Booking Tours

Friday, 22 September (Day Five)

Today there were three things on the list:

  • Book factory tours at the Torino Info
  • Find out about and buy a monthly transport pass
  • Go to Rosso Piccante in the evening

We walked past the archaeological museum, which is very close by the Porta Palatina in a complex called I Palazzi Reale. I noticed that the wall beside the towers was broken where the road crossed it and started again on the museum side. The structure is quite interesting, with a thin layer of red brick, a large layer of stones, another thin layer of red brick, repeated. I wonder if the wall is the same era as the gate. I also thought about the Romans using basically the same red bricks as we use today! There are some ruins inside the museum grounds – it might be a small amphitheatre but a semi-circular design anyway, not very large with a few tiers. I’ll have to find out what the ruins are – there were quite a few people gathered at ground level looking down, so no chance to read any signage. There’s also a tall tower open for climbing. I will try to do this one day if the entry is free, one day when I don’t have as much walking ahead or late in a day when I’ve been doing things at home. The royal palace is a museum and with no sovereign in Italy it’s open and not inaccessible like Buckingham Palace. It has a large courtyard inlaid with stones that form a pattern – must find out what it looks like from above – a royal or Torinese symbol perhaps?

Wandering into a small caffe area I was suddenly struck with a thought. There was no rush. I could do this any time I wanted. This was a very happy thought. Best to take advantage though or the holiday would end and ‘no rush’ will have turned into ‘no time.’

We needed some toiletries and I’d been thinking how much I missed Shoppers Drug Mart, even Superdrug or Boots! Pharmacies in Italy seem to be only the very serious or very specialised – perfume only, beauty only…where do people buy shampoo and hand soap? Apparently, the supermarket is the best choice but I’ll keep exploring that. We happened on a shop called Ipersoap which seemed to promise something so in we went. The shelves are full of bargain cleaning products – from hand soap to shower gel to dish detergent to floor cleaners. We even knew a few of the brands – bingo!

The Torino Info is in the large square of Piazza Castello. Its always busy. We wanted to book some tours and Krish began the process of doing this. Despite the servers speaking many languages with apparent ease, it’s not the easiest thing to do. I wish it were only about language. There are so  many things that we need to understand, things that are done or thought of differently than we are used to. In the end, after one false start, we get the tours booked:

  • La Stampa – just for him
  • Caffarel
  • Costadoro Caffe – just for me
  • Thales Aerospace – just for him

Looking forward to it. I’m the most intrigued by the Caffarel since it’s a five hour tour. What will we do all that time? Do we eat chocolate for lunch?

Then we use the Google voice directions to get to the Egyptian museum, to find out about the Heritage Day entrance on Saturday night. The museum usually costs 15 Euros but on this one day it will be only 5 Euros, from 630pm to closing. We find out that we need only show up on the night so that’s a great relief. Sometimes no commitment is a good thing!

At the main station of Porta Nuova, we’re again confused by the (lack of) information. Where do we find out about the transport pass? The station is modern and bright but… At ground level there are shops and pathways leading to the platforms, below ground is the metro – no station workers in sight anywhere. As a rule you’ll find a transport information centre in stations like this but not here. Up at ground level we go outside and look for signs and then I see the GTT office across the street. It’s a small square building. Inside they tell us we need to go back to the station and we’ll find the office next to platform 20. Back we go. It’s there all right. It’s also jammed with people in a waiting room and there’s a confusing number system machine, like in an Italian post office. Choose what you want and take a number – what do we even want? There must be 75 people waiting and others milling around. It’s daunting! So we grab some forms and aim to figure it out another day. Since then we’ve asked some residents to fill us in on how to do this. Neither one knows and one admitted to complete confusion. Not just us then! This will have to wait till Monday. For now we’ll get a few tickets to save my legs.

Back at the flat things are again peaceful. My photos are starting to mount and these blogs don’t write themselves. It’s a great chance to just let things happen where I can, trust that with a little time all the things I want to do will fall into place – won’t they?

