Sunday, September 2, 2007

info about this blog...

Since I can't remember my username/password to my original two trip blogs, I re-copied all of my posts from of both my 2006 & 2005 trip blogs here.  I have also copied over all of my comments, although the dates/times are no longer correct. There are only photos in the 2006 trip posts. When I get the chance, I will add links to some of my 2005 blog posts, linking places with slow travel photo albums I have made. 

Below are my itineraries for both trips...
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

2006 itinerary

*Bergamo  (June 14-15)  Hotel Agnello d’Oro
*Coccaglio  (June 16-18)  visiting Katia & Guido
*Venice  (June 19-22)  Hotel Al Ponte Mocenigo
*Empoli  (June23-25)  visiting Irene & Francesco
*Lerici  (June 26-29)  Doria Park Hotel
*Saluzzo  (June 30 & July 1, 2, 3)  Hotel Antico Podere Propano
*Torino  (July 4-8)  Hotel Victoria
*Airport Hotel  (July 9)  Hotel Villa Malpensa
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

2005 itinerary

*Spello  (June 9-12)  Hotel Palazzo Bocci
*Perugia  (June 13-16)  Hotel Fortuna
*Empoli  (June 17-19)  visiting Irene & Francesco
*Sirmione  (June 20-23)  Hotel Eden
*Coccaglio  (June 24-26)  visiting Katia & Guido
*Bellagio  (June 27-30)  Residence La Limonera
*Airport Hotel  (July 1) Hotel Ristorante Cervo

Saturday, August 19, 2006

leaving torino, heading to the airport, italy wins the world cup!!

Sunday morning I slept in and then lingered a little longer than normal having my breakfast on the beautiful patio at my hotel.


I was too tired to pack Saturday night and so I had to get it all done and be out of the room by noon. I figured that would be pretty easy to do but in n the end, I got down to the desk to pay the bill about 11:50 am. It took longer than normal because I decided to pack also for the plane ride home, putting all the items in my roll-on bag that I planned to check in at the airport so that I would not have to pack again while watching the Italy-France World Cup final.

After checking out, I had about 2 1/2 hours to kill and then I had to head to the train station to catch my train. I decided to go back to la Mole and the Cinema Museum. I saw this cool car while walking to la Mole...


(Forza Italia!! a couple ready for the big match!)

I really loved the Cinema Museum and lost track of time wandering around, watching clips from different movies. I ate lunch there as well. I had a great pesto pasta for lunch which surprised me as I didn’t expect such good food at a museum café. Fotos from la Mole and the museum are all posted on my "first day in torino" post.
At one point, I realized that I had 30 minutes to catch my train! I did some speed walking back to my hotel which was halfway between the museum and the train station. I grabbed my bags that I left in the storage room at my hotel and then continued speed walking to the train station. I made it with 5 minutes to spare and then of course the train ended up leaving 10 minutes late. When I arrived, I was pretty out of breath. I saw this guy saying goodbye to his girlfriend or wife at one of the entrances onto the train. I played the helpless girl act hoping that he would offer to lift my bag on board. He didn’t get the act but the girl did and told him to help me.


My last destination was an airport hotel – Hotel Villa Malpensa.

The options to get the airport are:

1. Bus from Torino directly to the airport. A two hour ride that leaves at 7 am, 9 am, or 3 pm. I tried to find the bus station a couple of days earlier and only saw on a map that it was pretty far from the train station. My concern was that I only had one choice which was the 3 pm bus and wasn’t sure what I would do if it was full or sold out. Also, because of the taxi strike, I was not sure if the strike would be over on Sunday and since reservations were not possible on the bus, I did not want to get there and then find out that the bus was sold out. I also did not want to spend two hours on a packed bus. Also, I prefer trains as they are roomier, you can walk around, and there are bathrooms on trains. I decided not to choose this way to the airport (but in the end, I think this would have been the best choice as was recommended to me while planning my trip).

