Tag Archives: Turin

AN INSPIRING SPORTING MOMENT

In Utrecht this week I spotted a group of fit-looking gentlemen wearing Australian hockey tracksuits. I stopped to chat with them.

They weren’t the Kookaburras, the Australian hockey players who just collected Olympic bronze in London. They were the Australian Masters Team, preparing to play warm-up matches against the Netherlands and Germany before going on to the serious world championships in England. They were competing in the 70+ age division.

Now that I find inspiring!

There was stiff competition for places in the team, they told me, with selection based on a hotly contested 70+ Australian national championship. I thought when I passed 60 that I’d done enough running to last me the rest of my life. After meeting these guys I think it’s time to start serious training again.

I have 352 days to get in shape. The World Masters Games will be held in Turin, Italy, in August 2013.

My brother Andrew, who put together the side that triumphed in the World Masters in Sydney 2009 (Hockey gold medallists – 50+ Competitive Division) is entering a team to defend the title. I’ll do my best to be part of it.

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TOP TEN IN 2010 – my travel highlights of the year

The end of the year is nigh, so it’s time for looking back to see what little lurks in the deep recesses of my failing memory.

Three continents, fourteen countries, some excellent meals and some terrible coffee are in there somewhere. Most of the many queues, airports and train stations have fortunately been forgotten, though an October night sleeping on the carpet at Singapore’s Changi Airport was memorable for the wrong reasons.

Here, in no particular order, are ten experiences I intend to remember for a long time… Continue reading

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TURIN, ITALY – cycling slow by the Po, Torino

Garibaldi statue, Po River


Squeak- scratch-rattle! My wife and I could have rented smart cycles at a number of places along the Po River in Turin, but our Italian hosts have kindly lent us their battered old ‘anti-theft bikes’, as they affectionately refer to them. No-one’s going to steal them, and they’re not taking us anywhere fast either.

Umberto Bridge, Po River


No problemo. We’re heading out of Turin to a lunch destination that sounds very interesting, and we’re in no hurry. It’s a sunny day, and an easy ride along a cycle path by the river. On the Po, rowers and the kayakers paddle past, fishermen have hopeful lines in the water, and there’s a steady stream of joggers, dog walkers, and cyclists.

In the lovely Parco del Valentino, people sip caffe and slurp gelato as we squeak past. Novelty bikes seem to be the go here. Families are trying out weird vehicles with four sets of pedals. Papa usually does the heavy work, while Mama and the bambinos enjoy the view. The quiet river slips by on the left and when we glance up to our right between the blocks of city buildings, we glimpse snow-capped alps sparkling in the distance.

Life in Turin is seldom hurried. Italy’s fourth biggest city is mostly famous for producing Fiat cars and Pirelli tyres, so it doesn’t get the tourist hordes that flock to Rome, Florence or Venice. There was an exception to this rule this year, because the Shroud of Turin was on display in the cathedral for a few weeks only, its first showing for ten years, so believers (and amused sceptics wondering what all the fuss was about) lined up to shuffle past it.

Borgo Medioevale

We squeak to a halt by the Borgo Medioevale, with La Rocca castle towering above it. Signs (in English) warn us that this mediaeval town is not mediaeval. It was built for the Turin Exhibition in 1884, but people thought it was worth keeping. We’re happy to give the backsides a break and explore it, crossing the drawbridge into a cobbled street lined with reconstructions of mediaeval shops, displays of miniature mediaeval soldiers and a mediaeval drink dispensing machine. Information boards are all in Italian, but the gruesome torture device (okay, maybe it’s just a wine press) is interesting anyway.

A few rattling kilometres down the river we leave the cycle path and brave a little traffic to head into the Lingotto district. We’ve been told not to miss Lingotto’s shopping centre, which at first glance is just like any other suburban shopping centre anywhere in the world. There is one extraordinary difference, though. A lift somewhere between the gelato and Benetton shops takes us up to the fifth floor and the Pinacoteca Agnelli – an art gallery stocked with Canalettos, Picassos, Matisses and a Renoir, and a cutting edge exhibition of odd work too. The view of the Alps from the terrace alone is worth the modest price of admission.

