Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Black Eye-Talia

My black-eye and I have made it back from Turin, Italy safely and it's looking a little less purple - now its a nice shade of pink and yellow. Like Spring! With a touch of make-up though it didn't look SO bad and didn't seem to play a starring role in the trip.

I arrived Friday afternoon in Milano and grabbed a bus Torino. After some rushed conversations in English and Spanish, I found the correct stop and Edoardo was there to pick me up, all bundled up because it was pretty cold in Torino this weekend. I'm sure you remember - it was where the 2006 Winter Olympics, so you can imagine that in December the temperatures are a bit chilly. Chilly but gorgeous - as the bus came closer and closer to Torino, it just felt like you were at the foot of the Alps and they were blanketed with snow and the sky was clear and the air crisp.

First order of business was Italy's claim to fame - pizza. After putting down my bag and touring the house we headed to Edo's favorite pizza place where I tried a pizza with cheese (I cannot remember all the amazing Italian cheeses on it, of course) and a pizza that had a type of Italian ham and get this...potatoes! Who would have thought?! It was suprisingly delicious though. Accompanied by some special Torino wine, it was a perfect first meal and much needed after the 10-hour journey. Next we took a small tour of the area, but seeing as he lives in the center of town, it was a nice walk - gorgeous bulidings, Christmas lights, fountains, sculptures - all everyday Italian things. Towards the end of our walk we met with Edoardo's best friend - Federica. The three of us headed out for a small party in the main plaza - Piazza Vittorio. Although it was freezing out, the Piazza was packed with people, all with coats and hats on drinking outside! After awhile you get used to the cold, and I loved the fact that these Turin residents weren't ashamed or even concerned with the fact that it was cold outside and instead were just enjoying themselves with friends and of course thier lively Italian accents. Luckily Edo speaks English and Federica speaks great English as well - so I didn't have to show off my limited Italian vocabulary, which consists of the following words: pizza, lasagna, pepperoni, salami, formaggio, pasta...you know the important words.

As it had been a long day we called it an early night and then spent half the next day enjoying sleeping in. Once awake, Edo cooked me an Italian lunch - meat with some tomatoes and mozzarela. He called it the Meditteranean diet haha. I will be a fan of any diet that includes cheese! After lunch of course I had the customary Italian espresso - and SO Italian, Edoardo's family has an espresso machine in the kitchen. Living up to the stereotype perfectly!

With sunny skies we were lucky enough to be able to walk to the biggest street market in Italy and pass through the tight walkways in between stalls with 5 different kinds of tomatoes, various fruits, fresh vegetables and of course noisy and excited Italians bargaining and shouting prices. All was alive, especially the colors, which brought a vibrance to the cold afternoon. With our full tummys we had no desire to buy any food and instead Edo and I wandered through the cobblestone streets with a delicious final destination - a small little bar that serves his favorite drink in Torino - bicerin. This drink originated in Torino in the early 1800s in the café we went to and was made famous when Alexander Dumas talked about it in 1852. It is special because it is made of espresso, hot chocolate and whole milk, but instead of mixing them together, the drink is layered! While we were waiting to enter the small little café that was packed because it only has 8 small tables, we were standing outside speaking in English (because we met last year in Spain, we switch back and forth between English and Spanish, but mostly we speak in English). There was a little girl, probably 8 or 9 years old, just STARING at us while we were speaking. Finally she got the courage to ask Edo in Italian if he spoke Italian and he said yes of course and then she asked him if I could speak Italian and he said no. Her eyes got soooo big and she said ooooh no, she can't speak Italian?! How is that possible?! I was like this foreign alien, in a world where children only think Italian is spoken and sad for me, I can't speak it! It was quite amusing and until we got our table she was quite enthralled in watching and listening to little old me speaking English.

After the drink warmed us up, we continued our walking tour. Edoardo is an architecture major, and I can imagine Torino is a heaven for him! As we winded between buildings, monuments and churches, he knew so much information that only an interested local would know. For instance, I saw a building that I thought was beautiful and I was only seeing the back. He took me to the front of the building and explained that the front of the building was built in the 16th century and was half the size. Later in the 18th century Torino decided to build over what was the yard and expand the building. The part that I originally saw wasn't even part of the original building, and as we walked past the side of the building you could see where the detailing changed from 16th century to 18th century. Here is photo of the newer part of the building - eventhough architecture Edo insists I should like the older side more!

Things like this are priceless, because it is obviously something I would never notice on my own nor think to look up in the history book. I was lucky to have a built-in tour guide! Another neat tidbit that he shared with me was about the Church of San Lorenzo. The dome of this beautiful church (aren't they all beautiful in Italy?) is actually a secret occult symbol. If you look closely, you can see the half circle windows outside of the octagon form the eyes, and then the pentagon window is a nose and below a mouth. The tricky this is that the triangles above both eyes are shaped like devil horns! Edo told me that Torino is known as a 'secret city' in Europe - with hidden things like these devil horns, encoded things around the city and most famous, the supposed door to Hell! Not what I was expecting when I arrived!

Since we had slept so late it was already dark so we headed back to the house to change and get ready for dinner. On the way we passed a huge indoor Nativity scene. With a car motor, this HUGE Navity scene depicts the entire city of Bethlehem and even moves. From the regular people washing clothes to animals walking and the daylight coming and going, it was the most impressive Nativity scene I have ever seen. There was no way to take a photo of the entire thing but here is a photo of the manger. You can see the detail that goes into this spectacle. We took time to look at eat person, paid attention to all the movements and for awhile, just listened to the Christmas music. Edo said his parents had always brought him to this when he was a child, and I was so happy to see something that a normal tourist wouldn't see and experience part of a real Torino holiday.

His friend, Federica was so sweet and for my arrival had planned a little dinner to welcome me with some of Edo's friends! We headed over to her house and Edo and his friends cooked a tasty pasta with ham and of course cheese! After the dinner and traditional Torino chocolate - gianduiotto. This chocolate is a Torino speciality and is so famous because it was one of the first chocolates to incorporate hazelnut. Although I'm not a huge chocolate eater, I was suprised at how tasty and soft it was and made sure to eat more than one!

With art, markets, chocolate, mozzarela and my special tour guide, I was quite pleased with my first day in Torino. I will write more about the rest of the weekend, but wanted to let you all know I made it back safe and sound and that I enjoyed a great weekend and hope you did as well.

Bacio (Italian for kiss - pronounced 'bacho')

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