After a few hours we venture out again. We head for San Salvario because I want to revisit a restaurant I went with my niece, Adrianna. The ride there is simple – great to be getting the hang of the transport somewhat – and we take a small detour to the synagogue. I remember it as a beautiful building in the shabby deprived area of San Salvario. At night, though, it’s dark – no illumination and I can’t take any photos. It’s a very narrow street and I’ll have to come back during the day. It’s always sad to see armed guards outside any church and this one is no exception. Two soldiers in camo gear and with machine guns under their arms are standing by their vehicle, watching everyone who passes.

San Salvario is, as I said, shabby and deprived. Like most cities, this area is slowly gentrifying and I’d say in Torino this is happening quite slowly. Not much has changed. It’s very apparent that it’s earned its nightlife reputation though. There are lots of people in the caffes and restaurants, many sitting or standing on the street, voices high, music playing. It’s lively! We head towards Rosso and it looks exactly the same. The owner works here with his family and he’s behind the counter slicing salume. I’ve seen him every night on Facebook Live and told him I’m coming but suddenly I’m not brave enough to say hello. Never mind. We’re not really hungry! We choose a salume plate and a pasta with anchovies to share (a local specialty) and Krish has his eye on some marinated vegetables, which I know he’ll regret! The half litre of red wine is a bargain at 5 Euros and it’s mild and lovely. We ask about it later, thinking to buy some but it’s ‘from home!’ That’s a surprise.

Sadly, today the food disappoints. The salume is nice but it’s all dry meats – one of the cheeses is very nice, I should have asked what it was. Krish tasted and screwed up his nose at the vegetables – lesson learned! The pasta was nice but salty. I thought about my blood pressure and decided not to! I’ll come back but alone. That night Krish was moaning and claiming food poisoning. I think it was more about the acidity of the vegetables – he’s not such a pickle fan. And no Facebook Live or lively company but maybe that’s not such a bad thing. I hate cameras.

Glad to get home and into bed tonight!




Thursday, 21 September (Day four)

Although we had thought about a day trip today, I don’t think we are organised enough so I suggested we go to Lingotto since it’s on our list. At Lingotto there is the old Fiat factory which has been turned into two NH Hotels, a large shopping mall which includes a cinema complex, and on the roof is the old Fiat testing track. As well there’s the original Eataly, which is on my list.

The first adventure was finding and buying tickets for the bus. Before that, we need to find out how much they cost and how to use them. This kind of thing is different everywhere – figuring out transportation is important but can be bewildering with conflicting information. It seems it costs 1.50 for a 90 minute ticket. You can use it on all the modes of transport – metro, bus, and tram, but you can enter the metro only once. Sounds reasonable. Buying the tickets is another story since there’s no metro station close to us. Tobacconists seem the best source so we find one near the bus stop and, joy, he speaks English (rusty, he says, but he speaks it very well).

It’s one bus all the way to the Lingotto complex and thank goodness for my map application since there’s no announcement of stops along the way. When we do arrive at what the app promises to be our final stop, we can’t see anything that looks like the Fiat factory. We walked half a block and there on our right it said Eataly. In my mind, I’d placed Eataly inside the Fiat buildings but it seems it’s instead inside an old vermouth factory (Vermouth is from here) and a short hop across a walkway from the Fiat complex. K is impatient in Eataly, which is modern and bright, so we head straight for the factory.

The Original Eataly at Lingotto
The Original Eataly at Lingotto

It’s a cream coloured building and hard to imagine there’s a shopping mall inside there. But it’s actually very deep.

Sadly, it’s not much of a mall. The stores aren’t too interesting, the food court is unimaginative, but there’s a lovely gift shop with Fiat and Lambretta souvenirs and the like, as well as some fabulous looking books. Inside the gift shop is a glass elevator that takes you to the roof. We hope there are some views up there but know that if you want to see the track it’s included in the price of admission to the art gallery, 10E entry.

