Two Sundays ago we caught a train to the northern Italian city of Turin.
We stayed in a hotel that we had found and booked over the internet a few days before: The Starhotel Majestic .
As advertised, the hotel was near the station, centrally located and had decent rooms. Our bed was especially comfortable.
We decided to visit Turin because Tuesday (8 December) was a public holiday, meaning Monday (7 December) was implicitly a public holiday too and we didn’t want to stay home.
After we had checked into the hotel, we ventured out onto the streets and had lunch.
Our first attraction was the National Museum of Cinema where we optimistically waited in a queue at the entrance for 2 hours! We were enormously relieved when we were finally allowed to go in.
The museum was stimulating, colourful and entertaining. I liked the reclining cinema chairs with in-built headphones and enjoyed lying back and snatching 5 minutes of Anita Ekberg not falling out of her dress in La Dolce Vita.
After that, we had to hurry around the museum, spurred on by recorded announcements about the museum’s imminent closure.
Over the course of the weekend we visited the Egyptian Museum, the Gallery of Modern Art, a church with truly spectacular marble work inside, a church with a replica of the shroud of Turin, city squares, the river Po, Zara (the shop), some restaurants and coffee bars .
We walked everywhere along the hard-surfaced, largely pedestrianized, grid-patterned city streets, past elegant buildings in various states of upkeep. Trams, buses, scooters, vans and cars (notably Fiats) circled and criss-crossed the centre adeptly avoiding collisions with people travelling on foot.
I don’t recall seeing any bicycles.
The city was bedecked with Christmas lights. Every square, every main thoroughfare, had its own distinct decorations. Shop windows, particularly those of food vendors, were bursting with attractively arranged Christmas merchandise.
The people out on the streets were decidedly northern Italian: conservative in dress with a preference for black, physically presentable, perhaps less blond than Lombardians but just as bespectacled, civil (but not to the extent that they pick up their dogs’ excrement!), unthreatening and ethnically homogeneous.
But who were they, these people walking along the straight streets of the city centre? Probably a mix of long weekenders and day trippers; people who had come in from nearby communities for shopping, friend-visiting or cinema-going; and people who lived or worked in the city (i.e. the ones who hadn’t gone skiing or away to another city themselves for the weekend.)
I drank some excellent coffee in Turin but I didn’t get on with the local cuisine. It made me nauseous and I had to skip some meals in order to avoid further stomach problems.
I feel fine now.
On balance, it was a pleasant weekend away: new sights, new sounds, a change of air, lots of bad photos (hence text only) and plenty of low-impact exercise in the form of walking.
However, I can’t claim to know, understand or be smitten by Turin.