Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Engaging Italy

Saturday night's dinner was quite delicious and was followed by some more outdoor bars in the area they call Murazzi. Because Turin is situated on the River Po, they have a lot of bridges and a lot of walkways along the river. Murazzi is the area close to the center and it has a bunch of temporary tents that actually are bars! It was crazy but really fun. Not only was it nice to be out in a different place, but the view on the river was gorgeous too. Torino is said to be the city in Italy with the most Christmas lights, and I can imagine it is right. Not only do they string lights along the streets, but they light up bridges, churches and buildings too. Seeing as that Donosti isnt decorating for Christmas, I was tickled pink (or should I say red and green) that I was in Christmas light heaven! One thing that I thought was pretty neat were the variety of lights - lights in the shape of people, huge lights made from colored bottles, neon blue lights from the highest church - all make for a diverse and pretty Torino holiday.

Sunday was touristy day. It's funny because the whole time I was there, I didn't actually feel like a tourist because I was always with local people, going to local restaurants and bars and staying in a home. So my tourist Sunday wasn't the normal touristy places that I guess one would expect you would clamour over when you arrive in Turin. First we headed to Chiesa di Santa Maria del Monte - which translates to Church of Santa Maria of the Mountain. Situated on a big hill overlooking the Po and all of the center of Turin, we were pretty lucky that we had a partially clear day and could see the Alps sitting as the background of the city. Torino is part of the 'state' named Piedmont, which in Italian translates to 'foot of the mountains' and it couldn't be more true. Because it is in NW Italy, it's not all beaches and tan Italian men walking around in speedos drinking limincello like a lot of people think about Italy - and instead was quite crisp. It was quite peaceful up there and we sat around just gazing out at the city. The city was a canvas of white buildings with red roofs peppered with churches.

After taking some time to soak up the view we got back in the car and I got a whirlwind tour of the windy and hilly streets of the outskirts of Torino by my crazy Italian driver! I thought NYC taxi drivers were crazy, but the way Italians drive puts them in a whole new category! Left turns on 6 lane streets, cutting people off everywhere, squeezing down streets that don't seem fit for any size car and passing cars on roads that shouldn't fit two cars! It was quite an experience to get to our next tourist stop - a riverfront walk along the Po. Passing gorgeous fountains, statues, a huge castle and musicians, you would think I would have taken more photos, but the thing that impressed me the most was Edoardo's university building. I mean, ASU had some nice buildings when I was in college, but his architecture building is in an old Palace that reminds me of Versaille. I can imagine he must be SO inspired every day he goes to class. It is actually called the Castello del Valentino and is the home of one of the best architecture schools in Italy. Built in the 1600s, it makes me want to be an architecture student in Torino haha.

We continued our stroll along the waterfront and eventually ended back at the car and sped off to another hilltop sight - the memorials to all the wars Italy has fought. In my mind, Italy isn't the strongest in military skills yet they have a nice memorial park that was fun to walk around, that is, until it became dusk and unbearably cold! We headed back to the city and for the first time had something not typically Italian for dinner - sushi! In a small, modern restaurant called Japs (I tried to explain to Edo that we would never name a Japanese restaurant this in the States) for some tasty sushi. It's been quite some time since I've eaten sushi and then sushi chefs put together a special variety plate for us. It's amazing how helpful people are in a different country when you have someone who speaks the mother tongue! Accompanied with some wine - we couldn't give up that Italian must - we ate our body weight in sushi and since we felt like we were pregnant with sushi babies, called it an early night and went home and watched an American movie - Scoop by Woody Allen, which I had never seen before.

My last full day in Italy started off pretty late - for some reason it seems like the cold made me want to sleep in every day! By time I woke up it was lunch time and Edo's mom was making us lunch. A tasty tortellini and oil and vinegar salad was on the menu and I was happy to have a homecooked Italian meal again. Edo, his mom and I ate together, which was pretty amusing seeing as I don't speak Italian and she doesn't speak much English. Poor Edo was constantly translating but we survived. The next thing on our agenda was to meet his friend Federica for a coffee in the Piazza. On the way we passed this gorgeous building that is actually only the cinema museum. Torino was the original capital of the country of Italy when Italy became a country. Being as it was the most important city, the Jewish population wanted to build a fantastic synagogue there and this building was the original place. They hired a famous architect who projected the building to cost 292,000 lira but after he started his ideas kept getting grander and grander along with the cost. By 1876 the Jewish community pulled out of the project and by this time the Italian capital was moved to Florence. Torino residents didn't want to see the building go unfinished and the city took over to finish the work and the result is a goregous building that is the symbol of Turin.