Out of the elevator is a gorgeous view of the inner courtyard. It’s lush and green with several palm trees. I tried to take a few photos but with the elevator moving and the layers of glass, they aren’t very successful. However, reaching the fourth floor we discover that despite a notice saying no admission to the test track, there it is! Honestly nothing to look at but the history…!

The Fiat test track
The Fiat test track

The best part is an ‘eyrie’, I’ll call it. A lookout point over the track that looks like it came straight from a sci fi movie. One part of it reminds me of the roof on the Reichstag in Berlin and I muse about the wartime ties between the two countries. And I wonder out loud how the Italians decided to side with the Germans, something that I’ve never thought about before.

The Fiat track observation tower
The Fiat track observation tower

Suddenly, I’m comfortable with this country and its ideologies. I think about the officious police officers with their black uniforms and guns – automatic or pistols – and unsmiling faces, the rules laid down for tourists, and for residents too, and I wonder how it affects daily life. I may be here to live like a local but I’m not voting, or sending my children to school, or buying a home, or navigating the various government channels for any reason. Is it different elsewhere but really just the same? Just as many but different rules?

There’s a long bridge leading out to the parking lot. The travelators aren’t walking so it’s a good journey over there. There’s also the Olympic ground with a large arch that I joke looks like a basketball net. And from up there we can see that the Fiat grounds have gorgeous lush green spaces – one with blocks of hedges and one with a neat grove of trees. It’s a little hard to imagine the factory as a factory but it’s interesting to try to discern the old amongst the new.

The Olynpic Arch
The Olynpic Arch

I wrangle a short visit to Eataly. I really don’t want to come back here since I can tell I won’t stay here long in any case. And I don’t. Krish waits outside but I do call him in to look at the kitchenware. We are still in the market for a frying pan and a spatula. There’s nothing suitable in here though. Eataly looks like a fancy food court with a small supermarket and a couple of shops attached. But the prices aren’t too bad! Nothing worth hanging around long for though so we leave and are on our way.

The plan is to eat somewhere between here and home. It’s almost three and we’re hungry. Then we spot a gelateria so pop inside to look at the flavours. We choose a medium cup with three flavours – cream of pistachio, which has a thick Nutella like topping, fior de latte, and violet. It’s a great ice cream and violet is the winner! Yum.

We’re pretty happy to be home. We’ve managed to arrive without having had lunch and it’s now close to 5pm so I put together the remaining agnolottoni, the leftover cooked sausage, and some salad. Done!

Later that evening we decide to pop out again in search of a drink and some salume – we head for a place we’ve been before – it’s local and reliable for salume (local cured meats). We order antipasto  misto but it turns out to be a selection of their starters and not the meat and cheese platter we’d expected. A mistake but one we’re OK with since it looks interesting and lighter than what we’d gone in for. I got prosecco in a large wine glass, woah. I’m a cheap drunk but it was enjoyable.


In the market square some people are hanging around, some try to engage us. We keep walking. Some of the stalls and awnings are being taken down but not all. For the third time I wonder if they no longer dismantle it but without our previous years’ vantage we can’t tell. In those days we could look out of the window regularly and watch the wonderful choreography of the market.

Home to watch some more of The Expanse and then to bed.

Porta Palazzo

Wednesday 20 September (Day three)

Another hot sunny day in Torino. Today was labelled Organisation Day. The plan was to make plans! I made a bunch of small shopping lists and we set out on the first part of the plan – to see what was going on with the Egyptian Museum’s ‘Heritage Day’ cheap admission night on Saturday. We are not really museum goers. In London, this works really well – almost all museums are free, so popping into one for an hour or less (often our limit) is practical. Not so much so if a museum has a hefty admission price. The Egyptian Museum in Torino is the world’s second largest collection of Egyptian artefacts after Cairo. It costs 15 Euros to get in but on Saturday at 6:30pm the price goes down to 5 Euros. We’re in!

