A Cina-gogue and Couchsurfers: My Time in Torino

Bruno is on the far left with no shirt

I was going to have this be a quick summery entitled: I have been to Florence, I’ve been to Torin-O/ I have been to Venice, and This is What I’ve Seen-O! Unfortunately I have a tendency to want to write everything, so here is three days in Torino condensed!

Anyway… The last night in Fenestrelle I had a lovely meal with Bruno and the gang. They were wonderful and immensly generous and pacient with my Spangtalian. The next morning Paolo and I planned to meet at 10 to return his tent and say goodbye. I was planning on hitchhiking to Torino and wanted to get a relitively early start to the day so I could meet my Couchsurfing hosts by evening. I discovered that night however that there was a bus at 10:10 for less than five euros, and decided that this was more than worth it for the convenience! Paolo was great and agreed to meet me at 9:30 so I could make the bus. After some difficulty packing up the tent (and it was so easy to “pitch!”) I paid for my stay and said my farewells to the camp friends and headed down to the bus stop at the bottom of the town with Paolo. He gave me a bottle of wine to take with me and we said goodbye. I have the feeling that I say (and will say) this a lot, but I meet the best people!

The bus came shortly thereafter and me and the five other travelers hopped on. My ears pricked up as I heard English being spoken and discovered that my other traveling companions (well four of them) were Brits who spent every summer in Fenestrelle. The mother was traveling with her daughters (in their 20s-30s) and one of their boyfriends, since their father was from the town. They knew everyone I had met and all the gossip and a bit about the sword dancing as well! They had been given a tray of croissants as a parting gift from the baker which they shared with me, delicious! We chatted and they gave me some advice on Torino, including where I should actually get of the bus! This proved to be very important, as there were several stops in the city, but after a rather picturesque bus ride through the valleys I arrived at Porta Nuova, in the center of Torino. I bundled all my stuff up onto my back and set off to find my couchsurfers. I had the address and had written out some directions the night before so off i went down the street, through a park and down another street with backpack and banjo and a rather large grin. I made it to the address and rang the buzzer.


“Chao, es Jeremy, de Couchsurfing”

“The banjo guy? Bless you, second floor!!”

The door buzzed open and I entered the small metal elevator cage and punched the second button. I then realized that with my banjo and backpack I was unable to turn around. Stuck facing the back door of the elevator I pondered first impressions and the like. I was pleased, therefore that I made it to the floor and was able to back out ungracefully and turn around before my host, Alessandro, had gotten to the door. He welcomed me in with a big smile and got me a glass of water. There was another women there couchsurfing who was just leaving to go to the Tomato fight in Buñol, Spain. Part of me wanted to go too, but I was in Italy and it seemed a shame to leave without seeing more; it has been so beautiful so far. My host informed me that he was about to head out to work till the next morning (as a doctor) and that his girlfriend would be back later and we could have dinner. He gave me the keys to his apartment and told me the last rule, “All travelers have to take a shower!” This is a great rule, and I both appreciated it and probably needed it.

After I was clean I went off to see the city. I am going to condense a bit here because there is a lot to see!

The Plazas are beautiful and large and great to people watch in! This day was fairly deserted, but many times they were full!

