Tuesday, 20 October 2015


9th Sept 2015

Piazza St. Carlo. Turin

It was a 4 hr 20 min train ride from Venice to Turin via Verona and Milan. Not so impressed by  'TrenItalia'....almost as cramped as UK trains, only a slot machine, eight carriages away, for unpalatable 'snacks' and no alcohol served. At least it was on time, as all our trains have been so far. Begs the question; do the Eyeties call there tourist information organisation "GenItalia"?

Adrian, our efficient, imaginatively draped and normally unruffled tour manager threw a bit of a hissy fit this morning on leaving the hotel. A couple of our group, Mr and Mrs Nameless, left for the railway station by themselves! Definitely a no-no according to tour Standard Operating Procedures. Not only that, but they had forgotten to hand back their room key. Oh dear, but I think they were forgiven later.

We only had an afternoon to explore Turin as we were all due back at the hotel for a final Group Supper at 7.30pm. I got the impression that this was an order to be on parade rather than a loose suggestion. We were staying at the Hotel Ambassadiori, a comfortable joint, which is close to the vast  brand new space-age railway station called Porte Susa. 

Stupidly, I had not done any research on Turin, but the hotel receptionist suggested I go to visit the car factory at Lingotto. What!? She said there is a famous and interesting car testing track there. 
Turin has a new Underground system; only one line but it is cheap, very efficient and modern. Lingotto is the final westerly stop out of the city. 
On arrival at Lingotto I saw a vast multi-storey red-brick factory building and discovered several enormous, and empty, hangar style buildings adjoining it. I searched around these deserted buildings, and into a modern, what looked like, exhibition hall. Nobody around and no sign of any car testing track. I then went up an escalator into the enormous multi-story building. There was a large shopping mall inside. Rather disappointed and assuming that the supposedly famous car testing track was somewhere else, I returned to Turin central station. Wasted time.
What I failed to discover, or find out in advance, was that this imposing 5 storey building, built in 1923, was the Fiat car factory and the largest car factory in the world at the time. It closed in 1982. The effing test track is on the roof! Raw materials arrived at ground level and the finished articles were driven out at the top onto the track. It is now used as a 'jogging' track and I would have gone up there if I had bothered to do any homework and knew it's whereabouts. 

Left: The Lingotto Fiat roof-top test track, now a 'jogging' track. Pic definitely not taken by me 'cos I never found it! I also, now, remember that it featured part of the great car chase in the film 'The Italian Job' when three Mini-Coopers drove around it in formation.

Hey ho! So time for a quick wander around central Turin. I must admit, whichever Italian village/town/city we have visited has boasted remarkably impressive architecture, large spacious squares, tasteful shops and  remarkably clean and tidy. Turin is certainly no exception.

Right: Piazza Réale.

Left: Palazzo Madama

Having waxed lyrical about Italian cities being immaculately clean and tidy, the Piazza Republica (right) was a bit of a let down. Having said that, they were just packing up an open market.

....and they are no stranger to graffiti, as per this bridge over a small river north of the centre (left). But then I presume graffiti is an Italian invention and they like to maintain their tradition.

Right: Porte Palatine. The gates into the old Roman part of the city, and now Piazza Cesare Augusto.

Flanking the Porte Palatine are statues of Julius Caesar (left)....looking a bit 'fragrant' if you ask me........with large earplugs.

......... and Caesar Augustus, awarding a penalty to the opposition. He seems to have a bath-towel around his waist for some reason, and no shoes. There must be a story behind this. Perhaps he had just stepped out of his Roman bath.

Left: Nearby is the Turin Duomo (cathedral). This is the place that houses the Turin Shroud. 

Right: Inside the Duomo. Nothing particularly interesting except for........

......(left), the long chest which contains the Turin Shroud. Not sure if or when said shroud is ever on view to the public. There is a video display nearby (in Russian, Italian, English and German) which explains what the shroud is supposed to be all about. Of course it is a hotly debated question whether the stained rag inside is genuine or not. Frankly......etc! But it keep the tourists coming in (the Turin Crowd).
Reminds me of the Temple of Buddha's tooth in Candy (Sri Lanka).

Sitting outside the main doors of the cathedral was this old lady with a begging bowl. I gave her a couple of Euros. Perhaps she models the Turin Shroud in her spare time, and her Maserati Ghibli V6 Twin Turbo is parked round the back.

A wander down to the main bridge over the River Po (left), guarded by a couple of impressive statues.

Right: A view east up the Po from the bridge on the southern side of the city centre.

Left: Another statue of a famous Turinian. Can't remember who it is. Maybe Alessandro La Marmora, or maybe not. Who cares.

Anyway, we survived a quite jovial 'last supper' in the Hotel Ambasadiori.

Next day we departed Porte Susa station on a comfortable French TGV train for the six hour ride to Paris. A pleasant scenic trip through the southern Alps and there was a decent buffet car on board. Up through Chambéry, Macon and Dijon to Gare de Lyon arriving at 4.15pm. Bus to Gare de Nord and Eurostar home. All most efficiently organised.

......and a fond farewell from our long-suffering, and exquisitely attired 'tour manager'.

Next stop? Haven't decided yet........ Stand-by!

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