About Me

I am a 45 year husband and dad, currently adjusting to life back in the United States after living in Italy for a little over two years. I love spending time with my family, cycling, model railroading, mosaics and watching TV and movies.

Saturday, June 27, 2009


Il mare di Capri e' sempre azzurro - Capri's waters are always azure blue.

Today's forecast in Vedano: beautiful with some some, high 30c

Today we headed to Torino (Turin in English) in the Piedmont region of Italy, about an hour from the border of France. The area has approximately 1 million inhabitants.

Torino was the first capital of modern Italy and was host of the 2006 Winter Olympics. The city is in the foothills of the Alps, with the Po River running through it.

Torino is an important city of technology and industry. Fiat is based in Torino. Some call Torino the 'Detroit' of Italy because of its strong ties to the auto industry.

Wide boulevards, red, yellow and white buildings make the city center appear to be more French than Italian. Around the city a crown of castles, churches and villas on the hillsides offer sweeping views of Torino.

We left the house around 9am. Autostrada A4 took us from Milano straight to Torino. We arrived around 11am, making a few wrong turns in downtown Torino before finding parking at Piazza San Carlo. Piazza San Carlo was completed in the first half of the 1600's and is considered the 'living room of Torino'. We bought a map at a newstand and oriented ourselves to where we were and where we wanted to go.

Brandon in Piazza San Carlo. Behind him are the twin churches of Santa Cristina and San Carlo, as well as the monument in honor of Filiberto of Savoy.

On our way to our first destination, The Egyptian Museum, we stopped for lunch at a caffe/bar. I had a Quattro Formaggi Pizza. Katrina has a crepe. Brandon had his usual pasta con pomodoro.

The Egptian Museum was only a block away. The museum was founded in 1824 by Carlo Felice who purchased the collection in Egypt. The collection was later added to by archeological excavations by Eresto Schiaparelli. It has over 30,000 artifacts and is considered the second most important Egyptian museum in the world after the museum of Cairo.

Brandon reading through his guidebook. Fortunately photography was allowed, but no flash.

The museum houses collections that range from organic assortments to objects of art and everyday use to funerary objects...including mummies of humans, cats, alligators and bulls. I found the cats to be the creepiest. The statuary was the best and biggest area of the museum.

Katrina and I discussed how much time the Egyptians seemed to use to prepare for death. They spend decades building their tombs and buried themselves with their most important belongings, and pets. They also buried themselves with statues of bakers and with real bread, grapes and carob, so as not to go hungry in the afterlife.

Three of the many mummies in the museum. Notice that the head of the second one is unwrapped.

After we finished at the museum, we worked our way up one of the many pedestrian malls. We aren't really into the shopping, but looking in all the windows is fun. We stopped at Gromm, a chain of gelateria's that we had heard was very good. It was great!.

We found a marrionette museum along the pedestrian mall, but did not go in.

We continued to work our way towards Piazza Castello. Here we found the Palazzo Reale, the Palazzo Madama and the Church of San Lorenzo. The Church of San Lorenzo was built in 1666 in the Baroque style.

The Palazzo Reale took 14 years to build and was completed in 1660. This was the home of the Savoy family until 1865. It is considered to be one of the most opulent European palaces.

Brandon and Katrina is Piazza Castello with one of the many pedestrian malls in the background.

The Palazzo Madama is a unique building. The structure is one of the entrances to the Roman Castrum called Porta Decumana and became a fortress in the medieval period. It was turned into a caste in the 15th century and became home of the Savoy family in the 16th century. The front facade is Baroque and grand. The opposite facade is that of a Medieval castle.

Palazzo Madama - notice the Baroque facade and the medieval tower in the back.

Brandon standing on the glass floor inside the Palazzo Madama. It was built on top of the old Roman foundations.

Our next destination was Valentino Park. This proved to be quite a bit of a walk. It looked a lot shorter on the map. On top of that, it was hot and very humid. We must have walked for 30 - 40 min, stopping at a market to buy water and a snack. We also stopped at an incredible find, a model train store. It was great. The first model store I have been in that wasn't primarily diecast cars. I found a few things I liked, one of which will be added to the small pile headed to Blodgett OR.

We finally made it to the park. Valantino Park is considered the lungs of the city and is one of the largest urban parks in Europe (remember that Parco di Monza, across the street from our apartment, is the largest in all of Europe). It is located on the Po River. Here you can rent bikes, listen to concerts, visit Valentino Castle, the Medieval Hamlet or the Fountain of the Months. Our destination was the Medieval Hamlet.

Tower inside the hamlet.