Turin is also famous for being the capital of cars in Italy (kind of like our Detroit...or what Detroit used to be). I didn't know it before I got here, but there is a brand of cars named FIAT here in Europe. It is quite a successful car company here and thier HQ is in Turin and the 'T' in thier name actually stands for Torino! Another claim to fame for Torino is Lavazza, the most popular coffee in Italy is also based in Torino. So I guess you could say Torino is a little mix of Detroit, Seattle and then all of the art that USA has!

After enjoying a tasty coffee in Piazza Vittorio, I realized my wallet was missing! NO GOOD! Edo and I went home and I searched for it but had no luck, so I called and cancelled my credit card and figured it wasn't the end of the world and that I had only really lost about 20€. Edo suggested we go file a police report since his house was near the station and I agreed. The polizia was quite run down, not something most tourists get the pleasure of seeing haha. The clerk that helped us of course only talked to Edo because of my Italian skills. It was quite funny though, because he tried SO hard to say words in English. At one point, he sat there pushing his hands against his foreheard for about 20 seconds and finally asked me 'How long...' and then finished the sentence in Italian. I wasn't so upset about the wallet so it was quite an amusing trip. If he had a question for me he would ask Edo and at one point, he stopped the questions to ask Edo if he really understood all the English I spoke! He was so impressed hahah. He was also very proud of himself when I told him I was from Washington and he knew how to spell that word. Another thing that shocked him was the contents of my wallet: an American credit card, a Spanish bank card, a Spanish bus pass and an American driver's liscense. When he asked for a contact number, Edoardo gave him his Italian cell. He was so confused how an American, living in Spain, could know a boy from Turin! You could tell we were the most exciting part of his day. Unbeknowest to me, Edoardo asked him if he could pick up my wallet if they found it because I was leaving the next day. The polizia said we would have to be married or engaged, so right there in the police station, Edo turned to me to inform me that we had just become engaged. I started laughing outloud so hard and then Edo got on his knee, proposed in the dingy police station and we dissolved into giggles!! So, officially in Torino, Italy, I am engaged and I have a police report to prove it haha - how romantic!

We left the police and headed to meet some old friends we knew in Spain. Edo, feeling bad for me, suggested we stop and grab the best ice cream in Turin - a mix of the chocolate Torino is famous for. Although I'm not normally a chocolate person it was quite delicious and the ala-mode on my day. We strolled through the city and on the way to meet our friends passed Japs by chance, the place where we had had dinner the night before. Upon seeing us, the hostess jumped up and ran to the counter where she pulled out my wallet. The entire restaurant staff was so happy to see us and they cheered when she gave me my wallet. Edo and I couldn't stop laughing, seeing the comic scene we just went through at the police. Alls well that ends well I guess.

With my wallet finally back in my purse we strolled through the main Piazza, where the lamps where filled with colored light bulbs and the entire square was full of life and of course shopping. We finished our ice creams and found a cute outside bar where we met our friends and started speaking in Spanish. One of the girls speaks an Italian dialect and doesn't speak too much regular Italian and since we all were in Spain together, we just speak Spanish, so it was kind of fun. Next we headed to a concert on the outskirts of Torino, a band called Franz Ferdinand, a rock band from Glasgow that is quite popular here in Europe. The best was that it was all in English and I knew a lot of the words. It was a perfect way to end my stay in Turin and was a blast. After the concert we stayed out at a bar until 2am talking and eating cheeseburgers (NOT a Turin speciality hahah) with everyone. By then though, we decided I should go to bed since I needed to be on the road at 8am.

I hadn't woken up at 8am the entire time I was in Torino, so it was quite difficult to get up and I ended up doing my blackeye make-up in the car but made it to the Milan airport on time and back to San Sebastian safely. As soon as I got back to Spain I was happy that I understood what everyone was speaking but of course missed Torino. Because I was with friends I didn't feel like a typical tourist and it was more like a fun hangout weekend that just happened to be in a different country. Italy is kind of like DisneyLand for me, I love it to pieces and I can't help but smile when I think about it. Hopefully I can go back soon!


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