To get to the museum we walked over to the Porta Palatino. This is a Roman aged gate which has a large arch and two towers – an icon in this neighbourhood. (The other is an anchored balloon, in the Balon neighbourhood just a few dozen metres north.) In cooler weather it would be a great spot to sit and sketch or read – noted! Just beyond the gate is a lovely square with restaurants. I’ve always thought it very pretty, it reminds me of De Pijp  in Amsterdam with its clean and orderly look. And just beyond that is an arch leading to a narrow lane of shops and cafes, this time having a somewhat French look, echoed in many cities. We’ve heard about a little bar that sells garlicky tongue sandwiches and vitello tonnato at the start of this lane and made a note of where it is so we can come back.

Porta Palatina
Porta Palatina

Continue reading “Porta Palazzo”

Getting reacquainted with Torino!

Tuesday 19 September (Day two)

Today has been a bit of a reacquaintance day! We wandered through the Orologio indoor market and loved the displays there. I noted that the market was 101 years old this year – at least I think that’s what the signs were saying. I found the places to buy burrata and meats and we remembered the beautifully pre-prepared meats, rolled, breaded, or stuffed – to cook at home. This seems a good way to go while away from home and without all the kitchen tools we don’t have here. We decided we will invest In a great pan to cook in, one that we can take home afterwards, as well as a chopping board and a good grater. These things will be great investments in this time away.

Then we walked through the open air market briefly noting the zucchinis with blossoms attached, bunches of chillies, and mounds of plum tomatoes – it must be canning season. I’d love someone to invite me to a homemade pasta with homemade tomato sauce dinner! Then onward.

We were headed for the Tourist Information centre so we could find out what events to attend and which tours were open – we particularly want to see the Caffarel chocolate tour and that’s on 27 October. We’ll book it online. The centre was full of people and only one couple who spoke English. Seems Torino’s tourist population is still mainly other Italians. The centre is in the central of town in the  Piazza Castello with its grand palaces – the Royal Palace of Turin and the Palazzo Madama.

Here you can really tell that it was once a royal place, back when Torino was the capital city. Almost without thinking we headed over to the Mole Antonelliana.

mole in Italian is a building of monumental proportions. And so it is! It’s the iconic symbol of Turin. It was originally built as a synagogue but now houses the Museo Nationale del Cinema, the tallest museum in the world. From the outside it looks like a metal building it is, in fact, a metal structure faced with stone.

The Mole Antonelliana is the tallest unreinforced brick building in the world, having no steel girder skeleton. (built without a steel girder skeleton). There’s more to its early history than this and it’s worth reading about. There’s a gift shop selling cinema memorabilia and there’s also the famous elevator. The first time I rode in it, my usual elevator phobia melted away into wonder. The elevator has no shaft but is lifted into the glorious golden dome with cables as if suspended in space. My jaw dropped. The view at the top is nice too. And after all that, I have to tell you it’s closed on Tuesday so we didn’t go in, not that it was on our list.

The Mole is very close to the university so we wandered through the area. Today there were a lot of students milling about and chatting in the cafes. I hope to be enlightened by my stay here and some Instagram follows but there isn’t much in the way of street art, although there are the usual scrawlings and tags. I did photograph some pieces that I know were there when I’ve visited before but we aren’t really sure why there isn’t more. Opportunity!

Near the uni
Near the uni

By now my legs were really sore and I thought my knees would give out so we started to head back avoiding the city centre. We saw a wonderful mustard coloured building. One section was very slender and it seemed possible that each floor might be a separate apartment. If so, it would have windows on every side – incredible! There’s a plaque there that told us the building is called ‘Slice of Polenta.’ That’s a fun fact. It even has its own chapter in Atlas Obscura – We were struck with it immediately and it turns out that it’s the same architect that built the Mole, Alessandro Antonelli.

