Turin: A Tale of Mummies and Chocolate

There should be a view of the mountains somewhere, but pollution haze took over.
The debate raged on over as we ate our burritos. Was in Turin or Torino? I couldn’t get it out of my mind that in English we said Torino, but the Brits in the running club insisted it was Turin. It was a  Wednesday night and I was leaving on Saturday, and I still didn't know how to pronounce the name of my destination. Either way it didn’t matter. I was going and that was that (note: it is Turin in English and French. It's Torino in Italian.)

The advantage of living in London, among other things, is a seemingly endless array of airports that whisk you away to far-flung places. For my holiday in April, I wanted to experience something new before heading to visit family in the south of France. Maybe Greece? Maybe Africa? Maybe, but no. Instead, I headed to Turin, a city of chocolate and Egyptians. Not so far-flung, but I needed a dose of Italy.

I knew very little about Turin beyond its annual chocolate festival and that they had the Olympic games there in 2006. I didn’t buy a guidebook and only spent a few minutes researching it. I had an AirBnB and a train out of there after a few days, so I was sorted. I flew out of Luton on easyJet, landing in Turin after a quick flight over the Alps. Upon arriving, the town was unassuming at best. Some (not me, of course) may even call it ugly. My uncle would ask me later, “Why Turin?” I could only respond, “I needed to see for myself.”

Jokes aside, it wasn’t actually bad at all.

Teddy enjoyed Torino. I mean, Turin.

My AirBnB host was kind enough to pick me up at a bus station and drive me to his little top-floor flat, freshly renovated and with a view over a nearby church. I would discover my four-legged neighbor later that night, creeping through the open window. The host marked up a map for me with all of the tact of a skilled AirBnB host, making me feel at home. It was an easy city to settle into. With none of the pomp and bustle of Rome or Venice, I felt like I could experience Italy like an Italian – albeit an Italian with his tongue cut out of his mouth. 

The next two days were filled with food and sightseeing, as any good vacation should be. I picked up some pre-Easter chocolates at the bean-to-bar chocolate maker, Guido Gobino. I had some of the best gelato of my life at Vanilla, a few doors down from Crudo, a pizzeria where I had a pie topped with some local sausages. I didn’t spend too much time trying to find a restaurant because I’m not the biggest fan of dining alone. 

I could stroll these streets forever.
This fella crashing my AirBnB.

I did, however, spend a morning at Caffè al Bicerin sipping a local specialty. The bicerin is a coffee and chocolate drink served piping hot, topped with fresh chilled cream. The server told me not to stir it, but to sip it and let he hot liquid melt into the cream as it reached my mouth. Italy, am I right?

When it came to sightseeing, there were plenty of palazzos, a mix of old bourgeois mansions and royal residences, to visit. I opted instead to go right for the biggest collection of Egyptian artefacts outside of Cairo. Anyone who knows me will recall that I travel for superlatives, and this was an easy one to identify. The line was long in the morning but dwindled by the afternoon, and I walked right in, picking up an audio guide along the way. The collection of mummies, preserved food items, papyrus manuscripts, and other items was breathtaking. It was all so, well, old. It was incredible to imagine the people who actually created those objects.

Afterwards, I felt like I had pretty much done Turin. I snapped a shot from across the city on a hill overlooking the river and the giant Mole Antonelliana. I strolled the arcades of the Via Po, picking up the requisite magnet for my mother’s refrigerator along the way.

Gorgeous galleries with virtually no tourists passing through them...what gives?
By the time I picked up my bag from the AirBnB to head to the train station, I was yearning for something green, having lived mostly off varieties of pizza, gelato, and other pastries. I packed a bag of arugula in my bag for the train ride. I would discover it sometime later, rotten and oozing, as I arrived in the south of France, but the intention was a noble one.