2. Take the train to Milan (1 hour 50 mins) and then the 50 min bus to the airport from the Milan train station. Advantages, roomier seats on the train, being able to walk around, a bathroom on the train, and for the bus ride, a much shorter bus ride with buses leaving every 20 or 30 minutes so if one was full, I could wait for the next one.

3. Take the train to Milan, the metro (subway) to a 2nd train station in Milan, and then take this train (Malpensa Express) directly to the airport. Advantages, no bus rides, bathrooms on both trains, more room on trains. Disadvantages as I later found out, craziness getting to & on/off the Metro.

My original choice was number 2 - train to Milan and then the bus to the airport. The train ride to Milan was uneventful. However, when we arrived in Milan, I immediately had to go to the bathroom AFTER getting OFF the train. I don't know why but I didn't even think about using the bathroom on the train. BIG MISTAKE! Once at the train station in Milan, I could not find the bathrooms and even if I did, it is usually pretty impossible to use train bathrooms with all my luggage when traveling alone and Milan is not a place where I would leave a bag outside. Also, the bathrooms are usually pretty impossible.

SO, I changed my mind and decided to take the metro to the other train station in Milan and then take the direct train to the airport so I could use the bathroom on the train instead of being on a bus for almost an hour without a bathroom.

Little did I know the adventure I was about to take. I took out my notes that I wrote on all 3 choices before I left for Italy. I looked for the signs and found the Metro sign. I followed the arrows and a crowd of people and soon found myself at the Metro station. I then realized that I had no idea where I was going…what line to take and which way I was heading! Tons of people were arriving in Milan for the final game of the World Cup. People were running through the subway station wrapped in Italian flags, blaring the horns, singing and chanting. I could see that the older security men that were working at the Metro station getting irritated at all the commotion. This was not good as I needed to find a friendly security guy to help me with directions.

I asked 2 different security guys and both quickly pointed while speaking rapidly. They both pointed towards the flights of stairs – but there were 2 different flights - one was for the train headed to one end of the line and the second was for the train headed the opposite way. I still was not completely sure which way to go but took a chance and lugged my bag down the closest steep flight of stairs hoping that I would not then have to lug it back up the flight of stairs and then down a second flight of stairs if I chose the wrong stairway.

When I got to the bottom, I saw a huge crowd of people waiting for the next train to arrive. I asked someone if this train went to the Cadorna Train station and was relieved to find out that I was on the correct side of the tracks. My new worry was how I was going to make it onto the train with this huge crowd of people and my bags. My eyes met this other girl that was also waiting with a roll-on suitcase and I felt like kindred spirits with her. The train arrived after about 5 minutes and I could see through the windows that the train was packed! We both pushed our way onto the train and staked out spots by the poles to hang on. The train was packed and HOT! I still had not gone to the bathroom at this point. The thought of pickpockets also went through my head as this was the perfect place. I held all my things with deathgrips as the train took off. I counted the 5 stops until we reached the Cadorna stop and then maneuvered my way off the train. Now I had to figure out where to go next. The signs were not great at first but eventually they appeared and I found the 2nd train station.

Last summer, I took the Malpensa Express train when leaving from Lake Como and remembered that it was a pretty quick trip. I did not realize that the last time I took the train, the connection point where I boarded the train was halfway to the airport. This time, I was at the beginning of the line and the train was going to take almost an hour to get to the airport. It also cost twice as much but in the end with the metro ticket and the 2 train tickets it only cost 1 euro more than it would have cost if I took the bus from Torino and that was without the cost of a taxi to the bus station, but it did end up taking about an hour or so longer to get to the airport. After buying my ticket and getting on the train, I sat patiently until the train took off and then immediately headed for the toilet!

I arrived at the airport, called the hotel for my shuttle ride and headed towards the pick up spot. I remembered my way from the year before from the train station to the spot where the shuttles pick up customers to transfer to the hotel and only had to wait a couple of minutes until the shuttle arrived.