The Medieval Hamlet (Borgo Medievale) is a historical reconstruction of a typical Piedmontese medieval hamlet. It was built in 1884 for the Universal Exhibition in Torino and its success kept it from being demolished at the end of the event. The hamlet is made up of workshops, kitchens, shops a chapel, prisons and a castle.

Outside wall of the hamlet.

Brandon on the main street of the hamlet.

Brandon looking into one of the wells inside the hamlet.

The Medieval Castle.

We thought about taking a tour of the castle, but it was a guided tour and we were just too tired to pay that much attention.

We slowly wandered out of the hamlet and found a bench to just rest and read through our guidebook. We decided we should visit the Fountain of the Months while we were in the park. It was built in 1898 by Carlo Ceppi. The fountain is supposed to depict a parable of 12 months, 4 seasons and the four rivers that flow through Torino...the Po, the Dora Riparia, The Stura and the Sangone. Unfortunately all it depicted for us was construction fencing and remodeling.

Katrina wanted to walk past the front of the Valentino Castle, so we walked through the upper side of the park and found a bar and playground. Katrina and I enjoyed some water and a coke while Brandon played on the swings.

Valentino Castle was built in a characteristic French style in the 14th century by Emmanuele Filiberto. The inside is decorated with stucco and fresco paintings. It is now part of a university.

Valentino Castle

We finally started our slowly walk back to our car parked under Piazza San Carlo. We made a point of staying on the shady side of the street this time. About halfway back we decided to stop at a bar for aperitivo and wine. Its a great way to have a nice snack. You stop in and order a drink and they serve you chips, popcorn, little sandwiches, and fruit. Brandon had a limone granita. Katrina and I each had a nice glass of vino rosso.

We made it back to our car in the parking garage below Piazza San Carlo, but not before stopping in a chocolate shop. One of Katrina's coworkers told us we had to try some chocolate that Torino is famous for. The store gave us a sample and we bought a small package.

Off to our Bed & Breakfast for the night. Our GPS didn't like the address we tried to enter, so we just entered the town of San Sebastiano and headed that way, about a 40 min drive from Torino. We arrived in town and had some trouble figuring out where Castello San Sabastiano was. We followed some signs that said 'Castello' on them. We were stopped by some people sitting on a corner directing people to a wedding. We asked them about the castle and they didn't know. This would end up being funny a little later. We made our way back towards town, then pulled over to call the castle for directions. Katrina had to talk since she speaks better Italian than I do. It turns out we were going the right way. The two people on the corner just worked for the catering business doing the wedding and apparently didn't know the name of the castle they were working at!! We managed to find our way up the foothill and to the back door of the castle.

Luca Carrone met us at the backdoor. He is part owner of the castle and seems to run most of the business. There was a big wedding reception going on. He showed us to our room and told us to come down when we were ready and he would show us around a bit. Castello di Sebastiano da Po is very old and very rustic. I do mean rustic in the literal sense and not in the sense that it was made to feel rustic. At first I was struck by how old, basic and worn the place was. By the time we left this would turn out to be part of the charm we loved about the place.

When Luca took us upstairs to our room, Brandon just about fainted when we were taken to room #6. That is the room he stayed in for his school residential trip a few weeks ago. We had joked about it, but I didn't think we would really get the same room. Brandon was so excited and so eager to share all he knew about the castle.

We got settled in our room then went downstairs to meet Luca. He was very kind and wanted to make sure everything was as we expected. He was also very gracious with Brandon by letting him lead the way to the breakfast room. Brandon was excited to show us the shortcut through the castle. Luca showed us around the main rooms, then told us of a place nearby where we could get some dinner. San Sebastiano is in the middle of the foothills, so the roads are narrow and the little hamlets are tucked all over. Luca decided it would be best if we followed him down into the valley to the restaurant.

We had a late dinner (9pm) at Trattoria La Pace. It was a very busy place in the middle of nowhere. I think only locals could even find this little hamlet, let alone the restaurant. The restaurant is family run and makes one or two dinner items per night. Of course, thats one or two items per course. We were not real hungry, so we just had a pasta dish and dessert. Brandon had homemade pasta with pesto sauce. Katrina and I had homemade meat ravioli's. Brandon had some cherry gelato for dessert. Katrina and I were each given a little sample plate with pieces of the three desserts offered. One was a baked peach dessert. The second was a chocolate cake and the third was a chocolate mousse. Our favorite was the peach dessert.

We made back up to the castle late. The wedding reception was still in full force. We were tired and ready for bed.....in a castle in Italy!! Sometimes that still amazes me...we are in Italy.

An 8 year old after a long day of sightseeing!

No comments:

Post a Comment