Wednesday 06-05-2105 & Thursday, 07-05-2015.
Days 259 & 260.
Turin is known for a couple of things. For example, the T in Fiat stands for Turin. The city is also know as the epicenter of Italian chocolate. It also claims to have invented vermouth. And it makes the dubious claim about being the home of the slow food movement.
Turin is also home to a UNESCO World Heritage Site (Residences of the Royal House Savoy), which is comprised of many former homes, palaces, hunting lodges, and other buildings around the center of Turin.
After we arrived in Turin and checked into the hotel (and managed to maneuver Persephone into a really tight space in a really small underground parking garage), we went out to get some lunch. Fortunately, we found the L'Accademia Panino.
After we stuffed ourselves on huge hand-crafted club sandwiches (they're so big we wouldn't need to eat for the rest of the day), we walked around the corner and visited the National Museum of Cinema.
National Museum of Cinema
This is an Italian film museum that houses a massive collection of movie posters, stills, and other film-related pictures and equipment. But the big draw is the all-glass elevator that takes visitors up to the top for panoramic views of Turin.
Although we'd passed on our past few recent opportunities to climb up to tall places for 360° views of the surrounding area, we decided to take a ride in the glass elevator and zoomed up the 75 meters through the interior of the museum (which we didn't visit proper, but looked pretty cool) to the cupola in under a minute. The views from the top were pretty nice (Turin is pretty flat), but I really enjoyed the messages written on the roofs below.
After we took the elevator back down to the ground floor, we walked around Turin to check out some of the famous Turin chocolate and got caught in the rain. Of course, we'd left our €5 umbrellas that we picked up in Rome back at the hotel. Some gent wanted to sell us a €10 umbrella, but we decided that was too much. As we walked away he offered us an umbrella for €8. We settled on €7, which was still too much, but we were dry.
Residences of the Royal House Savoy
This is Turin's only UNESCO site, but its a big one. Inside the city of Turin proper, there are five different buildings that comprise the Residences of the Royal House Savoy, which were initially started in 1562 when Emmanuel-Philibert, the Duke of Savoy, moved his capital to Turin.
We only saw three of these buildings, but one of them, the Palazzo Carigano is notable for being the birthplace of Victor Emmanuel II, the first king of unified Italy. We'd met him (well, his statue) a few days earlier at the Altare della Patria in Rome. Some of these building are museums today, and while we didn't go inside any of them, they are all architecturally impressive.
Two of the biggest Savoy Residences, the Palazzo Reale and the Palazzo Madama are right on Piazza Castello, which is a pretty great Italian square, and comes complete with the standard street performer quotient.
This sort of thing happens all over the world. But how does it work? It's not defying the laws of physics, but rather, using those laws to deceive. Here's how.
Caffe Al Bicerin
Of course anytime I think about Turin, I think about our visits to Caffe al Bicerin. The caffe is where the bicerin—a drink of espresso, chocolate, and cream—was invented in 1763 and is still served today.
In fact, any time I think of Italy, I will probably think of the bicerin. It's just that good. Here's what it looks like. And let me tell you, it's even more delicious than it looks.
Our trip to Caffe al Bicerin was just a warm-up for the day's main event—seeing the famous Shroud of Turin, which just happened to be on display (limited engagement!) while we were visiting the town.
The Shroud of Turin
The Shroud of Turin, what many believe to be the actual burial shroud of Jesus Christ, was on display in the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist. And while there's no charge to see the Shroud, you are required to make a reservation. Which we did.
But even though the Church of St. John (Cattedrale di San Giovanni Battista) is located right off Piazzetta Reale and near the Palazzo reale, the route to see it is a long and circuitous affair. The adventure started in Giardini Reale, near the Monument to the Carabiniere.
From there, after we checked in, we walked (and walked) with many other people under a series of tented walkways until we got to a small room. We were all invited to sit down and treated to a short film about the shroud presenting the evidence of why many people consider it to be the burial shroud of Jesus Christ.
The film showed the stigmata, the wound in Christ's side (inflicted post-mortem by the Roman centurion solder Longinus with what is now known as the Spear of Destiny), and even a negative-image of the face imprinted on the Shroud, which looks a lot like Christ was thought to look. After that, we shuffled along further until we got to the viewing chamber. Surprisingly enough, photographs of the Shroud were allowed. Here's one now.
We stood there in front of the shroud for about five minutes as a recording in an Italian monotone droned on. I have no idea what it said. Two armed guards stood on either side of the Shroud.
We were leaving Italy the next day, and so far we'd been unsuccessful in finding better pizza than we'd had at Bella Italia in Santiago, Chile. So we gave it one more shot, and while we didn't find anything better, it was still pretty good.
Another round of bicerins, please
The next morning we decided we needed another bicerin fix, so we hustled back to Caffe al Bicerin for one more round. After basking in the satisfaction of quaffing the delightful beverage, we walked back toward the hotel. On the way, we managed to stumble across a farmer's market in one of the city's squares. This was totally random, but Samantha does have an amazing ability to find a farmer's market pretty much anywhere.
We picked up a few snacks for the road and walked back to the hotel. We'd already checked out, but now it was time to try to get Persephone out of the parking garage. As tight of a fit as it had been going in, it was even tighter on the way out. She got a nice scrape from the wall along her passenger side. Well, that didn't take long. Fortunately, she's fully insured.