Sunday, February 26, 2012

A chocolate festival (2-11 March 2012) in Milan's kissin' cousin: Turin

Like chocolate? What a silly question.

From the 2nd to the 11th of March, 2012, in the downtown Piazza Vittorio Veneto of Turin, Italy's chocolate capital, there will be the "Cioccolatò" fair of chocolate....More......

Lots of stands, more than 6,000 different products, and "Spalm Beach"--complete with lawn chairs--where you can relax, taste, and even be massagged with chocolate. (Why "Spalm"? "Spalmare" means to spread...what everyone loves to do with one of Italy's favorite chocolate treats, Nutella, a spreadable mix of chocolate and hazelnut paste...though I can't say I've ever taken to it, Italians go nuts for it.)

Why Turin? Because the city has a loooooooonng love affair with chocolate, beginning with the cup of hot chocolate offered in 1560 by the duke of Savoy, Emanuele Filiberto, to the city to celebrate the transferral of his dukedom's capital from Chambéry to their town, now full of caffés offering this marvelous stuff (it's like hot chocolate pudding...are you salivating, yet?).

Turin is a wonderful city with a long and fascinating history. The pre-Romans were called Taurini (perhaps meaning "people from the mountains," though the symbol "taur" was rendered by the head of a bull, a "toro"), while Romans established a military camp there in the first century B.C. to protect their northern borders. In the early Middle Ages, the city bordered the lands of the Franks, while the association with the Savoy line popped up in the Romanesque period. Love history? Turin's official newspaper, the Eco di Torino, offers some info in Italian with handy pre-fab buttons for Google Translator, which gives you a rough idea of the text in rough English:

Want to know more before you go? Turin smartly offers a wide range of official tourism info in English (yeah!), including maps, hotel info, traveling info, museums and events, history in a nutshell, WiFi, etc.: They also have an official city web site in English (yeah!), with practical information, particularly for English-speakers living in the city:

I can't resist recommending at least two museums: the Egyptian Museum (Museo Egizio, look under "Egizio" on the tourism web site's page dedicated to museums), one of the most important Egyptian museums in all the world, second only to the one in Cairo, and the museum in the historic Mole Antonelliana dedicated to movies (look under "Cinema" in that same list). Even if you're not a great fan of the history of the movie industry, the spectacles of the exhibits are great fun in and of themselves.

Wanna go? Want the skinny? It takes from one to two hours on one of Italy's national train service (Trenitalia) trains, depending on the service chosen. Cost? Reasonable. For a one-way second class ticket on the 1 hour train, it's currently just under E. 35.00(ca. $50), while for the 2 hour train, it's only about E. 11.00 (ca. $15.50). You can check the schedules and buy tickets on their website in English (yeah!), and chose to print out the ticket on your own printer. You can enter these city names in English or in Italian (Milano, Torino), but remember that usually only the more well-known cities have an English version, in case you want to go somewhere else, too:

A "heads up"...Turin, like many other Italian cities, has more than one train station. Sometimes the train stations are dedicated to services belonging to different companies (national and private). Sometimes the city is big enough--as in Turin's case--to warrant two stations. They're often signaled on the web site and in printed train guides only with their initials. Oh man...which one to choose?! For other cities, try Google maps. For Turin, get off at the P.N.--for Porta Nuova / New City Gate--station; it's the most central one. Once there, get a map, and walk. The heart of downtown is small enough so that you won't need to take public transportation if you don't suffer from mobility problems.


Saturday, February 25, 2012

Neo-Romanesque fun on via Boscovich

Like a bit of fun kitsch now and then?...More......

How about a lizard gargoyle, or two?

Head off to via Boscovich 32, and what I'm thinking was the Milanese headquarters of the French movie company, Pathé, at the turn-of-the-century.

Reminds me of the Berri-Meregalli palazzo by Arata (1911-1914) on the corner of via Mozart and via Cappuccini. He's the same architect also responsible for the original early 20th century design for the Stazione Centrale...before the project got stalled and was modified before being realized.

I snapped these photos with you in mind this morning around 9 A.M.-ish.


Thursday, February 16, 2012

Nation-wide strike of local train services, tomorrow, Friday, Feb. 17

The Italians fear Friday the 17th as we do Friday the 13th.

And there's going to be more public transportation strikes, tomorrow. Is it a coincidence? Maybe and maybe not.

They will last part of the day, and vary in times from area to area.

Here's what the official national train company, Trenitalia, has to say about service during strikes (it's in English, yeah!):

In case you read Italian, here's the page (only in Italian, booooo!) on the Trenord local train service for northern Lombardy about their guaranteed trains during strikes: Wanna try your luck on getting an English-speaking operator? Their toll-free help line is: 800.500.005.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Free organ concert tomorrow evening, San Babila

Like organ music? I do.

There'll be a free organ concert held in San Babila (Piazza San Babila) by the Fondazione Organo of the basilica tomorrow, February 16, at 8 P.M. It's their first concert of their 2012 season. Maestro Matteo Venturini will be playing.

Every time you visit a church in Italy for anything other than strictly religious purposes, find the maintenance ("mantenimento") and/or restoration ("restauro") money boxes, and be generous.

The churches you are visiting as if they were museums have cleaning staff and electric bills to pay.

Plus, San Babila needs a new roof.

Have a heart.


Saturday, February 11, 2012

Still snowy and C-O-O-O-O-LD in Milan

The snow of a number of days ago is lingering a lot longer than usual because of the unusual cold (worst winter weather in about 30 years is the televised rumor going around). Going outside feels like stepping into a freezer. Milan has been spared the worst, so I'm really not complaining. Within a few days, the streets and sidewalks were mostly clear, though there's fluffy white (and grungy) stuff piled up on higher surfaces, on the parks and along the road sides.

Here's a gray day snap of the chilly stuff piled on top of some of the information totem poles scattered throughout the Sforza Castle grounds.

May I brag a bit?

I did the English translations for these!


Monday, February 6, 2012

Handy Helpful Hint: validating your bus-tram-light rail tickets

I see lots of people, Italians included, suffering through their first exposure to these tickets with the magnetic strip, so I thought I'd give you a helping hand, especially for those not used to taking public transportation.

On the bus, tram and light rail ("passante") tickets used in Milan there is a stylized arrow pointing in the direction in which the ticket needs to be inserted into the machine, whether the direction is perpendicular to the ground, and away from you, as is the case with the subway, or--as in this case--straight downwards in front of you (light rail uses both kinds).

Where's the arrow? Look to the left hand side of the ticket in my hand; it's also pointing in the direction of the much more visible ATM logo.

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