The Slice of Polenta
The Slice of Polenta

My sore legs kept me going just into the market building again where we bought a panino con porchetta from the only open lunch counter and then into the farmers market to buy some lettuce for a salad. The seller wasn’t at all pleased when I asked for just one lettuce. She sells three for a euro. We just can’t buy that much. At first she asked me for ‘trenta’ (30) but kept insisting it was ridiculous I was buying only one and changed her mind to 50 by handing me back just 50 cents. I was in no mood to argue but she’s lost a potential customer.

The market was closing, the day was done – what harm in selling a lettuce that might go to waste? Arriving back at the flat, ready to wash the lettuce and make a salad with it, adding some plums and some tomatoes, I discovered the leaves were mostly rotten. That’s it, then! No more visits to the lettuce lady.

We had a very hot lunch on one of the balconies – the panino, some left over pizza, some octopus salad (both left from the night before) and the salad. Nap time!


A slow start in Torino

Monday 18 September (the first day)

So here I am.

I woke at a reasonable hour of 6:30 or so and couldn’t wait to get onto the balcony to check out the view. Lovely! Then spent some time writing these entries. Funny how you think you have nothing to say and then the words start to pour out. Apologies to readers for the ambling style but I aim to keep going and write every day if I can.

View from the flat
View from the flat

So there was no milk for tea when we arrived and everything closed so around 9 after a shower I went out to find the Carrefour Express. Milk! Not so easy to find in Italy, especially fresh milk. Most is long life milk.

Then a quick jaunt to the market – the farmers market looked tempting but I wasn’t sure I wanted to buy anything so early. I then thought I’d find some arancini in the indoor market to surprise Krish but the shutter was only raised about a third and I never did see it open so maybe Monday is a closed or a brief day. Instead I picked up a mezzo kilo of tomatoes – my weakness – and breakfast was cheese brought in my suitcase, some tomatoes and two crackers, also from my suitcase. And tea, finally!

The Farmers Market
The Farmers Market

More writing followed and I was happy to just sit and be here really. I’d been waiting to do this for quite a long time so I savoured it.

At around 2pm I went out to find some lunch. Cristina had mentioned a fantastic fish place for lunch not far from here but it was very crowded so I kept looking. I sort of chickened out though and decided to go for the sure bet – a restaurant I’d been before that has a lunch special.

For 6E50 I had a large bottle of sparkling water, bread (untouched), some farfalle all’amatriciana and a coffee. The farfalle was a nice manageable size but I wasn’t too keen. The guanciale (bacon) was in large cubes and everything was salty. However, I was hungry. The service was friendly and prompt as I remembered it to be.

Lunch of bowtie pasta
Farfalle all’amatriciana

Nearby sat a Japanese couple, obviously confused by the menu and food and struggling to understand the server’s English. I’ve noticed these eating rituals several times. The sharing of food, the desire to try things that aren’t typical at home. It’s actually a nice thing. And social media is almost always involved. Much photographing and likely describing of the meal – the couple had asked to be moved to a different table since the wifi signal was poor the further into the restaurant you went.

I walked to the main market, meaning to buy some salad things and perhaps some fruit, only to discover at not even 3 it was already mostly bare and packed away. Not today then!

Packing the market away
Packing the market away

I also meant to find a bakery and sit and read for a while but there were none with seats so I came home and ate more food that had been packed for the train – in this case not a hardship, since it was a lemon tart.

So what could I do next? Krish was having a down day, sleeping and very quiet. So I had a nap, a real one – in the bed! Not usual for me but I did feel rested after that.

The Neighbourhood
The Neighbourhood

Cristina came by briefly to visit and then the lightning, thunder and rain started. I knew I had to go out. I feel pleased that I now know where to go when I leave the flat. Once I’m in the market area I feel at home and confident. So out I went. It was dark and raining and everything gleamed under the streetlights. Quiet deserted though so I had to steel myself to keep going. I headed straight for the restaurant under Cristina’s place and ordered some octopus salad and pizza to go.

And now to bed!