I basically pulled my general city-exploring theme and set out wandering around. I had some suggestions from people I had met along the way, but much of it was just roaming. I love the architecture (Torino is concidered the center of baroque) and it was a lot of fun to stop by different places and have nibbles of pizza, gelato, and fancy coffees.
I went to the Museo Nazionale del Risorgimentotorino Italiano which was a great experience. It housed the first Italian parliment and turned out to be one of the best history museums I have been to. It was put together in such a way as to use art alongside artifacts, videos, displays and other media to bring history alive. It also talks about all of Europe as a way to communicate what was happening in Italy. I think I learned more about European history from the little videos in each room with the artifacts displayed than in all of middle school. They also described France as “A vast land!” which I thought was funny.
I continued on my wanderings along the edge of the River Po, seeing churches, street jugglers, dancers, statues, and a boy flying a Buzz Lightyear kite.
That night I had dinner with Ilaria, my other host, who cooked me pasta with her mother’s homemade sauce from garden grown tomatoes. Delicious does not even start.
I wandered more the next day, seeing the royal palace of the Savoy Dynesty, which was beyond oppulant. While Versailles wins overwhelmingly on size and scale, it fails to match the shear sparkliness and golditude of this building. Every room shown with precious metals and paintings and the whole thing was overwhelmingly impressive! Unfortunatetly, they were rather firm on the no photos policy and the only ones I managed to sneak are not particularly impressive. That afternoon we all headed to a large farmers market on bikes. Alessandro insisted on biking with his dog on a leash, which resulted in being de-biked several times, not to mention lots of funny looks. He managed impressively well, all considering, and we made it to the market, which was near this giant wall that was a gate to the city in Roman times!
The market was filled with all sorts of food, from horse meat, to guinea pig (both of which i have eaten, neither of which I had here) to delicious calzones and mediocre canolli. Luckily, they knew of a delicous canoli place and my faith in italian pastry was restored. I had originally planned to leave the next day, but there were still a few places that I wanted to see so Alessandro (who is some kind of super host!) promised he would find me a couch for tomorrow. We went out to the plaza at night and met up with some friends of theirs for a while. We ended the evening with a late night visit to the kebab shop where I ate a rather huge calzone filled with kebab and french fries (yes! Inside the calzone!).  
The next day I went and met my new host, Shilly, who lived in the south of the city. I bid farewell to Alessandro and Ilaria and took the elevator up to the 11th floor, climbed another set of stairs and found my new apartment. Shilly was great, and showed me his videos and I played banjo. I also met his roommate Roberto before we all headed out, me bound for the cinema museum and they for work. The cinema museam is probably the best in Europe and is definitely a worthwile visit for anyone who is even vaugely interested in film. Everything about it is a little over the top in the best of ways! First of all, it is housed in the tallest masonry building in Europe, a giant dome that was originally meant to be a synagoge.

When the project ended up going way over budget, the jewish community backed out of the project and the city bought the tower. It changed hands several times until finally becoming a museum of this history of cinima. It has a crazy mix of modern and old style, with brick walls and bars that light up and allow you to order your food or drinks, play games and even watch film clips through a table top touchscreen. The bottom of the museum is an “Archeology of Film” which has all sorts of artifacts of pre-film light manipulation, moving pictures, and other optical tricks. There were 3-D pictures and films from nearly 100 years ago, including some mildly pornographic ones, which was rather surprising compared to an american museam. Next, i took the Panoramic Lift, which is basically a “Great Glass Elevator” that runs from the basment of the building all the way up through the giant room in the middle to an observation deck near the top. Incredible to rise up the center of this huge room with all these different videos playing around on the different walls!
At the top the view of the city was rather spectacular and I spent a half an hour hanging out and marveling at the views! The large stone ornements that stood along the walls were all bolted in and then had an additional rope that was tied around them. I wonder if they have had trouble with them falling? You generally assume that being constructed as part of the building and then being bolted in as well would be enough!
The main hall had a number of different rooms around its base with different themes of film clips being shown. each room had a theme that tied in with the clips, in the “romantic room” there was a large red round bed that you could lie down on and watch the films being shown on the ceiling. In the cartoon room, the whole place was made oversized and cartoony, including a door in the outline of Wile E. Coyote crashing through the wall. There was then a spiraling walkway that wound up around the edge of the hall and showed behind the scenes and history of many classic films. In the center of the room were chairs that you could lie down in with speakers in the headrest so you could watch various movies projected large on the walls. I spent three hours in the museum, until they kicked me out, and then wandered back to shilly’s house. He cooked a delicious pasta dinner, and I told stories about my trip and showed photos until it was time to go to bed. Torino is basically a lot of fun. Tomorrow: I go to Florence, have adventures on trains and eat gelato!
Thats all for now!

Shilly, Me and Roberto


About Jeremy Carter-Gordon

My blog of a year studying point-and-hilt sword dancing on a Watson Fellowship. Enjoy reading, tell me your thoughts and leave me a comment, or visit my website at JeremyCarterGordon.com
This entry was posted in Exploring, Italy. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to A Cina-gogue and Couchsurfers: My Time in Torino

  1. gorlitski says:

    Can’t wait to hear more about Florence, Venice and Spain…and your rethinking sword dancing (from your map entry)…very intriging!

    Also, love the “Cina-gogue”!

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