I’m continually surprised by the amount of history in this underrated and ‘invisible’ spot in Italy. Sure, there’s the Roman origins, but it goes on through its royal presence, its significance in the unification of the country, its entry into industry with chocolate, coffee, and automobiles, and its love affair with innovation.
Innovation is a strange word in Italy, where things seem set in stone. ‘We always do this.’ Tradition is everywhere. I see the people dancing, listen to the Klezmer-like songs at Balon, watch the pageantry of the markets, eat the food that’s been the same for centuries and tastes the same wherever I go. Sometimes it feels quite stiff. And yet there’s also a passion to come up with something new. Maybe this is why Turin has been so immersed in industry – to produce and develop things that led the way.
I’ve watched them building the new Lavazza headquarters over a few years. The company has always been in this area of town, so it made sense that they’d stay more or less put and create the ‘Cloud’ complex. The way it’s all put together, you can really feel the pride. Finally on Wednesday I made the time to go to the museum inside the complex.
So far, Turin museums have been formal and old fashioned. I’ve not felt the need to linger. Even in the Egyptian museum last year it was the size and not the contents that kept me there so long. The Lavazza museum is quite the opposite. Apart from the Ontario Science Centre, which broke away from the traditional when it opened, I haven’t been as immersed or impressed. It’s innovative and so it seems was Luigi Lavazza, the founder. Continue reading “Lavazza – Museo”
The temperature dipped and on went the warmer clothes. Calendar Fall is already here and now Real Fall is settling in wherever it can. The light is different and the air is clearer. How long till I can really see the Alps?
The free museum days in Torino are perfect for me. I don’t like to spend too much time looking around and in London this means I can pop in for a short time, leave when tired, and come back again when I have an inclination. Torino has designated days each month for free visits. First Tuesdays, first Saturdays, first Sundays…with a few others thrown in for good measure. On the first Tuesday of October, I went to the MAO – Museo d’Arte Orientale (Museum of Oriental Art). It’s on Via San Domenica in the Quadrilatero so an easy walk.
The exhibit on the main floor was of photographs of the Nomads of Asia. This didn’t sound all that interesting but I was wrong. I was so struck by these peoples who wander the plains of Asia – China, Asia, India, the middle East – living a life unchanged for hundreds of years. Some of the colours and clothing and customs were stunning. It seemed almost impossible to imagine that they were living in the same century that I was, or on the same planet at times.
Of course, I am struck by the images of women, doing the tasks that have never changed. The only clue that these are modern women are in the photos showing plastic bags and other paraphenalia around the walls of their tents. In three different regions of this massive continent, there are so many similarities.
And, most strikingly, this woman weaving, while tending to her child. No doubt there is food simmering somewhere that she will pay attention to. This multitasking changes from culture to culture yet is always the same in nature. The job of nurturing.
I’m always struck by the Gujarati of India. Gujarati people are descended from Aryan nomads who lived in the valleys of the Indus River in 2000 BC and settled in Gujarat. They now make make up about one third of the diaspora worldwide.
As is often the case, the museum was more interesting than expected. I loved the photo exhibition. I liked the exhibit spaces less and I felt a little stifled.
The last time I was here I wanted to go to the Pietro Micca museum but somehow didn’t so it was on my Must Do list for this time.
Pietro Micca is quite a hero in Torino. There’s even a street named after him and a statue. Yet, to me he seems a romantic figure with some history that’s only guessed at. Snatches of memory and conversation that were put together to make a valiant story for future generations. Yet it’s fascinating.
I went alone. Krish doesn’t like tunnels.
After the museum visit, the literature and even reading the story in both Italian and English I remain somewhat confused about what really went on. Truth.
My garbled version, then. The French and Spanish wanted to annex Northern Italy but there was Italian resistance. The city of Turin was at the centre of it all or so it seems to me. The ‘enemy’ set up camps of tents around the periphery of the city and the attacks began. Pietro Micca was a 29 year old Sabaudian soldier and knew his way around explosives. His supposed nickname was Pass-par-tut (Passepartout) – which also seems intriguing since he did indeed pass through everything, getting into the trenches that day.
