Thursday, February 9, 2012

Wool & Wine

To describe the cold in Torino this weekend, let me just say this: my watch stopped.  I only wish time had, too, because I would love to have spent more time in this classy, charming city.  Many things about it reminded me of Bologna, like the porticos, the lack of English speakers thronging the sidewalks, and the city's numerous public spaces, quaint stores, and elegant cafes (where I had to try a classic hot chocolate, which is literally melted chocolate, hold the milk).  We actually spent a lot of our time getting coffee and tea at various establishments about town just to warm up our footsies and chat.

Torino is famous for being the origin of FIAT, having an incredible chocolate tradition, and also for its tendency toward the supernatural, which is only perpetuated by the presence of the Holy Shroud (I went to see the replica on display in the cathedral, and I'll be honest-it really freaked me out).

The city is known for its museums, which is good because in the winter no one wants to be outside, and every day qualifies as a "museum day".  I visited both the Egyptian museum (second in the world only to Cairo) and the Mole Antonelliana, whose elaborate spire has become a Turin landmark, and which houses the really unique National Cinema Museum.  At this museum, we learned about the history and development of motion pictures and enjoyed the incredible layout, complete with elaborate movie sets and a huge space filled with red lounges showing movie clips.


The first night we enjoyed a delicious Piedmontese dinner at Porto di Savona (artichoke risotto, agnolotti, and cod with the creamiest polenta) and shared a bottle of Barbera wine to warm our senses, which was the key to survival.  Carlotta and I both want fur coats now, too, but I guess wool will do for the time-being.

Several times over the weekend I noticed myself feeling like I was somewhere else.  The Egyptian museum seemed like an elaborate Vegas hotel, the Mole film museum could be replicated in LA to much success, and most notably the snowy hills and streets, muted architecture, and war horse statues definitely made me feel like I was in northern Europe, perhaps Germany or Austria.

Carlotta lives in a villa (everyone here made fun of me when I told them this, as it seems that yes, I have very high standards now and demand villa-level accommodations wherever I go) where she is doing her program training before heading to Benin in a few weeks.  The hills and forests surrounding the building were blanked in brilliant white snow and it even flurried a bit one morning while I was there, which we enjoyed from her window-filled kitchen while sipping our tea.  But then it was out again into the harsh cold!

Saturday morning while Carlotta was busy I went on my own to the Pinacoteca Agnelli, a gallery that started as a private collection by the head of FIAT.  The collection is small, but packs a punch with four Venetian landscapes by Canaletto, a couple Picassos, and seven works by Matisse, my favorite of which is this woman meditating-she's just so effortlessly chic and I'd bet incredible insightful. 

I don't know what this place is called, but it was a really awesome enclosed area with antique book stores and swanky restaurants.  I would be here all the time if I lived in Torino.

This is the view of Torino from the Gran Madre di Dio (first time Carlotta and I have seen people bring their dogs into a church; today's culture literally is going to the dogs).  You'll see the mole in the background, and that's the river cutting through the middle.  I can only imagine how beautiful a springtime stroll along the Po could be in this town.

There are many things I didn't get to visit while there, especially some sites in the vicinity of the city, and I'd be happy to see everything in better weather and explore old book stores and try more foods.  So that's that!  Torino, I guess I'll be back.  And thanks, Carlotta, for another lovely weekend together!

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