Monday, March 11, 2013

Torino - Italy's first capital city

In early March, Melanie and I visited Torino for 3 days.  From Florence, we zoomed up there on the fast train, hitting a top speed of 300kph, and arrived less than 3 hours later in this northwestern Piedmontese city.

We'd booked a Bed and Breakfast, which it was, with a bonus being that we had a whole 1 bedroom apartment to ourselves, featuring a large bedroom with two balconies - a great find!

Our host Alessandra was lovely and friendly. She prepared an excellent breakfast of fresh fruit, juice, toast and home made jams etc we were very happy. On the last day, she rushed off to Padua to play in a bridge tournament!

A colonnaded walkway - check out the beautiful ceiling!
 Unfortunately, it rained each day, as all of Italy is currently in the midst of a fortnight of rain - perhaps counteracting the fortnight of intense heat in Melbourne? Luckily for us Torino is full of beautiful colannaded walkways which alowed us to get around without getting wet.

Palazzo Carignano
When Italy became a nation in 1861, most of the main political players and political action was  in Torino, which led to it becoming the nation's first capital city.  Unfortunately, the capital was changed to Florence just 2 years later, later moving again to Rome, but the Torinese are justifiably proud of their key role during the Risorgimento, as the uniting of Italy is called.  We learned this, and more from the excellent Italian Unification museum, which as an added plus, is located in the beautiful Palazzo Carignano.


The Juventus shop - me in the rain.....
Torino is also the birthplace of Lavazza coffee, the original cafe is still there although has been modernised to look like, well, a cafe.

It's also the home of Italy's most successful and famous soccer team, Juventus, who were playing a home match while we were there against Celtic.  As it bucketed down rain the day of the match, we didn't even consider attending, and I watched the match on TV - predictably, Celtic lost (2 nil).

A 1600s copy of the Turin shroud
We visited a small, well presented museum staffed by passionate elderly italians, who were more than happy to chat with us and lead us around Museo Sindone (Turin Shroud Museum).  The museum is described as the science and history of the shroud, as whether the shroud is real or a fake is hotly contested, and the museum presents only the history and science that assumes the shroud is real. The DNA testing that showed the shroud to be a fake is simply not mentioned.  Funnily, I sort of enjoyed this parochial, oh-so-italian way of doing things.  And the religious fervour and enthusiasm of the volunteers was delightful, (and a stark contrast from the bored government staff at a couple of other Torino musuems).

The shroud itself is kept locked away in a chapel located in the Torino Duomo, and is brought out once every 25 years for public viewing.  We'll have to plan our next visit to Torino for 2025.......

Personally, I think the Shroud is a fake, although as this would make it a fake from the 1200s, it's a significant item in its own right.

We later visited the Duomo, whose interior was quite drab, due to a massive fire in 1997 which caused plenty of damage.  However, the small chapels to the side of the nave were untouched, and these are very ornate, with plenty of gold, almost over the top in style.  See what you think.

The exterior of Palazzo Madama, in the rain of course
Torino is a beautiful city with an abundance of 19th century palaces, and it reminded us both of Trieste with its Hapsburg feel.

One of the best is Palazzo Madama, which cleverly houses a museum of antique arts, which means we got to enjoy both the sumptuously decorated rooms of the palace, along with antique ceramics (which we particularly enjoyed) and other objects.  The grand ballroom with its 20 metre ceilings was a sight!

Torino is a chocolate town, my favourite choclate the gianduiotto was created here, and everywhere we turned chocolaterie windows were tantalisingly full of Easter delights.

And the Italians just love giftwrapping their Easter eggs!

Notwithstanding the rain, we very much enjoyed Torino in our 3 days, and it must be even more beautiful when not raining.

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