My guests from the UK had a few clearly defined goals in the one week they were in Torino. Unlike other visitors, who had decided they wanted to see something specific or to experience a particular activity, these guests formulated their goals in two words: “pizza” and “gelato”.
To give them credit, these are two things which Italy does do particularly well, and they live very busy lives, making their preparation time for their visit quite short. Moreover, I was very impressed with their commitment to these goals: both of them were reached almost daily, and each success was carefully documented with photographic evidence.
When not satisfying their stomachs, team Auxford ticked off Turin sights, traveled into the surrounding area, and enjoyed the warm weather. Within 48 hours of their arrival they knew more about the city’s architecture than I do, thanks to a free walking tour. Some of this information was passed on to me- which facades were built during Mussolini’s reign, where stepping on the bull brings luck, where to find the biggest chandelier in any cafe…ever? But mostly I was encouraged to use a free day to attend it myself. Its that good, apparently. Either that or they were covering for not remembering half of the information.
The walking tour gave them a great introduction, and in the following days they independently visited some of my favourite areas, before I joined them for some new explorations. One of these was a short trip to Venaria Reale, a former palace of the Italian Royal family in the north west of the city. Venaria was so far away from Turin and so grand, that an entire town was built around it. Even now it seems to be the centre of activity, with residential buildings turning into shops, cafes and restaurants the closer you get to it.
The palace is one of the few which has been well managed and really turned into a tourist attraction, hosting changing exhibitions, large events and concerts, and making the most of the adjoining gardens and wildlife park. Our visit was largely due to the exhibit featuring Steve McCurry’s work, a photographer largely known for his portraiture and photo documentaries published in National Geographic. The first half of our day was spent in this exhibit, studying the images, listening to descriptions, and discussing the compositions. Everyone was blown away by the collection, especially those who had come with low expectations. Perhaps the most clear way of stating how interested we were is through one fact: we stayed so long that we basically skipped lunch, ending up with only a mid-afternoon snack, instead.
Refueled, we attempted to see most of the rest of the large compound. Some of us succeeded in wandering through the ballrooms and dressing rooms, bedrooms and even walked the kilometer to the end of the garden, past fountains and sculptures. Others curled up in the shade of the rose garden and had a nap. Royal relaxation, for each taste and interest!
It is, I think, a place that invites you to return. Although I have now seen the building, there is so much more to explore, and the changing seasons will provide different atmospheres. In fact, I am already looking forward to my return in the middle of October, when the park hosts a ten kilometer run. I envision a glorious autumnal day…
To be continued.