Pietro Micca and at least one companion wanted to set off explosions in the tunnels that would thwart the enemy invasion. They set one long fuse that successfully held off one contingent and then more soldiers tried to breach a deeper tunnel. This time a shorter fuse was needed, since the soldiers were close. Pietro told his companion to Go, since that soldier had no bread that day, and then he lit the fuse.
It’s assumed that he then ran down the stairs to escape the blast but the heat was so strong that he was flung forty paces and was later found dead at that spot. However, the attack was thwarted, the Sabaudians were victorious and Pietro Micca became a hero.
Was he really a hero? All the stories say so. It’s also supposed that it was more a misjudgment in how long a fuse was needed to be able to escape.
The museum is near Porta Susa station and is a bit ramshackle. But it’s small, just how I like it. They told me that I could follow the Italian guide at 4:30 and use the English audioguide. At 4:30 the guide arrived to tell me that he was going to do the tour but I should do it on my own and then after the Italians had left, he would take me downstairs to show me the tunnels – ‘very dangerous down there.’
I tend to breeze through museums, audioguide or not. This one was better ordered than some and that speeded me through quite quickly. The numbers and facts swirled around my head, but I sort of got the gist of things. A few facts sunk in – I liked the models of the city in two different spots but taking photos of them was hard, with all the glare and reflection. The rivers Po and Dora are also good markers for where everything was and still is.
I was curious about the citadel. To make it stronger, triangular shapes were built at its edges. I’ve also seen things about Torino’s ‘Star Fort.’ But this was different. I need to do a lot more research, but is this the inspiration for the Torino’s iconic eight-pointed Star?
The muskets on display were enormous, the paintings glorious and not bloody, the artifacts well kept and signed, but all in Italian. There are two small rooms of these things, fifteen in all points along the way before you reach the barrier of the staircase leading down to the tunnels.
Then it was 5:30 and, since the museum closes at 6, i asked the guide if I could go down with the Italians and he nodded yes. I felt excited. Tunnels and caves scare me but I’m also enthusiastic about exploring them. These were dark, with low ceilings and not much width to pass through. There were side tunnels and alcoves, as expected and when I lost sight of the guide, I did feel a little worried – not for long. There’s a lot more down here than I expected but we keep to an uneven path. I hoped I wouldn’t stumble or turn my ankle and I was glad I wasn’t at the back!
The details are a little lost on me. The audioguide wasn’t so audible down here with the guide’s Italian explanations rising over the volume, I think I got enough from it. The first spot where the longer fuse was lit, a memorial to French soldiers (the staircase here was rough and deep – too bad we couldn’t go down but it did look treacherous), the Pietro Micca ‘scala’ (steps) where the short fuse was lit, and finally the spot where Pietro was found, marked with an artificial wreath.
It was odd to come back to the sunlight. One street up is Corso Vinzaglio, a wide street with a median, very grand and quite deserted.
I made my way to the 51 bus, stopped to buy pickles (!) and some wine. And home to make a sausage and gnocchi dinner for when Krish returned from his run.
I’m glad I went. I felt more connected to Torino after this, and then a curious discovery (and the mystical reason Pietro Micca had always resonated with me….joke?). Pietro Micca was born on March 6th.
It’s Sunday and the church bells were taking turns to let us know about it. I’m pretty sure they ring them by hand. Either that or they’ve recorded some pretty shoddy stuff! No lovely pealing melodies, like in the movies, but out of tune clanging, normal, sometimes very slowly, and sometimes speeded up like someone is in a hurry. It’s amusing…I think. Not sure how I’d feel if I was here permanently.
Liat rows on Sunday but she called me when she was done and asked to meet for brunch. I thought this might be interesting. Italians don’t really eat breakfast – their version is an espresso, maybe a milky coffee drink instead, and a sweet pastry or six. Liat suggested somewhere in San Salvario – 15 or 20 mins by bus and I thought, why not – it will be an adventure, my first trip by tram so far.