The hotel was pretty close to the airport. I checked in, asked what time the restaurant served dinner, and then went up to my room and took a long shower. I ate early so that I could watch the big game. Although I was still “in Italy”, it was probably the most unexciting place to be as there was no big celebration since except for the few hotel staff, all the customers were tourists and so the passion for the final match was not there. I ate a VERY expensive dinner…ok food but definitely a rip off as there is no other choice. The waiter poured me a small glass of water before I had a chance to ask for a large bottle and so I ended up paying 5 euros alone for the water! After dinner, I went back up to my room to watch the game. I was happy with the hotel and my room was quite comfortable (only complaint was the ripoff dinner).

As everyone knows by now, Italy won the world cup!!

Also, the historic Zidane headbutt occurred. If you haven't heard the Zidane headbutt song, Coup de Boule ... click HERE to read more on the song and click HERE to hear the entire song.  

Even though I was in a quiet hotel room, it was still exciting watching Italy win, watching the team celebrate on TV, and also watching some of the celebrations on the Italian news stations. Katia and I sent each other a few SMS' during the game and about an hour after the game ended, Katia called so I could hear all the people screaming and horns blaring through her phone as her town continued to erupt in celebration.

Monday…my flight home.

After a quick breakfast, I took the shuttle back to the airport. Everything went pretty smooth. All the Italian workers looked pretty tired after a long night of celebration. I congratulated the passport control guy about the big win and he smiled (of course after he okayed me going through). I also congratulated the girl at the Continental ticket counter and she smiled. My bag weighed 19 kilograms which is about 41 pounds. She congratulated me for the weight of my bag. My plane took off on time. One of the flight attendants was wearing this cute Italian scarf/hat. He had us all sing the italian chant that was sung at all the games. I am not sure if he was Italian or American but he was definitely pretty excited about the win. Both plane rides and my connection in Newark all went smoothly.

And now I am back to work and back to reality…..a great trip and more wonderful memories to cherish!

ciao!!

saturday in torino

Saturday morning, I did a little last minute shopping and then took a different route back to the Piazza Castello. I discovered that the BC Canada House that was built for the Torino olympics was located directly behind my hotel! It seems so out of place in this city.

(my hotel - click on each picture to see larger image)


(2 pictures of the BC Canada House)

I also walked by a magnificent building and found out that it was the Museo Nazionale dei Risorgimento Italiano. There were a few of us that were trying to figure out if it was open or closed but none of us could find the entrance or an open door.

(Museo Nazionale dei Risorgimento Italiano & close up of doorway)

I stopped for a bite to eat and then decided to head back to the Caffè Al Bicerin to try the famous Bicerin drink. I also could not resist the apple cake. A delicious treat for my last full day in Torino.


(Caffè Al Bicerin & the famous Bicerin drink)

I next walked over the la Porta Palatina (a famous Roman gate) and took a couple of pictures. This gate is said to be one of the best preserved examples of a Roman gate and it was one of the entrances to the city. Nearby the gate are a few other Roman remains nearby including part of a Roman wall and also some remains of a Roman Theatre.


(la Porta Palatina & part of the Roman wall)
 
(the yellow building - where you purchase the ticket for the Museo di Antichità)

Next door was the Museo di Antichità. Since I had my Torino card and needed to find a bathroom, I decided to stop inside. I was not in a “museum” sort of mood and so I walked through the exhibit pretty quickly after using the bathroom. This museum houses a collection of objects that date from prehistory to the late Roman era.

AND, right by the Museo di Antichità was the Cattedrale di San Giovanni Battista or the Duomo where the Holy Shroud is housed. There is a copy on display and the original is housed in the Cappella dell Sacra Sindone (the Chapel of the Holy Shroud) which is located at the other end of the church.

