Day 1: strolling around

I am delighted to announce that the first thing that happened when I got out of the hostel this morning was running into a woman on a bike, telling her friend: « ma la pasta era buona! » (« but the pasta was good! »). I’m in Italy alright!

I like Torino, I really do – but what hits me on this first day is how extraordinarily similar to home it is. Then again, makes sense: two mid-size cities of historical importance on the border of the Alps and strongly influenced by Napoleon’s conquests can be sister cities indeed.

So I set up course for the Bastille – ahem, sorry, the monte dei Capucini. From this high point (although not too high that the hike would be a problem for my poor knee), I can see the entire city and it’s beautiful. But did I mention how much like home it looks?

(So much for the weather report that announced 8 degrees and heavy rain.)

From up there, I grab a free-floating bike to go down, knowing that it won’t be a memorable ride and that it isn’t worth using my knee too much on this section of today’s trip. As of right now, while I’m riding the train from Torino to Bologna, I’m really happy with the service I got with RideMovi, paying 12 euros for a month of free unlocks and 75cts for 15mins on an ebike. It seems that they are also active in Bologna, Milano and Venezia, out of the cities I’m planning on visiting.

The bike ride takes me all the way to the gorgeous Parco del Valentino, which is crowded because it’s Easter Monday but still really beautiful and peaceful somehow.

The parc ends with a beautiful fountain, ornate with statues of women representing the months of the year and with a central piece that I cannot decipher, but which includes a very precariously placed baby.

From the park, I slowly make my way back to the center of town. Starving, I get the best foccacia I’ve ever eaten in my life at, a very busy terrace in a nice and sunny plaza.

Absolutely exhausted, I get back to the hostel at 3pm, having used all my energy and not knowing what I’m possibly going to do until the end of the day. Oh no.

I take the time to do some laundry while I have nothing better to do; then, I get in bed… and the water bottle I’ve accidentally sat on explodes. Drying and hanging all the wet things is enough to keep me busy for a while; at least there’s that.

After that’s done, I decide to put on my sandals (I wasn’t sure I’d ever wear them, but after a long day of walking, I already am thankful for packing them!) and go to the nearby park. I read in the sun for a while, then go back to the hostel for a nap and read in bed until it’s time for dinner.

At 8pm, I’m feeling decently fresh, thanks to the nap and to the very quiet dorm.

As my stomach isn’t too happy with me for some reason, I decide to go for a bowl of bland ramen (the point is not the taste, it’s to drink the broth) and let a small gelateria convince me of finishing my meal with a wonderful fior de latte ice cream, and then I head back home and sleep like a log.

Lessons learned for the rest of the trip:

  • It gets warmer after 10am. Might be better to be cold an hour in the morning than to carry a useless sweater all day
  • Take breaks! Chill! I could have explored for two more hours if I had stopped more often or had a nice break in the first park, instead of rushing the visit, then being bored and tired mid-afternoon
  • Don’t bring the water bottle in bed.

Things I wish I had brought:

  • A metal water bottle.

Steps: 19 210. Too many, and I hope my still-recovering knee will not punish me for it tomorrow.
E-Bike distance: 2.8km, including coming down from the hill. (My dumb self forgot these existed until I got all the way up.) My knee thanks me.
Time spent reading in park: 40mins.
One-off hostel friends: 2.
Hostel: great.
Bed: very good.
Pillow: bad.

Day 2: museum

Yesterday was a full day in Torino, so I walked around. Today’s a half day, which I’m spending at the Risorgimento museum.

My train to Bologna is at 2pm: I originally booked it for 3pm but am more and more thinking that Torino and Bologna being smaller cities, maybe I’ll get a bit bored if I spend too much time there, and it might be nicer to settle down. We’ll see – the whole point of the Interrail trip is that I’m supposed to be flexible, after all.

I start my day with an actually good cup of tea (a rare find in my limited Italian experience) and a delicious pistachio-filled croissant (shame on me, I know) at a small bakery with a sunny terrace just outside of the museum.

Then I head into the museum and get an entrance ticket and an audiobook. Because everything is only marked in Italian and English, I get the French audiobook for free, which is really nice. I’d like to go for the full Italian experience, but I don’t think my (otherwise decent) vocabulary includes 18th century military and geopolitical terms…

Every section of the audioguide is less than 45 seconds long, which is absolutely amazing and the way I like it. There are a few long videos in Italian with English subtitles; otherwise, everything is covered in the audioguide rather than in writing, although I think there might have been an app with some of the information. There was no wifi, so I didn’t try.

It’s curious to me that the whole first section of the museum is in French and about Napoleon. I feel like we talk a lot (where I live) about when we were Italian, but not so much of when our neighbours were French. It’s very weird to read a positive account of the Napoleonic wars (at the beginning), spun as how Italy was able to open itself to science and culture and the Enlightenment; but after a couple of rooms the war crimes are acknowledged slightly more openly and things go back to normal.

I highly recommend this museum, which is organized in chronological order and where every room has one specific theme and period. The walls are always painted in a symbolic color (for instance, the light blue of the Piemonte flag, or bleu de Savoie when talking about Savoie) and has a themed center object: a flag, bust, carriage, printing press, and so on.

Everything is explained really well and I never felt like I needed more background on anything to understand. And I learned a lot about the early days of the Kingdom of Italy and about the 1848s European Spring, which was fascinating!

The museum also includes the original Parliament of the subalpine region – since Turin was the first capital of Italy, followed by Florence and Rome. You can’t go inside the room, in order to protect it as it’s the only parliament that still remains intact from the European revolutions of 1848, but a window gives an excellent view from another room.

All in all, I finish the tour, at a leisurely pace but without stopping everywhere and without watching videos, in about 75 minutes. My knee hurts like hell – I didn’t walk much but there were quite a few stairs. And more importantly, it’s lunchtime and I have a train to take. Otherwise, I think I would have gladly added another half hour to the tour and listened to more presentations and to the themed videos.

With two hours to go before the train, I decide to go back to the hostel, grab my bag and go for lunch around the station.

Things I wish I brought:

  • Good wired earbuds for audioguides, as this one probably won’t be the last: they gave me a not-too-awful pair that I’ll reuse as much as possible.
  • A physical book. not to read, although that wouldn’t hurt, but to swap in all those exchange boxes and come back with the best book I saw all trip. I always forget!

More later! 🙂

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