Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Turin or Torino, Italy. Magnificient

After Verona we were to go to Turin or Torino as the Italians call it. This was a 3 hour train journey and the distance was about 275 kms. The train was pretty fast though not the fastest. We bought the ticket from Mumbai and it cost us a princely sum of Rs 2,011 for two people which is about Rs 1000 per person. This includes banks ripping you of on the exchange rate and the exorbitant `service charge’ levied because of this online booking. Despite all that it was as cheap as chips.

Of course you will ask the obvious question, why Turin? Not a complex answer. The explanations are (i) we wanted to go to one more place in Italy (ii) it had to have a flight connection to London (iii) it had to be a place we had not gone to. So Turin it was. And yes, Turin is not part of the regular tourist path. That would be Rome, Venice and Florence with possibly Lake Cuomo. But I bet you did not realise how big an influence Turin has on us as Indians. The influence is bigger that any of those cities.

Well, first and foremost, Turin is where our real leader Smt Sonia Gandhi spent her childhood. Now is that not reason enough? Now you realise why Turin has such an impact on us Indians. FIAT - Fabbrica Italiana Automobili Torino, in its full form, is from Turin. Even today we use FIAT’s in India. In fact the FIAT from the humble `Dukkar Fiat’ that our parents or grandparents owned, to the Premier Padmini’s that was a status symbol in our memory and is today a disgusting taxicab. I bet you must have had a Cinzano to drink at some point, or even Martini the Vermouth as opposed to the cocktail. Well they come from Turin. The wine Barolo which is always very expensive comes from here too. And, who has not heard of Juventus the powerhouse football team.

Let me tell you Turin was FIAT – Fantastic Interesting Awesome and Terrific. We were very pleasantly surprised by Turin. It was fantastic.

Turin is in the Piedmont region of Italy and, is located in the North West of Italy. Turin’s location in the Alps resulted it in being the venue for the 2006 Winter Olympics. Remember a golden rule. Any city post 1960 that has hosted an Olympic is a fantastic city with brilliant transport infrastructure. What more would you want as a tourist? Think London, think Atlanta, think Athens, think Barcelona, think Beijing. Need I go on?

Turin is a young city; the Romans did not have much to do with it. So, Turin has much newer buildings mainly 18th and 19th Century. The city has been built in a grid so streets run in a logical fashion. Navigation is very easy. The buildings are built on a large scale, they are utterly gorgeous, regal and spectacularly beautiful. The city is full of majestic Piazza’s or squares. The squares are exquisite and many have statues that are elegant. Turin has numerous art galleries, libraries, gardens, theatres and opera houses. The city is a hotbed of culture.

Many monuments and their images absolutely define a city. The Burj Al Arab hotel shaped like a sail defines Dubai, Eiffel Tower, Paris, Sydney Opera House, Sydney, London Bridge, London and Christ the Redeemer Sao Paulo. Turin has the exquisite Mole Antonelliana. This was originally conceived as a Synagogue and constructed with much difficulty. It stands a monumental 550 feet high. Today it is the National Museum of Cinema. The building is gorgeous. In the very centre is a glass elevator which takes you to a viewing balcony from where you can see all of Turin, well not really, but it is a big view.

Being so linked to the car industry, especially one as large and powerful as FIAT, there is a truly wonderful automobile museum in Turin near the old FIAT factory called the Museo dell' Automobile. This museum was really excellent. The sheer number of exhibits, the way the museum was curated was amazing. You have 3 floors of exhibits, cars, engines, chassis, interactive displays and films depicting various aspects of the automobile. We had gone to the Ferrari Museum in Modena [Ferrari is owned by FIAT]. That museum was the most emotional one I have ever been to. The Mercedes Museum in Stuttgart was cold and unemotional though good. This one was everything, it was emotional, and it was large, well curated and totally interesting. We spent a better part of the morning there. Excellent.

The FIAT factory, which shut down in the early 1980’s has been converted into a huge commercial complex. You have a large shopping complex and a couple of top hotels in the old building. The unique thing about the factory was the fact that the roof housed a test track with a ramp leading up from the factory. FIAT has a very large office adjoining the factory today.

Turin is also home to one of the largest open air markets in Euroupe. In the area behind Piazza Della Reppublica known as Ports Del Palazo is  this huge market with stalls neatly laid out. It is a fruit, vegetable and meat market. It was really huge and with all sorts of beautiful fruit and vegetables on sale. This was really exciting and we spent quite a lot of time wandering thru this. We ended up buying some sun dried Tomato, Borlotti Beans and a some mixed beans, all of which will go in making some soup when we are back home. That was fun.

Almost all the sights in Turin are within the centre of the city and you can easily walk with the logical grid system. If you want to go to Lingotto the FIAT factory, the complex I referred to in the previous paragraph, the best way is to buy a one day pass for a princely sum of 5 Euro from any Tabacchi [or cigarette walla] and use all the transport available for a day. There is a direct underground Metro that is very convenient, damn clean and safe. You could also visit the Juventus stadium if you are soccer crazy.

Turin has restaurants, cafes. Bars, ice cream ships, sandwich shops literally every 50 meters. You will not go hungry or thirsty.

All in all, if you have seen the must do tourist spots in Italy, do visit Turin. A more regal and enchanting city with grace and dignity I have not yet seen.


No comments:

Post a Comment