(Cappella dell Sacra Sindone)


(copy of the Holy Shroud)

By now, it was late afternoon. I headed back down to the River Po to check out the boat rides. The next boat was leaving in about 15 minutes and so I decided to take a ride. It was not my favorite boat ride as the boat was mostly enclosed but there was a few open seats in the back (along with the motor smell). The ride was pretty peaceful other than the motor noise. The ride lasted an hour.



(pics on the River Po)

After getting off the boat, I headed back to the train station to to purchase my ticket for Sunday to Milano. It was early evening by now and the train station was not very crowded. There were only a few people in line and when the ticket window opened up and it was my turn to purchase my ticket, this young guy in a big rush came over to the window and interrupted the ticket guy asking if he could quickly purchase a ticket. I was in no rush and he was very polite about it and so I told the man that it was not a problem for me. After he got his ticket, he thanked me again and told me I that I was very kind and then ran off to catch his train. I then purchased my ticket and walked over to the tracks to see which track (binario) my train left from so that on Sunday I wouldn’t have to figure that out with all my bags.

(cinquecento & cool sign near the train station)

I headed back to the hotel to shower, rest my feet for a little while, and change for dinner. I found this great little restaurant called Ristorante la Badessa. I wished that I had found this restaurant sooner and even asked them if they would be open for lunch on Sunday. They said usually they are open on Sunday afternoons but would be closed this Sunday due to the World Cup match – the finals…Italy vs France. The food was excellent and the waiters and waitresses were very kind. I had a delicious pasta dish and some fish. A great choice for my last night in Torino.

I have to say again how much I really enjoyed Torino!

Saturday, August 12, 2006

asti & acqui terme

While planning my trip to Italy this summer, I planned to take a daytrip to Asti while staying in Torino. I almost stayed in Asti in 2003 and again almost stayed in Asti this summer until I read about Saluzzo. I also wanted to visit Acqui Terme and try to hook up with Diana, a woman I met through slow travel that runs a B&B. I called Diana earlier in the week and the plan was for me to take the 9 am train, which was a 40 minute direct train from Torino to Asti, spend a little time there, and then continue on by train to Acqui. Diana would meet me at the train station in Acqui.

While having a relaxing breakfast at my hotel, I lost track of time. I realized that I had only 20 minutes to make the train. I also needed to purchase a ticket. I did some speed walking to the train station and arrived with 5 minutes to spare. When I arrived in Torino a few days earlier, I did not see the automatic train ticket machines and so I headed to the ticket line hoping that it would move quickly. On my way there, I noticed a delay of 40 mins on the board for my train. I wasn’t sure though if this was true and so I still wanted to get to the train on time just in case the delay time changed. Since the train originated in Torino, I could not figure out the reason for the delay.

There was one person in front of me in the line and 3 ticket windows open. A woman with a german accent got in line behind us. She started telling us in English that she had 5 minutes to catch her train and expected both of us to let her cut in line. I was amazed that she just assumed we both spoke english. She was quite rude. The woman in front of me ignored her. I told her that my train also left in 5 minutes. She continued to complain and sigh loudly muttering about hating to be late. The people at the ticket windows completed their transactions and we all proceeded to the open windows. I was very lucky to get a very nice man. I asked him if my train was indeed late. He said that he had not heard about any late trains. He checked it out with his collegues and then confirmed that yes, the train was running 40 minutes late. So my speed walking was just for exercise.

I bought my ticket and headed for the train as I didn’t dare leave and come back in case things changed. There were many people waiting outside and a few people boarding. I asked a young couple if they knew why the train was late. They told me there was an “incidente” which later I found out was damage on the track between Torino and Asti. The train finally left 57 mintues later. There was an announcement apologizing for the “57 minute” delay, making sure to mention that it was not an hour delay but only 57 minutes.

About 10 or 15 minutes after the train departed, the train stopped in no mans land for another 15 minutes. I wondered if we left when we did and then stopped later on so that the train announcement would not admit that the delay was actually more than an hour. When the train started up again, a few minutes later it slowed down. Many people on the train got out of their seats to look outside. I joined them to see some men on the side of the road shoveling rocks back under the train track. The train creeped by until we passed that part of the track. I then understood the reason for the delay. The track was partly washed away from the storm the day before.

