We arrived in Turin at about 12:15, and the Sat-Nav was unclear on where our hotel was, and we carried on down the main road looking for somewhere to stop. We found an underground parking garage with a strangely long tunnel taking us under the city before we found the parking spots and decided to find the hotel on foot. The car would be safe there, and we couldn’t be more than 15 minutes walk from the hotel. It turns out it was only about 500 meters further down the road.
Lunch was a challenge. I don’t think we’d realised how religious Italy still is, at its core. In a relatively small town like Turin, many places close Sundays. We tried several well-rated restaurants before giving up, thinking we’d try the cafe in the up-market deli. The cafe was busy with no tables, and as the tables sat, scattered around the aisles people shop along it is a peculiar vibe to try and eat.
We then went over to Roadhouse Steak in the cinema, in the sure and certain hope a cinema restaurant would be serving and would be large enough to accommodate two people. It was, and it could. We then had a very mediocre meal, as you’d expect at that kind of venue before ordering a ‘mytaxi’ cab into town. To make it clear how average it was, my friend ordered the ‘all you can eat ribs’ and didn’t bother after the first serving.
It took about 15 minutes to arrange and arrive as it seems the on-line booking of cabs is not a common thing in Turin. Uber is unavailable, and MyTaxi doesn’t have a lot of taxi’s to its name. Lack of transport became a common refrain of our trip. The driver who did arrive was excellent, and he called at the start to confirm we would be there at his estimated arrival time and then called when he got close to ensure the pick-up location was understood. He took us into town and dropped us at the Egyptian Museum.
For a town like Turin, the Egyptian Museum is enormous, but as a famous archaeologist once said, the road to Egypt starts in Turin. The museum starts at the basement floor, with the first exhibit being a Roman artefact (an irony they happily acknowledge in their audio guide) before taking you up to the top of the building and letting you work your way down. The museum is magnificent, and the audio guide has a lot of information. Still, it is perhaps disappointing that the most important items, the statues, are all gathered (with a few minor exceptions) on the lowest floor you visit, but that also builds up the impression and expectation.
What is interesting is they have a few sections of ‘material display’ where they show off the backlog of items that perhaps would never get a case to themselves but are interesting. 40 or so headrests, a dozen pots. Half a hundred models for the funeral rites. It is an insight into the challenge a museum has of having many ‘boring’ items that are still important scientifically. It is also something I’ve never seen another museum do, crowd some their less ‘sexy’ pieces into cases to be seen as a sideline.
After the museum, we walked up to Castle Square, where the Palazzo Madama and the Royal Palace are based. It is an important location; spacious but full of people. We wandered into the grounds of the Royal Palace, but by this point, my friend had had enough of museums. So we left by a side entrance to see the Porta Palantina, the Roman city gates, and also a park where the homeless congregate and people exercise their dogs.
One of the more remarkable things I found about Turin, is the disparity in the architecture. Roman vies with renaissance. Modern and medieval share a square. It could come across as patchwork, but instead it gives a sense of eternal continuity. Turin has been here for centuries and is always embracing the new.
After the gates, we walked a while to the Mole Antonelliana, a landmark only referenced as 'iconic'. Having seen it it is a fair description. The building is extremely tall and dominates the skyline. We had seen it a long way before we arrived and had not realised it was our destination.
It has a sense of Gaudi about it strangely, and it houses a Cinema museum of all things inside. We stopped for a drink in its shadow to plan our next steps for the following day, deciding on remaining in Turin for the morning before heading off to Fenis Castle and staying in Aosta to see the Roman Forum. Our simple beer stop once again resulted in being fed by the cafe. Starting with a large bowl of crisps and when I ordered a second beer, getting a plate of cured meats and bread.
When done with the beer and obligatory food, we walked reasonably slowly to the restaurant we had booked for dinner. Having learned a lesson from the night before we ensured we booked a table so we’d have a place and not spend an hour walking around the city.
When we walked past our chosen restaurant, neither of us was particularly blown away by the venue or the menu. We used the excuse of being early to see what the sculpture at the end of the road was. We walked past about four restaurants with outside seating in a charming square. The sculpture was the Monument of Conte Verde, and we ended up cancelling our booking very last minute to go to Agnolotti & Friends near the Conte’s statue, for an admittedly beef heavy but excellent local produce menu.
€35 for four courses. The beef ravioli was particularly good. I’m now giving off a Swedish vibe as the owner decided to warn me the chateaubriand was spicy in case I wanted to change my mind. It was perhaps as spicy as a hot curry in Sweden, or a glass of water in the UK.
When we finished dinner, we walked to the main road to try and book a ‘MyTaxi’ home. After five minutes of not getting a driver assigned, my mate mentioned he thought he knew where a taxi rank was having seen one near the Egyptian museums. My enthusiasm for getting home had me ignore that voice in my head reminding me my friend had less sense of direction that I do, and I once drove an hour south from the Midlands to get to Manchester.
I cancelled the app, and we walked over to where he felt the taxi rank was. He was not correct on the location of the taxi rank, but we did find a courtyard with a view of the central station in the background which allowed for a good photo. We figured that there would have to be a taxi rank near the central station and walked that way. He spotted one before we got there and then noticed a cab parted on the opposite side of the road.
My friend crashed out on the bed by the time we got back, but I wanted to have a drink at the bar. The hotel was in a converted car factory, made of a large central area with a ‘doughnut’ of rooms around it. The bar is on the second floor and has a friendly vibe. The sommelier was excellent and kept me well-stocked in wine while i caught up on my writing. A couple was there with their elderly dog who was large and brown and adorable. On the table net to me was an American businessman who had come over for a few days for a deal and was there still a month later. He wanted to go home to his family and was hoping tomorrow would close the agreement and he could fly back.
Before leaving Turin, walked over to the Museo Nazionale dell’Automobile. It is an excellent place, a tall modern steel building, surrounded by more traditional brick buildings. It is a custom-built curved figure of eight in metal. The top floor is built around the history of the automobile, showing the earliest attempts, the increasing industrialisation of the car and showcasing a modern Lamborghini. It finishes on some thoughts on the future of transport. As well as exploring the risk of the waste generated through the mass production of vehicles.
The second floor was about construction, sales and advertising as well as a look at the ‘madness’ of car ownership’. A series of sculptures created out of car chassis or parts, like a fireplace, a robot or a dining table. It is an exciting area and a nice change of pace from seeing a series of complete cars.
The bottom floor highlights the history of Formula One races, specifically Ferrari. There is a large swooping display with all of of the Ferrari models that have raced F1 in chronological order which was impressive to see. A light show along the edge gives the impression they are moving along a track. The museum also has cut-outs of all the Ferrari F1 winning drivers, all in their race outfits. Except Jackie Stewart, who was in a kilt and flat cap.
Its an excellent museum perhaps better than the local Egypt Museum considering how personal the automotive industry is to Italy. The road to Egypt may start in Turin, but Ferrari begins and ends here.
After we finished, we stopped in a supermarket to get some sandwiches to eat for lunch later on the trip so we’d not have to worry about food at the castle and headed off up the road.