Archive for the ‘Turin’ Category

Turin – A Day (and a bit) in the Life Of   21 comments

It was reluctantly time to move on. Another train journey. Another city. Another country. A crap day of weather waved us off as we headed to the impressive Gare de Lyon for a TGV train to Turin.

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I’d grabbed another chance for a slice of First Class life, figuring the extra was worth it for a 7 hour train ride. Plenty of space for a picnic

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The journey wasn’t without some incident. Some kind of problem on the line meant we couldn’t go via Lyon and Grenoble as planned and had to take a very circuitous route through the mountains. The train was actually early so we had to park up for 30 minutes to wait for our slot to pass through the Frejus tunnel into Italy. I took the chance to hop onto the platform for a photo – and a soaking as it was still hammering it down (it rained pretty much the whole way.

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It was a shame that we didn’t get better views of the Alps as we passed through but I’d take the only poor day of the whole holiday as a travel day. I even enjoyed the long journey. Far from being bored as I thought I loved just sitting watching the world go by (after the usual squabble over window seats with the kids)

We checked into our hotel for a couple of nights, the very reasonable and pleasant Hotel Dock Milano (not sure why it was called that as a Hotel in Turin). We had a large spacious, clean quad room with a small balcony for the princely sum of £80 a night including breakfast. I’ve stayed in plusher hotels but I don’t think I’ve ever stayed in one that offered better value, especially one walking distance from a city centre.

We hadn’t originally planned a stop in Turin. We had thought about taking a direct sleeper train to Venice but the reviews of the service were pretty poor and it was very expensive. Taking the day option to Venice would have us arriving late and changing trains in Turin so I thought we may as well have a day to look around.

After we checked in we headed out for a brief explore and a meal. The rain had stopped and the evening light reflecting off the wet pavements was rather nice

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We had a decent pizza, a meal enlivened by a local character who I think was trying to convert us to some form of religion. He was harmless enough so we just looked gormlessly at him (we are quite good at that) and he wandered off

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The next day looked bright and sunny as though the bad weather had passed. The most striking thing about Turin are these covered arcades which run along the main streets. They are rather stunning and provide a welcome shelter from the weather. At this part of the day it was relief from the hot sun

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Turin’s main square is a sort of two-part affair. This is the Piazza Castello with the Piazzetta Reale behind (backed by the Palazzo Reale) and another nice if minimalist fountain

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And flanked by the Palazzo Chiablese on one side

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And the Palazzo Madama on the other. A collection of exceedingly fine buildings around an exceptionally fine and very quiet square

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We wandered out the back of the Palazzo Reale to look at the gardens but they were shabby in the extreme. There was a keep off the grass sign. More accurate to put a keep off the weeds sign

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The other side of the Palazzo Madama

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Turin’s most famous site is the Mole Antonelliana. It was originally a synagogue but is now home to the National Film Museum. As such its the tallest museum in the world.

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Brief reviews seemed to indicate that it’s a pretty good museum with a glass lift to viewing platform and fine views across the city. There was a slow-moving queue however and we only had a day so we moved on. Its tucked into a series of narrow streets so hard to get a decent photo of from close up

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This is the Piazza Vittorio Veneto. Even though it had a road through it, I really liked its vast space and elegant white buildings

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I mentioned cities and rivers in a previous post. From what we saw in Rome and here in Turin, rivers are not a great feature of Italian cities. The Po was pleasant enough but nothing like the scale and grandeur of the Seine. Most of the times we saw the Po, and the Tiber in Rome they seemed little a little manky to be honest

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Still, wandering across an old bridge (this one is the Pont Vittorio Emanuele I) with views to a square and a fine church is never bad.

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This very Roman looking church is the very marvellously named Chiesa

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The views from the top of the steps back across the city was excellent and worth dodging the dangerous road crossing to reach it and return safely

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It was time to eat so we wandered back into town for a nice lunchtime salad and sandwich in the city

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Turin’s major shopping street, the Via Guiseppe Garibaldi, home of revolutionary biscuits

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Wandering back to our hotel we came a cross the old roman part of the city and the Campanile del Duomo

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And an old gateway that doesn’t seem to have a name on my map

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TJS returned back to the hotel for some quality WiFi time while me and the Funsters decided it was time to try some Italian ice cream. Well I can tell you that the Italian reputation for Gelato is well founded. It became a daily ritual to eat a large tub of the stuff with myself and TJF eventually settling on a 2 flavour combination of fruit and dark chocolate. It’s a passion in Italy and Gelato establishments are everywhere. The tip is apparently to look at the pistachio ice cream. If its bright luminescent green as we see in the UK its bad news. If its pale olive-green its most likely natural ingredients and good quality. Here and in Venice our chosen shop was a place called Grom. Considering the enormous portions and high quality it was pretty good value as well. We ate loads over the next couple of weeks

While everyone rested I went out for another wander, eager to see some more of the city and to find us a restaurant for the evening. I came across the very fine central railway station, Porta Nuova.