We finally arrived in Asti almost 2 hours later. I noticed on the boards that all the trains were now delayed at least an hour. I called Diana and made plans to meet her on the train departing about an hour after I arrived.

After wandering the town for a while, I decided that it was not as delightful as I had expected. I read about all these towers and thought they would be all over the town. There were a few, but not as many as I imagined. I did feel after spending a little time there that it was a town that I felt could grow on you. I stopped in a great little shop and bought some delicious pasta for lunch. The people in the shop were very friendly and helpful. I ate my lunch on a little park bench in one of the piazzas. It was a beautiful day outside. A nice elderly man sat on the bench next to me and started a converstation with me. He was very kind. After finishing my lunch, I went into the duomo. As soon as I entered, a man informed me that the church was closing in 5 minutes. I took a couple of pictures including a picture of a few Palios (banners) from the famous Asti Palios and left. I stopped for a coffee and then headed back to the train station.




(Asti - last one I merged)

The train to Acqui was a pretty new regional train. It was very comfortable and the scenery along the was was beautiful. Diana was at the train station when I arrived. I told her about the hour delays and my morning experience and we decided to talk to the woman at the ticket window to see about the trains heading back to Torino. She was probably one of the kindest train ticket workers I have ever met. She actually called the Asti station to find out if the trains were still delayed. She said that everything was normal and I proceeded to purchase my return trip ticket. I always print out the train schedules and so when she was ready to sell me the ticket, I saw that I would have to spend an hour in Asti before transferring trains. I showed her my print out with a 10 minute wait to connect in Asti for the Torino train. In order to get this combination, you needed to type in the 2 train routes separately. She warned me that there was only a 12 minute time to make the second train. I figured the worst that could happen was I would end up taking the original second train she was going to have me take.

After purchasing the tickets, we drove to Diana’s B&B. It is about a 5 minute drive into the country from the main town of Acqui Terme. The B&B was gorgeous. I had originally considered staying there but thought it would be too difficult getting around without a car.


(Baur B&B) 
Diana gave me a tour of her place and then we had a delicous late lunch (2nd lunch for me) of a local cheese, fruit, and bread with her husband by the pool. The time went by so quickly. We talked about many different things and then finally realized that it was getting late. I took a few pictures of her B&B and then we drove back into town and I had a quick tour. Unfortunately there was not much time to see much, but from what I saw, I immediately liked the town.

(Acqui Terme - not enough time to take many pics here)

Diana dropped me off at the train station and I caught the train back to Asti. We ended up leaving about 5 minutes late and so I was not sure if I would catch that 2nd train after all. BUT, you can always depend on the trains to be late. I actually could have caught the train if I ran but because the second train was late, I had about 5 minutes to spare. I defintely want to put Acqui on my itinerary for a future trip.

After arriving back in Torino, I found a second Exki restaurant and stopped for a quick bite. I did not want to eat a big meal that night as I already had 2 lunches. I had some yogurt and a little piece of quiche. There was still some time before dark and so I decided to explore the area down by the River Po. There was a boat ride that I had thought about taking and I wanted to check out the schedule for the following day. I was amazed at the beauty in this new area of the city. Torino continued to surprise me. I think many people have missed out by not putting this on their list of places to visit. But, I guess part of the reason I liked Torino so much was because it was not overcrowded with tourists.



(heading to the Po River & on the river - Torino)

I saw a couple of restaurants that looked good and decided to return the next night for dinner. Down by the river are a few little bars bars. A rainbow appeared over the river. It was fun to watch people realize that it was there one by one.

