Finding something to write about this weekend was a challenge: not because Turin is in any way boring, but because in the last three weeks I have done so much I don’t know where to start, or how to group my experiences into meaningful stories. In a way I made it easier for myself and chose to go chronologically; I have decided to go “way” back and start with an adventure I had while here for my interview: a visit to the Basilica di Superga. It also harks back to the long line of posts I’ve written about ‘viewpoint’ experiences: whether in Sparrow hills in Moscow, London’s Primrose Hill, or Beijing’s Jingshan Park, I’m always looking for a near birds-eye view of cities (which is light on the wallet).
The Basilica di Superga is a pretty distinctive building. I can now find it from any vantage point, given good enough weather. I found it flying into Turin, I found it standing on the iconic Mole Cupula and I even found it from miles away at the Sacra de San Michele (own post to follow). I had first located it on a walk along the river bank, while surveying the hills on the ‘far’ side of the river Po. Prior to the visit in Turin I had used a long google-maps session to already scout out the fact that there were challenging looking hills to climb, but I had not chosen a destination. With the prominent building in view, I had a new goal.
Theinternet also quickly told me that it was easy to reach. From the hostel I simply had to take a bus and a funicular and I’d be knocking on the churches’ door. And so on a Saturday morning I headed out, only to find that I had missed the first funicular of the day by two minutes and they only run once an hour. Not the patient type, I was easily persuaded to follow the friendly-looking sign which said ‘route 28’ and had a picture of many green hills with a church on one of them. It roughly followed the tracks of the funicular, it must be heading to the Basilica!
Less than 15 minutes later the bus I had marched past, thinking it was stationed at an ‘end of the line’ point, had overtaken me and I had the gloomy feeling that I probably had just missed a chance to make my life a lot easier. As salamanders hurried to escape my path and birds sang, the sun began to beat down with an intensity which a northern German is simply not used to. I was thankful when my numbered path headed off into the densely grown forest- even if I still had no idea if the path was taking me anywhere I wanted to go.It was 30 minutes into my walk that I finally received confirmation that I was heading on the right path. It was an hour before I met anyone else, and he looked rather confused as he powered past me on his mountain bike. Once again discouraged, I took comfort in a new, larger sign, which showed a whole network of paths leading across the hillside and plotted my route, which was primarily ‘up’.
Two hours from when I started, I reached the top. Unfortunately I could not see a lot. In the time that I had been marching and trying to figure out Italian signs, a fog or perhaps smog had obliterated my view. The church itself was exquisite, though, and the Cafe Crema sold in its tearoom was very refreshing. I saved the visit of the church interior and the hike to the top of the cupula for a day with a view and returned to the city, satisfied.
It wasn’t quite enough, though. I found I needed to find other ways to ‘get high’ and find my city view-points (as usual), and so I have also taken the Panoramic lift to the top of the Mole de Antonelliana, and frequently summited the (far smaller) viewpoint at Chiesa della Gran Madre di Dio. Arguably more accessible than the Basilica di Superga, these viewpoints have the added advantage of not being quite as susceptible to poor view due to smog or fog, because they are closer. The Mole is in the heart of the old town, and provides a stunning walk-around view, while the Gran Madre imitates the view of the Basilica, if on a smaller scale because it lacks altitude. Gran Madre has the benefit of being free while the Mole can easily be combined with the breath-taking cinema museum… but more on that another time!