Translated from Italian, “dolce fare niente” means “the sweetness of doing nothing.” And that, ladies and gents, is exactly what I’ve been experiencing in a “tiny little” Italian town named Turin. If that doesn’t sound familiar to you, think back to the 2006 Winter Olympics, held in a city called Torino.
My plan of attack for the weekend was to just go, explore, and really, wander. I had spent many hours during the workweek before, trying to plan out an itinerary off of recommendations from lonely planet or trip advisor, but somehow these plans just didn’t seem so great to me. So early Saturday morning before the dawn broke, I headed over to the Lyon Gare Part Dieu to catch a bus to Turin. I thought that this was going to be a train; obviously I was wrong when I was told to get on a bus. Well, ok, that must have been the classiest bus ever-it had its own mini vending machine. Four hours + some sleep later, I arrived in Turin, Italy’s 4th largest city with a ginormous industrial background. First stop was to find a map/tourist map, preferably in English, so I wandered off towards Piazza Castello, right in the historic heart of Turin. P.zza Castello represents the historical, administrative, and political center of the old Kingdom of Cavoy. Right in the heart of this piazza was the palace you see to the right, called Palazzo Reale. This was in fact the official residence of the Savoy royal family until 1865. Pretty sweet.
It was around 2 pm that I realized that I was starving, and what better to eat in Italy than a pizza and gelato? As I searched for an appropriate Pizzeria, I passed through this lovey Galleria. Now this is a very beautiful arcade very much in the old French style and had all these cute little bookstores and cafes…very Parisian I imagine. It was a pleasant surprise from the old Italian architecture that lined the streets. Turin is a very industrial city and thus the overall city has this worn-down feel to it, but I was shocked that such beauty was hidden off of Piazza Castello. I did end up finding a pizzeria a few minutes away from here, so that was lovely. Of course.
I next went to explore the Mole Antonelliana. This is the quintessential symbol of Turin. As a local said to me, “The Eiffel Tower is to Paris as the Mole Antonelliana is to Turin.” I don’t have any pictures that do this justice so I am shamelessly posting the picture below and you’ll understand why.
Standing 167.5 meters, the Mole pretty much dominates the city of Turin and has a pretty sweet history. It was built to be Torino’s synagogue (!) but has never actually been used as a house of worship. Something to do with a lack of funds… Today, the Mole Antelliana is home to the National Museum of Cinema. Visiting this museum and the trip to the top was definitely worth the 7 euros I paid–there were collections of posters! flms! old images! And yes, I did find the “star wars” section…
After that it was onto the Museo Egizio (Egyptian Museum) which houses one of the best collections in the world outside of Cairo. I won’t bore you here with pictures of mummy after mummy, but I was amazed at how some of these things – 4000 ish years old – are still so preserved today. The colors haven’t faded that much and it was just awesome to see some of the Egyptian history here.
I also took the time to take a walk along the Po River, where I went to the Parco (Park) del Valentino. This park is the oldest park in Turin and houses the Valentino Castle and the one of the coolest parts of Turin in my opinion, the medieval village and castle (borgo e rocca medievale). This was a replica village that was built in 1884 for the Italian General Exposition, pretty nifty how they tried to rebuild all of that and succeeded! Also kind of interesting to think about because this was back in the 1880s. So technically we would consider architecture from that era to be kind of …historic as well. Just an interesting conundrum in my head I suppose.
I also went up to one of the hills of Turin (what’s with all these European cities being built on rivers and hills!) where I was very sad that my visit to Turin coincided with a large fog. Meaning I wasn’t able to see all over the city from the vantage points. That’s ok though, I got to see a lot of old churches and castles on my trip.
I must confess that Turin is not my favorite city. In fact, I am still not sure that I like it or dislike it. It has so much potential as a city because of all its history, but it just doesn’t seem to be that attractive. I loved visiting, that’s for sure, but I wonder if the low tourist interest here is just because the city feels old. Not in a Rome-old way, but in a “sigh. how run down.”-old kind of way.
But regardless of the actual city, I still had a great time sampling the food here! I must talk about food. I took advantage of my time in Turin to try a drink called the Bicerin. Native to the city, a Bicerin is made of espresso, chocolate, and whole milk or cream. Yes, it was as rich as it sounded and probably much more delicious as well. Kind of a pricey drink though, I paid 6.5 euros for this (typical coffeeesque drinks in Europe go for about 3-4 euros a pop). I also brought home some pastries for breakfast 🙂
Um, I don’t actually know what the names of all these pastries are…but I can tell you that there is definitely a cannoli and the Italian equivalent of a profiterole in there somewhere. Europe is pastry heaven! I think that I prefer French pastries though. I prefer to eat the gelato in Italy.
I definitely need to go back to Italy soon, if only for the food. In conclusion, while I didn’t actually do “nothing” in Italy, I did sit at an outdoor cafe while sipping a cappucino and reading a novel. Maybe that’s what Italy is all about.