(another pic I merged - rainbow and Monte dei Cappuccini)

Despite the morning train delay, I had a wonderful day today, especially getting to spend time in Acqui with Diana and Michael.

thursday in torino

After another wonderful breakfast, I dressed for possible rain which was forecast for the day. Wearing my funky nike shoes, I headed out towards Piazza Castello to try again to tour the Palazzo Reale. One of the seams near the laces started rubbing against my skin and so I decided to stop in the Goldenpoint store which sells socks, bathingsuits, and intimate apparel to buy a thicker pair of socks. The thicker pair of socks worked. After stopping in a few more shops on the way, I reached the Piazza Castello and went back to the ticket area in the Palazzo Reale. This time, I was able to purchase a ticket and only had to wait 10 minutes for the next tour to begin.

Palazzo Reale was one of the residences of the Savoy family. The tour guide arrived and off we went. We followed him up a beautiful staircase to the first floor. This was the floor we would tour. The first few rooms were pretty common (similar to other palaces I have toured in the past). The tour guide spoke rapid Italian and much of the vocabulary was new to me. I could pick out a few words here and there, but learned more information from the descriptions of each room which were written in 4 languages on a board in each room.

I usually was the last person to head on to the next room as the description was pretty detailed and took me a few minutes to read. There was a second man whose job seemed to be to make sure no one wandered away during the tour. He followed the group into each room. I thanked him for letting me spend a few extra minutes in each room reading the boards as I was not able to understand everything the tour guide was saying. He was very kind and even started to provide more information about some of the rooms. He spoke very clear Italian and was easy to understand.

My favorite rooms were the dining hall which had a beautifully set table with fancy china, glasses, and silverware and the ballroom which was huge and elegantly decorated. The last stop on the tour was the famous Scala delle Forbici (Scissor Staircase). This staircase did not have a description provided in English. The tour guide went into a very long description of this room. My friend, the other tour guide, asked if I understood. I did not and so he then proceeded to explain the significance of the staircase.

After finishing the tour of the Palazzo Reale, I next went to tour the Armeria Reale (Royal Armory). The armory was located next to the Palazzo Reale. It houses an extensive collection of weapons, both ancient and more modern. I am not generally a fan of weapons and armories, but this one was quite amazing.

I next stopped for lunch at an outdoor café on Via Garibaldi. I ordered a caprese salad and a cheese, eggplant, zucchine baguette. Via Garibaldi is another street which is full of shopping and also has many sidewalk cafés. While eating lunch, I looked through the Torino on Foot tour book that I picked up at one of the tourist information booths. I decided to check out the Contrada dei Guardinfanti area which is the oldest part of the city centre. I took lots of pictures and wandered into a few stores.



The sky quickly darkened and it began to rain. Luckily Torino is a city with many porticoes (covered walkways) and so I manged to stay pretty dry as I headed back towards my hotel. It started to thunder and I could see the lightening flash across the sky. I ducked into the fnac store which is a huge store that sells computers, computer accessories, dvds, cds, and books. I went downstairs and spent the next 2 hours wandering through the dvd, cd, and book sections of the stores. I ended up purchasing 2 dvds. The woman at the cash register asked me for my passport when I tried to pay with my visa card. This was the first time I was asked for my passport in my 7 years of visiting Italy (except of course at the airport and when checking into each hotel). I did not have my passport with me but did have a copy. She said that was fine and after getting my receipt, headed back out where the skies were clearing.

For dinner, I headed back to the Contrada dei Guardinfanti area to a pizzeria that I saw earlier in the day. I had a delicious pizza and my first tiramisu of the trip. The cost was 11 euros with water - unlike the rip off the night before.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

wednesday in torino

After having a wonderful breakfast at my hotel, I ventured out to explore more of Torino. My first stop was to an electronics store recommended by my hotel to try to get a new battery for my phone. After my phone died again a second time in the piazza during the world cup game and then yet again in the middle of my trying to send an sms (text message), I decided that I needed to find out what was wrong with my phone. The girl at the phone counter looked at my phone and told me it was too old. I might be able to find a battery across town but the chances were slim. She was extremely kind, complimenting my italian which is not very good when using cell phone vocabulary/verbs. She asked where I was from and then called everyone over to see me...a girl from Hawaii! It was pretty funny. I guess I was the first person she had ever met that lived in Hawaii.