Across the road is our lunch spot, ‘Eataly’, which local experts have promised will introduce us to Italian Slow Food. The pun in the name may be terrible, but we think the place is wonderful, the highlight of our day.

In 2007 an old vermouth factory was converted into a light-filled temple to all things culinary. Eataly is a food market, dedicated to Slow Food, “where buy, taste and learn about high quality foods” according to its website. What a great idea this is, and a simple one too – stock a market with high quality local produce, price it reasonably, display it brilliantly, with information about its provenance, staff it with people in aprons to make them look like they know their food and wine, and people will come!

There are seven separate restaurant areas within Eataly, each with its own specialty – pasta , meat, fish, etc. We go for the fish. We can sit at a counter to watch and learn as the experts prepare it in front of us, then serve it with a glass of beer or wine thrown in. While we wait we’re dished up a basket of generous chunks of excellent fresh bread, olive oil to dunk it in and a litre of sparkling mineral water. Total cost around EUR15 a head, all inclusive.

We love the idea of the Slow Food movement – small-scale local producers, dedicated to protecting and fostering food traditions, defending biodiversity and running food education programs. There are Eataly branches in Bologna, Milan and Rome, and now also in New York and Tokyo, and I bet they’re all booming.

After lunch we browse Eataly’s food market section, with its fabulous displays of locally produced zucchinis, prosciutto, pasta and mozzarella. In the cellar we find a huge range of beers and wines, with attendants on hand to provide expert advice. We could fill our own bottles from the barrels, but we choose a bottle of Barbera, a big red from nearby Asti, to take home.

Then we progress to the caffe bar. Mrs Tulloch takes a classic hot cioccolato for which Turin is famous – imagine a couple of whole chocolate bars melted into a cup. I go for the Bicerin, the locals’ beverage of choice. Chocolate in the bottom, whipped cream on top – pure evil, we know, but we hope that riding back on a gearless, squeaky anti-theft bike will roughly neutralize the effect.

TRIP NOTES:

Getting there: Bus from Milan Malpensa airport to Turin takes 2 hours and costs 18 euros one way.
For non cyclists, trains run to Lingotto from central Turin.

Staying there: For accommodation options see turismotorino.org

Further information: Entry to the Borgo Medioevale is free. La Rocca castle entry is 5 euros, Pinacoteca Agnelli 7.5 euros. TIP: A three day Torino Card costs 25 euros and gives entry to most museums in the area, as well as unlimited use of trams and buses.
For more about Eataly, see www.eataly.it.

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ASTI, ITALY – the small Piedmont town in pictures

Possibly more non-Italians have encountered ‘Asti’ in a crossword puzzle than have ever tasted its wine. I have a glass of sparkling red in front of me as I write – Freisa d’Asti. It’s doing the boj (oops, job) nicely, as did last night’s heavy red Barbera from the same region. And this little town just outside Torino (Turin) looks very pleasant too.

A quiet back street in Asti's Old Town

Asti's main street, Corso Vittorio Alfieri.

Asti Cathedral- The town is known for its square blocky towers.

Asti Junior football club holds an open training session by the cathedral...in front of a small crowd of fans.

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TURIN, ITALY – Museo Del Cinema

The tower of Mole Antonelliana

Oh, we do like Torino’s National Museum of Cinema! And so do lots of other people it seems; they’re queuing along the street to get in.

Then we realise that the queue is just for the people waiting to go up the tower in the Ascensore Panoramico, the panoramic lift, to take a shot of Turin’s rooftops in the rain. We can skip around to the ‘museo solo’ line, which is much shorter.