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And a statue of Vittorio Emanuele II. There are loads of statues of this bloke in Italy

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There was a huge boom of thunder and heavens opened. It lashed it down for a good hour and you’re thinking I got a soaking but I was saved by the cities endless covered arcades. Other than crossing the road I walked home about 15 minutes without getting wet. I liked Turin.

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When we stepped back outside to eat the evening was glorious once more, with views to distant mountains

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The late evening sunlight in the arcades was also rather fetching

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Our whistle-stop day ended with an exceptional meal and as it turned out the best meal for the whole trip in my opinion. That was up against some stiff competition as the food in Italy was without exception superb and despite my reservations pretty reasonable in cost (once we worked out Italian menus anyway!). This place was called La Capannina and if you are ever in Turin I suggest you go find it. The food was sensational and the staff friendly and welcoming and appreciative of our efforts to speak some very basic Italian

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A walk back through the moonlit streets to finish off our brief visit before we were off again. I’d certainly recommend Turin for a weekend break. It has a decent collection of old buildings and squares, great restaurants and was quiet. It’s also a bit more “real” if that’s the right word than the living museums (and crowded) Rome and Venice

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A Tale of Eight Cities   20 comments

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Kids and how to keep them happy on holidays. Both of mine have grown up with radically different interests especially when it comes to leisure time. TJS loves walking and backpacking through the mountains. TJF loves chilling and when encouraged some adventurous climbing and water based fun. Neither enjoys the others preferences. I was stuck for this years holiday, keen to keep the family trips going as long as possible as University years approach, without one or both of them looking bored.

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Several of my friends have been focusing more on cities than our traditional outdoor trips (Barcelona, Nice to name but two). I mentioned doing something similar more out of desperation than anything else, expecting a lukewarm response. I was taken aback when both of them (and TBF) were positively enthusiastic about the possibility of a summer trip to bag a few key European cities as it were. The idea was born and the holiday planner in me sprang into action.

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After much deliberation we centered the trip around Italy and Eastern Europe having never been to either. Train travel was our chosen transport method and we were all excited by the prospect of doing the whole thing by train (and bus) and being liberated from the cossetted world of the car and the endless tedium that is air travel. Thanks to the amazing website, The Man in Seat 61 (I lost hours trawling through its pages) that travel planning was easy and booking rail tickets was simple. It’s a mine of information, almost all of it helpful and unerringly accurate

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Rome and Venice were certainties as was a more modern city in Berlin. I wanted to see Budapest although that got a lukewarm reception (very misguided). As we had to travel through Paris it seemed prudent to spend a couple of days there. In addition long journeys from Paris to Venice and Berlin back home dictated a couple of stopovers in Turin and Cologne. That makes seven. City number eight came courtesy of one very delayed train and an unexpected chance of a couple of hours in Vienna.

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I wanted to spend at least a few days in each of our major stays so a 3.5 week trip was in order to take advantage of the Bank Holiday. We used Apartments for multi night stays and cheap quad room hotels for the single nights. Over the course of the planning, hotels were booked, rail tickets purchased (including several first class tickets – European rail travel is exceptionally cheap if you book ahead). A few key attractions and tours were reserved. We packed light, just one rucksack each.  We were ready.

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Never having done anything like this before I thought the trip could go two ways. It would be a disaster and we’d hate it, vowing to put it down to experience and never attempt such a thing again. Alternatively it would be an amazing, fantastic experience that we’d want to do again. I’m not giving too much away to say it was most definitely the latter! 🙂

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We saw and did a quite staggering amount of stuff. I took thousands – yes really – of photos so its going to take me a while to write all this up. I’m planning one general post about each city and the related journeys and some more specific posts about places or days that deserve them. It will take me a while

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I’ve dropped a photo from each city into this post as a taster to get you in the mood. There was plenty of sun, tons of great food, bucket loads of ice cream, amazing sights and experiences and a lot of laughter (much of it at TBF’s expense bless her!). First instalment tomorrow, hopefully.

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