She recommended a phone similar to mine which was one of the cheapest phones and used the same car charger as my previous phone so that I could charge it when I returned home. It also is a tri-band phone and so it should work in the US which may come in handy. She helped me change my tim card so that my new phone would work and showed me a few of the new features of the phone.

After leaving the phone store, I went back to my hotel to put the cell phone box, the new charger, and my old phone in my room and then headed back out to do a little window shopping, including going to the mac store. I then decided to go to Al Bicerin to try the famous bicerin drink. After a few wrong turns, I found the place but it was closed for the day. Plan B, I decided to check out the Piazza Solferino. There I found an amazing fountain, 2 atriums, and various figures in the shape of different winter sports surrounding the piazza. The first atrium contained images, films and other information about the recent winter olympic games which were held in Torino.




After spending about an hour in the atrium, I grabbed some lunch at this cool fresh food self service place called Exki, natural fresh & ready, restaurant - bar, and then decided to go tour the Palazzo Reale (royal palace). When I arrived at the Palazzo Reale at the ticket area, I took out my torino card expecting to easily get a ticket and tour the palace. A not so friendly woman told me matter of factly that there was a big group that already booked the next tour and I would have to come back much later in the day if I wanted to see the palace. I did not quite understand what she was saying at first, expressed to her that I did not understand, and so she just spoke even faster again in italian telling me that I could not purchase a ticket for the next tour. I asked if the tour was in italian or also other languages. She said italian. I told her I did not need to take the tour as I just wanted to look around the palace. I did not realize that it was mandatory to go on the tour and finally understood when this nice man sitting near her doing some other job explained to me that the tour was mandatory and then told me that I could return later in the day an try to book one of the next tours. I thanked him and decided to instead go to the egyptian museum which was nearby.

Thankfully, it was quite easy to get into the egyptian museum - museo egizio. However, here I met the second crabby person in Torino. The reason I kept count was that earlier when talking to Katia on the phone, I told her how much I loved Torino and she was surprised that the people were all so friendly. She asked me if it was because I told them that I was from Hawaii. I told her that everyone was friendly and only a few people had asked where I was from.
After getting my ticket, it took me a few minutes to find the entrance to the museum as there were 2 different displays in the building. I found the first room and wandered around. It was ok. Lots of ancient rocks, dishes, pottery, jewelry, much of things similar to what I have seen in many museums in the past while in Italy. BUT then after asking "crabby man" where the next room was and having him yell "sotto, sotto" at me, which meant downstairs, I found the stairway and entered an amazing room.

I think the photos will be self explanatory:


Next, I went into this room where there were actual mummies and tombs (think that was what they were called:


By now, I was exhausted from walking all day. I went back to my hotel to rest for a while and then decided to go to ristorante/pizzeria called Urbani which was recommended by my hotel for dinner. My experience there was strange from the moment I arrived. When I walked in the door, the woman at the entrance who I assumed was seating people looked at me strangely when I said "one for dinner". I then told her I wanted to order a pizza. She must have misunderstood me as she brought me to the back where there was a man behind a counter making pizzas.

I saw a waiter and explained that I wanted to eat at the restaurant for dinner. He then sat me and asked what I wanted to drink. I ordered water and he left. A different waiter came back with a small caraf of water and asked me what kind of pizza I wanted. I asked him if there was a menu. He said just to tell him what kind of pizza I wanted. I have heard of places without menus before but never a big restaurant/pizzeria. I told him I wanted a pizza margherita with pepperoni on top (pepperoni in Italy is peppers not the meat pepperoni). He asked me if I wanted the meat or the vegetable pepperoni. I confirmed that I wanted the vegetable peppers pepperoni. He left and about 10 minutes later when walking by I asked him again to make sure that I was getting the peppers and not the meat for the topping. He said yes and left again. About 5 mins later, he arrived putting a plate of roasted peppers on a dish on my table. I told him that I wanted the peppers cooked on the pizza, not on the side. He said he was bringing them to the pizza maker but wanted to make sure that this was what I ordered. The pizza man then began to make my pizza. Luckily there was a world cup match on the tv as it was a long wait.

