I had the opportunity to visit Torino for a conference during the summer of 2008, and decided that I would extend my trip by a few days to explore some parts of Italy after the conference. While most of my time in Torino was spent at the conference, I did manage to visit a few places in the evenings with a fellow conference participant. One such place I visited was the Mole Antoneliana or the National Film Museum which had a panoramic lift that took one to the top from where you could have amazing views of the city.
The museum itself was interesting with a large, central hall where movies were screened continuously on two big screens. Visitors could sit on comfortable reclining chairs and enjoy the ongoing movie.
Walking around that museum was like walking into a set of some movie or other. Each room or stall had a movie theme as the inspiration for its decor and the movie itself playing in a unique part of the room: on the lab table of a laboratory movie set, for example. Many sets were dedicated to Hollywood movies and actors and actresses.
I enjoyed my short walks from my accommodation at the university residence hall to the university, through the piazza Castella.
Built in the 16th century, Palazzo Reale, or the Royal Palace of Turin, houses the chapel of the Holy Shroud though the shroud has been moved elsewhere now. I did sign up for a tour of the palace but opted out of it at the last minute.
I preferred to enjoy the delicious food, particularly the pizza and hand-made giandujotti, at the outdoor cafes and cioccolateria on via Po, as I was indoors the whole day at the conference.
My favourite from my stay in Torino is the place I visited in the afternoon on the final day of the conference – the Basilica di Superga.
The travel from piazza Castella to the basilica itself was a memorable experience. My friend from the conference and I had got onto the bus, that the tourist information desk staff had asked us to take to go to the basilica. According to the staff, there would be a little hill at the end stop of the bus route, from where we would need to take a short tram ride up the hill to the basilica. Since it was the last stop, we didn’t bother to check with the driver. Only when the bus finally stopped and we were the last passengers on the bus, we realized we were nowhere near any hill. We then checked with the driver to find that though the bus number was correct, this bus had been coming from the basilica. He asked us to stay on in the bus, as he was going to leave for the basilica, after a short break. Fortunately for us, we were not in any hurry as our only plan for the rest of the day was the visit to the basilica and to have a dinner in a nice restaurant to celebrate the end of the conference. We were also happy to see quite a bit of the city, through our prolonged bus ride. On our way back to the basilica, we passed piazza Castella again.
It was a lovely church in a very peaceful location and I found the interior very calming. After spending some time there, we decided to visit the basilica museum as well, especially as we were in time for the guided tour. The view of the dome from the inner courtyard was lovely, especially when viewed through the arches in the corridor.
The next morning, I left pleasant, quiet and welcoming Torino to travel by train to Venezia. I found some passengers, an elderly couple and their grandchild, already in the small compartment where my seat was. The couple were chatty and after some initial conversation hiccups, we managed to find a way to communicate in mixed Italian, French and English. They were curious to know why I was in Italy and whether I was travelling alone. They actually told me, “Brava,” for travelling solo all the way to Italy from Sri Lanka, which they thought was a country somewhere in Africa. It felt like being with one’s grandparents who found everything that you did admirable. The grandson, who knew some English from school, was curious to know about Sri Lanka especially whether it was a rich country, whether there were monkeys, whether it snowed and whether it was a peaceful country. When two teenagers got on board and came into our compartment, the jovial grandparents started chatting them up as well. It was a very funny and enjoyable train journey, akin to travelling with family, until the trio got off at their destination in Milano cheerfully calling out, “Arrividerci.”
To be continued in Part II… Venezia.
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