I walked over to the Borgo Dora tram stop and waited for my tram. It arrived quite quickly and was jam-packed. As usual, there’s no offering of seats in here. Even the young men who were seated weren’t giving up to their spots to those less able. It’s a bit puzzling every time. Besides, it’s a dilemma. Do I feel good that they don’t feel I need a seat or do I feel annoyed for the same reason? Liat met me at the tram stop near the restaurant.
We ate at a place called Slurp, recommended by Liat’s friend. They immediately asked me if I was American and we sat at the back where there was air and light. It’s a bit dark in there but the menu looked OK. I completely puzzled the server by asking if I could have sausages with my pancakes. Then she was even more puzzled when, delivering four sausages and six very small pancakes, I asked if there was something to put on the pancakes. She said something about not thinking I wanted syrup (or jam or nutella) with them if I was having sausages. I suddenly felt like an ugly American and asking for something just too bizarre in an Italian’s eyes. But she took away my pancakes and came back with them, now with some syrup on top.
I figured I could eat two of the sausages and donated two pancakes to Liat. Verdict: sausages were as advertised, pancakes were very sweet even without the syrup – oh well. Oh, and a cappuccino was only €1.50 – nice surprise – and not as strong as they like it in London. Liat ordered two fried eggs, bacon and toast. The eggs came in two separate little frying pans, each topped with some bacon – cute.
I’m going to start recording temperatures, for the record.
Saturday was another hot day. And, although we prefer to stay well away from the market on Saturday, there we were. And while we went there for four things, we came back with about ten. No big surprise there.
The market spilled over into Balon., where they were having a flea market. The photo I missed was the woman carrying a rather enormous package on her head. Well, I thought I got it, but it was one of those photos where you can’t see for the sun and your shot is of something entirely different. Missed!
We got bok choy, damsons, my favourite expensive olives, parsley, sesame grissini, two fresh goat cheeses, sparkling water, milk, tomatoes, russian salad…could that be it?
On our corner is the very-popular Galina, a seafood shop and restaurant. However, at the outside wall of the covered market is another fish shop that sells fritti misti from a side window. It’s cheaper and I like it better. Five euros for a small, eight for a large. Krish queued for a large one while I tried to stay out of the sun, and checked the haberdashery stalls along the side of the road. I wish I could find a fabric one.
The goat cheese and olives made a lovely salad, and the fritti – well, it’s deep fried and yummy. What more can I say?
We moved the furniture around the way we had it last year. So much more homey now. Photo to follow. And we napped. Krish suggested a walk and, wow, I didn’t feel like it but I knew I’d be glad of it once we were out there, and I was.
We walked across the river to the Lavazza complex. They’ve done some work on regulating the flow of the river and I seem to recall some elaborate machinery there last year.
The Lavazza grounds (haha) were still underway on our last visit but now they’re all finished. It’s quietly stunning. I stole this next picture from the Lavazza site. Ssshhh. (Of course it’s greener and lusher than this, with summer in full swing and everything bloomed and flourishing.)
The complex on via Bologna, which includes the modern office building, is unusually shaped, the architects describing it as a ‘cloud,’ (Krish thought it might be a coffee bean and I like his idea better) and it’s flanked by some renovated buildings, one of which was a power station and now houses the bistrot and a convention centre. Around the perimeter and through the central courtyard are green spaces. They aren’t as people-friendly as I expected when I was watching construction last year – the central ‘parkette’ (Share) is pin-neat and greenery is contained within plant oases.
At the back of the building you can see the archaeological remains through a semi-basement window, and there’s a huge employee gym.
I’m not one for museums but ‘Museo’ is clearly signposted. I hope the remains are part of this, the way it seems to be laid out, labelled and with viewing platforms and stepping stones. I must do this really soon! Even the Shop looked intriguing. And, even though Krish wasn’t keen, I think I’ll head back to the bistrot and join in on this ritual too.
But there’s one thing the literature doesn’t tell you. This place smells amazing! Two areas had a strong spicy smell – reminded me of sea minerals, and another was strongly floral and vanilla-like. Each time, I tried to figure out the source of the aroma and failed. I need a Scent Detective!