Finally my pizza was delivered to my table. It was good, but nothing to rave about. While eating my pizza, a couple from England was seated next to me. The waiter asked them what they wanted to eat without bringing a menu. They were given some suggestions and then they ordered. They also thought it was strange that there was no menu. This was not just a tourist restaurant and unfortunately I did not see if the tables filled with italians recieved menus.

After I finished my pizza, I was asked if I wanted dessert or coffee. I said I was full and asked for the bill. The waiter disappeared and after about 15 minutes I saw the man who originally seated me. He asked me if I wanted dessert. I told him I was waiting for the bill. He asked me what I had to eat and disappeared. A few minutes later, he brought a plain piece of paper with € 15.00 written on it. I should have said something as I knew right then I was being ripped off, but the restaurant was not in a great area and it was getting dark and I wanted to head back to my hotel. I didn't remember that it is against the law to not be given a bill on an official restaurant slip and pizzas do not cost that much, even with water and the cost of sitting at the table, but I was not thinking at the moment except that I knew I was being ripped off. I paid the bill and walked back to my hotel.

Later when I saw the woman who recommended the pizzeria, she said that was very strange and not normal first to not be given a menu, to be charged that much for a pizza, and to be given the bill on a plain piece of paper. Not much I can do at this point but I will write a bad review about this pizzeria on the slow travel board in hopes that the word spreads.

All in all besides the 2 crabby people and then the rip off at the pizzeria, a great day in Torino!

Sunday, July 16, 2006

first day in Torino

I returned to Hawaii Monday night and am still having Italy withdrawals. I did not get the chance to write about Torino while in Italy and will try to recap the last few days now.

I arrived in Torino on Tuesday, July 4th, around 11 am. I knew in advance that there was a huge taxi strike lasting almost a week all over Italy and so I figured out the route to my hotel from the train station the night before while still in Saluzzo. Luckily, my hotel was not more than a 15 minute walk from the train station. Torino is a great city for those that get lost easily (like me). Almost all streets run in straight lines and so my hotel was very easy to find. When I arrived at my hotel, I was told that it would be another hour before my room would be ready. Not a problem since I no longer had to lug my bags! Torino is filled with stores...it is a shopper's dream city. I wandered around the main shopping street - Via Roma and also tried to orient myself to the city. I also went to Piazza Castello, which was where the medals were given out during the winter olympics. I also stopped at one of the tourist booths. There are little booths set up all over the city with 2 very friendly people waiting inside to give you information about the city of Torino. I already had a map (from Katia) and wanted to get a Torino card which gives you free access to most museums as well as many other benefits (one being free transportation on all the buses and rail cars).


(one of many stores on Via Roma)


(Piazza Castello)

After returning to my hotel and unpacking my things, I ventured back out to look for a place to have some lunch. I found this great little bookstore that also had a little bar inside serving great food for lunch. I had some quiche and tomatoes with olive oil. After lunch, I walked around the city some more and then went to the Mole Antonelliana which is the tallest building in Torino and at one time it was the tallest building in the world. There is a lift that takes you to the top in 59 seconds for a view of the city. It was a wild ride up to the top! Only 7 people fit in the elevator along with the elevator operator. At one point it feels like you are going to crash into the top of the ceiling but then you go through this little hole and voila, you are at the top!


(2 views of La Mole Antonelliana)


(the elevator going up to the top)

The Mole also houses the Museo Nazionale del Cinema (Cinema Museum). I have a link to this museum in the May archives on this blog. The Mole turned out to be one of my favorite places to spent time in while in Torino.


(pictures from the cinema museum - check out the toilet seats!)