We can’t blame people for wanting to go up to the top of the tower, though. When it was first completed in 1889, the Mole Antonelliana which houses the museum was the tallest masonry building in Europe. It was originally intended to be a synagogue, though it would have been a very strange, pointy, multi-storey affair. The Municipality of Torino took over the building project, intending to make it a monument to national unity. Now the image of the ‘vertical dream’, as its architect Antonelli referred to it, appears on the Italian 2 cent Eurocoins, so we know it’s really made it.

And an extraordinary, witty temple to cinematic art it is too. We’re well-disposed towards this place as soon as we pass through the shop and I spot a model of Hugo Weaving in Matrix pose. The tables in the bar downstairs have screens built into them, where we can read the menu, but also watch famous film clips of people eating. I was hoping to find Meg Ryan’s faked orgasm scene from When Harry Met Sally ‘I’ll have what she’s having’, remember? But no such luck.

In the exhibition areas we’re fascinated to see the original scripts of Citizen Kane and The Godfather II (I’d almost forgotten what a courier-typed script looked like), Fellini’s hat and scarf, and a signed contract in which Jimmy Stewart agrees he has received $300,000. The kids prefer the rubber Aliens monster and the Darth Vader masks.

We love lying back in the lounge chairs watching clips of Fellini, Bertolucci, Wertmuller et al.

The current special exhibition, in honour of the displaying of Shroud of Turin in the cathedral, is called Ecce Homo. My language skills fail me, and I wonder momentarily if it has anything to do with a gay man. It doesn’t. It’s the Latin phrase used by Pilate when he displayed Jesus to the hostile crowd – ‘Behold the man’. The museum has put together a massive collection of material concerning any film ever made about Jesus for us to behold. They’re all there; posters, still shots and publicity material from Cecil B de Mille to Jesus Christ Superstar and Mel Gibson’s Passion of the Christ. There’s one notable gap in the collection though – where’s Monty Python’s Life of Brian?

Entry to the museum costs 7 euros, or 9 euros including the panoramic lift.
To see the English version of the museum’s website, go to:

http://www.museonazionaledelcinema.it/index.php?l=en

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TURIN, ITALY – to market, to, um, mercato

‘No, no thank you, I just want one. Just uno. U-no, and not so big…er, no want grande. Only a little one. Yes that’s it. Si, si! Um, grazie. Perdone. Me touristo stupido…’

There’s nothing like wading through a local market to give you that wonderful, exciting feeling that you’re in another country, and though your language skills are limited, somehow you’re still surviving. That’s because you’re a citizen of the world, a mime of Marcel Marceau-like calibre, a confident expert in non-verbal communication.

We’re in Turin, Italy…correction, ‘Torino, Italia’. Thanks to an apartment swap, we’re staying off the beaten tourist track, in the San Salvario area, near Porta Nuova station.

It’s an unpretentious district of sex shops and snackbars selling both kebabs and pizzas. No other tourists that we can see, although we know they’re only a few blocks away. We love it here. There’s a daily food market down the street at the Madama Cristina Piazza, and we make a point of going there every morning.

There are piles of olives and cheeses we don’t recognise, curly lettuces and other vegetables we’re not sure how to cook, fish with unfamiliar names and shapes (though we can recognise a salmon when we see one)
and hanging from the butchers’ hooks, dead animals still wearing their heads – pigs, sheep, roosters and rabbits. We’re not quite used to that, but it makes us feel…’intrepid’, that’s the word, to weave our way between them.

It would be nice to report that we’re mingling effortlessly with the locals, exchanging witty banter as we haggle with the stallholders. But our Italian conversation is limited to, ‘Buon giorno, signora…um, we want two of those things and half a kilo of that stuff. And questo e…scusi, no parlo italiano, what’s that called? Okay, never mind, we’ll have one anyway. Uno. Grazie. Arrivederci to you too.’ Rather than being attractively exotic, we get the feeling that we’re a slightly irritating nuisance.

We can comfort ourselves with the thought that if it gets totally embarrassing and we make complete idiots of ourselves, at least we’ll never have to see these people again in our lives. They won’t have to see us either. There’s a supermarket on the corner and we’re flying out of town next week.

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