: so much gold and other accoutrements of the wealthy from their tombs. 

An Egyptian sarcophagus
In contrast, the Museo Egizio centers around artifacts from the tomb of a couple who were not of the elite class, so one gets a different view of how their tombs were decorated to prepare them well for the afterlife. 

Shoes of various types found in the tombs.
A family sculpture
The museum itself is dated, and most of the displays have only Italian descriptions, but a new museum is being built that will put a shine on this unusual display of Egyptian artifacts.

Mole Antonelliana
After the museum, I headed over the Mole Antonelliana, which is the highest point in the city, and I have a thing for panoramic views from high towers. Fortunately, this one had an elevator, and we were whisked up to the top of the building in a few minutes. On a clear day, one can see mountains in every direction. But the sky was hazy that day, so we had to settle for a great view of the city itself.

View of Torino from the Mole tower
The Mole building is also famous for is National Museum of the Cinema, which looked VERY impressive and extensive. It is the tallest museum in the world. But I was running out of time by then, and had to pass on the museum, which could easily take several hours to view. 

Piazza Castello
Instead, on the way back to the hotel, I stopped in for a quick lunch at an outdoor café. I chose a good one, as it soon filled up with locals on their lunch hour, always a good sign. I ordered agnolotti piemontesi con ragú di carne (agnolotti with meat sauce), which was delicious! Agnolotti is a square-shaped ravioli-type pasta, made in the Piedmont region of Italy, with a roast beef meat and vegetable stuffing. I also had verdure grigliate or grilled vegetables (eggplant, peppers, zucchini) which were tasty, too. Torino made a great impression in a short time, and it is definitely a city I would enjoy exploring during a longer stay. 

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