From Graz to Torino (Turin)
July 10, 2016
From Graz you take a railroad operated bus to the train that carries you into Italy through the Alps; the bus avoids a much longer train ride through the mountains. The scenery alone makes the trip worthwhile. There are viaducts and tunnels galore. Human have inhabited this area for thousands of years, although it is well west of here,in the Oetztal Alps, where researchers unearthed the frozen body of a man who died in the mountains some 5000 years ago. For more information on that, go to http://abcnews.go.com/Technology/oetzi-iceman-mummy-alps-lyme-disease-lactose-intolerance/story?id=15816788
We stopped in Udine for a two hour break for lunch, welcomed by an enormous heat wave that had engulfed Italy and was to plague us for a few days. Italy is a second home, as I am Italian on my mother’s side and hold an Italian passport, and of course I was glad to sit down to my first Italian meal where the wine is a third the price and perhaps better as well compared to Graz and the Austrian wines, which are mostly white and tangy if shallow.
By 830 we were in Torino, after two train changes and passing through Bologna, we arrived at Porta Nova, one of two major train stations. From there it’s a bus across town. Our host was waiting at the door. Well, her brother, that is, Dragos, and no that’s not an Italian name, but Romanian. It turned out that she was in Dominican Republic. In any case he was very friendly, and even provided some wonderful prosciutto crudo and some local cheese. No wine, unfortunately. In lieu of cold cuts and cheese without wine and only some bread sticks, which originated here, I was later to learn, we chose instead to go to the pizzeria across the street. It was an excellent choice! It’s too far from the tourist area to be of much use to most travelers, but has a wood burning oven and an interesting salmon antipasto. A half liter of good local read runs just 5 euros.
Torino was the capitol of Italy at the time of unification- il Risorgimento- in 1861. It is now the capitol of Piemonte (Piedmont), once the seat of the Savoys, home to Fiat, one of the finest Egyptian museums anywhere and some 300 museums, palaces and gardens covered by the annual pass we bought the next day at the tourist bureau. It is famous for the Shroud of Turin, dated to the middle ages by three independent laboratories, but nonetheless an interesting piece. Torino is at last hearing the epicenter of a recession movement, the main complaint being the waste of money flowing to the more corrupt southern part of the country. Can’t say there’s no basis for that complaint, unfortunately.
More about Torino in coming blogs. In the meantime we leave behind some lovely new friends in Graz. Diana lived upstairs from us, and has a daughter in Barcelona, so we might see Diana in Spain. She’s a sprightly young retiree with flying long brown hair who frequently offered to take us places. She taught languages at one of the universities. Across the hall from her was Karen, also a language teacher but on the high school level, with a very bright son who just aced his high school graduation exams. Luis is a Cuban who has come to Graz previously to study. He was staying with Diana. He’s a nice fellow who speaks English very well and is a professor of Tourism in Cuba; they offer similar programs elsewhere in Latin America but no equivalent in the US. I was surprised to find he was a Pentecostal Christian. These are the folks who speak in tongues and are creationists. This shows you can not just stamp out religion all that easily, as after 65 years of repression it’s still there, albeit perhaps less widespread than it would be otherwise.
Follow my blog as I explore Torino, a surprisingly interesting city.