Catch up on my other Italy posts here:
Today Peter flew home to catch flight immediately back to Shanghai and then Penang. I decided to stay in Italy a few more days with Peter’s mom. After an very early and tearful goodbye at the Milano airport, Peter’s mom and I stuffed ourselves with espresso and prosciutto sandwiches before the long drive back. We ended up stopping at a few different towns along the way, taking walks and enjoying the rural scenery.
Back at the house we relaxed some more while eating lots of bread and cheese. Yum. Again, I got some serious cabin fever and went out for a walk on the town by myself at dusk.
By this time the town was dark and quiet, like a ghost town. I trudged along slowly through the bitter cold as a few figures dressed in black walked slowly ahead of me. I hurried home before the darkness could take over.
The next day Peter’s mom and I took the subway into Turin, also known as Torino in Italian. It was a beautiful yet chilly day, perfect for walking and sightseeing! Right away I was struck by the big and stately white buildings separated by streets zigzagging in perfect grid formation, reminding me of Vienna in all its glory.
We wandered the streets for a while, making our way towards the Egyptian Museum and admiring the new years decorations along the way. It was also the day before Epiphany, a big holiday in Italy which meant lots of people and lots of sales! The city was packed with shoppers which was slightly annoying but still less busy than China. Crazy right?
We somehow ended up at the entrance of an old cinema from the Art Nouveau period in the early 1900s. The lettering on the glass entranceway said “Teatr Cinema Nuovo Romano” which opened up to reveal a beautiful iron and glass ceiling above a small piazza. It was so beautiful!
In 1902, Turin actually held the First International Exposition of Modern Decorative Arts (Prima Esposizione Internazionale d’Arte Decorativa Moderna), a world arts exhibition that helped spread the popularity of the Art Nouveau style, especially to Italy. I am sure this Cinema was built during the exhibition. So cool! I fell in love with Art Nouveau in Prague and was so happy to see its influence again.
After emerging from the other side of the indoor piazza, we found ourselves in the heart of the city at Piazza Castello. At the center of the piazza lies the Palazzo Madama which is a fascinating conglomeration of an ancient Roman castle and modern facade from the 1700s. Various memorials surround the square which is the historical and political center of Turin.
From the square we were enticed into a cafe filled with delicious looking pastries and gelato. Of course we had to sit down and enjoy chocolate tarts and cappuccinos to beat the chill. When in Italy… eat pastries and drink coffee! Now that’s my favorite kind of snack!
After wandering through a few smaller squares with architecture ranging from romantic to baroque (above), we finally reached the Egyptian Museum of Turin (Museo Egizio). It is actually the world’s second largest collection of Egyptian antiquities after Cairo. Who would have guessed! The museum was enormous and very… Egyptian. The coolest part was a dark room downstairs with rows of ancient statues lining the walls. I half expected mummies to start stalking us.
Back outside we rejoined the masses as shoppers flooded the streets to find good sales. There were so many people! I started to notice that almost everybody was dressed in black. How boring! I just so happened to be wearing my bright blue ski jacket and felt ridiculously out of place. However, I am definitely used to standing out. Living in China does that to you.
In the late afternoon we met up with some friends at the Palazzo Reale. But first we had to get more refreshments at the museum cafe including hot chocolate espressos and dessert sampler platters to share. I don’t know how that happened but everything was delicious. So many pastries… The Palazzo Reale was enormous and magnificent in the setting sun and would prove to be just as amazing inside.
The Palace was built in the 1600s and was the residence of the kings of Sardinia until 1859 and Vittorio Emanuele II, king of Italy, until 1865. Turin is an interesting city because it was Italy’s first capital and home of the House of Savoy. The palace art is extraordinarily elaborate and a testament to the artists who worked there from the 17th to 19th century. It was so ridiculously elaborate!
As much much as I enjoyed soaking up the royal history of Turin, I was excited to get out and explore the city at night. I find that nighttime reveals the gritty and dirty side of cities. Sometimes it is a nice contrast to the glittering daytime version.
We started walking towards the Mole Antonelliana, one of the tallest and most interesting buildings in Turin. As we got closer, the tower seemed to get taller and taller. Suddenly I noticed signs for the National Cinema Museum of Turin (Museo Nazionale del Cinema in Torino) and became crazy excited. I love film! Then I saw this sign outside the Mole and almost died.
A Metropolis exhibition at the Cinema Museum which is actually in the Mole! Whoa! Metropolis is a 1927 landmark film from director Fritz Lang that I studied in a college film class. It is a crazy silent German expressionist science-fiction film that is long, symbolic, and technologically advanced for its time.
Of course I had to get tickets to the Cinema Museum which is one of the most incredible museums I have ever experienced. Each exhibit is interactive, detailed and takes you into the sets of movies and the history of film. It was absolutely amazing. The base of the museum is a huge movie viewing area with big red lounge chairs that allow you to lie back, gaze up, and watch the singular cable elevator transport people to the roof.
I spent hours walking through each exhibit, marveling at the unique design of the museum. I didn’t want it to end! I saw the production notes and photography from the set of Metropolis which was really cool. But the exhibits on the history of film were my absolute favorite. The evolution of photography to film is so fascinating!
However, the best part of the night was our trip to the top of the Mole, via scary dangling cable car, to see the lights of Turin.
From up above we could easily see the amazing city planning of Turin which is organized into beautiful grids of yellow light in the darkness. It was very windy and cold up top but we were so happy! It was a perfect last look at the city we just explored so wholly. I mean, we went to 3 museums in one day! That is definitely a personal record.
Before heading home, we stopped at a popular sushi place for dinner. We were the only tourists among hip young Italians having rowdy dinners at 9 o’clock before a night of partying. I was too tired to care about my disheveled look and devoured my sushi without a problem. Thankfully it was time to go home and pass out. After such a crazy long day of sightseeing I was absolutely exhausted.
1 day, 2 many pastries, and 3 museums… What a day! Turin, Torino, or whatever you’d like to call this beautiful city, was an unexpected delight. But nothing would compare to the splendor of the following evening.