Saturday, November 29, 2008

Falling in Love All Over Again



So, Martello and I have devised a little something called the “honeymoon bank.” Since we didn’t have a formal, mini-umbrella-drink laden week or so long honeymoon as per standard wedding operating procedure (SWOP), we’ve been denoting certain days/experiences here and there as part of our honeymoon cache. Included on the list was our actual 48+ hour Manhattan (where we realized we hadn’t slept in roughly five years) mini-moon, our 72+ hours in Maine, our 36+ hours in Venice, and most recently, our 36+ hours in Torino. (Yes, we understand that most of our readers believe us to be on a 12-month honeymoon, but in actuality, Martello does, in fact, go to work every day and stays out of the house for at least 12 hours while Trofie Wife is occupied with domesticity and computerly matters. Yes, we do this in a lovely setting, of which we realize most people are envious, but if you’re religiously making the bed every morning, you’re not on a honeymoon…).  Anyway, this post is dedicated to Torino, our new love (with apologies to New York and Philadelphia). If any design (or cioccolato) firms in Torino are reading this, we’d be happy to spend Year 2 with you.

Last Saturday we boarded the local train at a godlier hour of 10:30 a.m. in order to catch the Intercity to Torino. Turns out that we had purchased the wrong kind of ticket and were thus hit with a surcharge on the train. Luckily, the conductor was nice, knew some English, and answered his cell phone mid-transaction (pretty standard here—Trofie Wife is still smarting about not getting a snapshot of the gondolier in Venice kibitzing away while touring around a happy couple), proving that we were not in any sort of trouble. We also found out that they carry credit card machines, so if we are ever in a bind without cash, we won’t get thrown from the train! We alighted (sounds so much better than the subway conductor screaming, “Let ’em off, let ‘em off”) at the Lingotto station and immediately had an amazing view of the Italian Alps. We were a bit disoriented at first, but eventually found our way across the traffic median to the entryway of the Olympic bridge, the gorgeous red arch pictured below.

Torino hosted the 2006 Winter Games, which I somehow managed to completely miss, which is odd, given that I spent a good chunk of 1994 (post-Lillehammer) trying to figure out how I could become the next Bonnie Blair/Dan Jansen (I even went so far as to have my personal secretary (aka, my mother) call the nearby skating rink, Fritzel Ditzel (that’s at least what I called it; that might not be its proper name), to see if they offered speed skating lessons, which I figured I’d squeeze in between Hebrew school and tennis. Needless to say, it didn’t work out.). The New York Times was helpful enough to publish a tome to Torino just a few days before our departure in October, sealing the deal that we would journey there. In the article, the author notes that Torino, an old factory town, was on the upswing and cinching the Olympics further enhanced its development. However, the former Olympic village is a bit sad looking (see below). In two years, the huge visitors’ center has yet to be repurposed.

The gorgeous bridge provides breathtaking views of the Alps en route to the mall. Yes, the mall. Trofie Wife was glad to be back in her natural habitat, when she and Martello entered the shopping center to find themselves in the midst of the food court and many Christmas decorations. Amazingly, the mall is connected to two gorgeous Le Méridien hotels. We splurged at the Art + Tech, enjoying such amenities as a comfortable bed with multiple pillows!, window curtains with an automated open and close button, and a power shower (boasting amazing water pressure and massage nozzles and which has managed to make our dinky “shower” at home seem even less inviting, as if that were possible).

After settling in, we abandoned our plush accommodations in order to explore Torino. We hopped on a local bus and disembarked in order to walk the vaunted avenues of fancy shops, drink espresso-inspired beverages at the original Lavazza café, down some good, cheap falafel, explore the various piazzas, and attempt to not purchase the entire contents of the Muji store (I sincerely fear for our financial health when we finally make it to Japan, as our joint propensity for cute/well-designed stationery items will surely get us in a lot of trouble). On our way to visit the famed Shroud of Turin (Turin is Torino in English; I don’t understand why geographical names can’t just be standardized, with the country/city in question’s name holding up from one land to the next, in the original language!), we stopped for a ceremonial scoop of Grom ice cream. Now if you will recall, Grom opened on the Upper West Side to great fanfare several summers ago. Trofie Wife was one of many, many New Yorkers who waited for hours on lines that whipped around the block in order to sample this so-called most amazing gelato ever. At $5 a scoop, I was underwhelmed, though the experience of chatting with other hopeful ice cream devotees was in some ways worth it (plus, I had nothing better to do that night). Tasting Grom on its home turf (meaning, not freeze-dried), for a lesser price made it a bit tastier, but Trofie Wife is still not convinced that it’s the best gelato in the country. (However, she will likely look forward to visiting the relatively new West Village shop upon her return and commenting to her companion about “how much better it tastes in Torino.”)


So, with cones in hand, we made our way to Cattedrale di San Giovanni Battista, where the Shroud of Turin is housed. The deal with the shroud is that it is believed by believers to be Jesus’s original burial cloth. The powers that be have put together a fairly impressive timeline (complete with radiocarbon and other scientific testing) that definitively places the shroud in Turkey in the 500s, and they have traced its travels from the Middle East to France and ultimately, Italy. According to a quick Google search, controversy over the carbon dating arose yet again this summer. (Trofie Wife and Martello have no official position on the matter.) Due to its sacred and delicate nature, the shroud is not on display, but a great reproduction is front and center for all to examine. From an artistic perspective, it’s pretty cool.  

We next moved on to the Roman ruins—a gate and amphitheater that were hard to view in the dark. They appear to now be used as an elaborate dog run—I’m sure the Roman emperors would be quite pleased to know that. At this point, our lack of sleep on Friday night and a pestering cold was really getting to Trofie Wife. She was ready to call it a day. However, Martello—who apparently likes to plan vacation itineraries (but not much else)—convinced me to soldier on…and up. I found myself riding up a ridiculously steep elevator inside the Molé, which is inside the national cinema museum (which boasts such national treasures as relics of American cinema belonging to Marilyn Monroe, amongst others, go figure) to reach a viewing deck looking out and over all of Torino. Pretty lights. Trofie Wife preferred to cling to the support column while Martello snapped some death-defying shots (below). Martello wants all readers to know that the entire top of the Molé is, as Trofie Wife refers to it, “suicide proof,” meaning lots of wires, enclosures, and other contraptions are in place such that it would be impossible for anyone (even with great effort) to tumble off. (He somehow thinks this makes my case for clinging to the pole less cogent.)

I should also add that the Molé was originally supposed to be a synagogue for Turin’s newly emancipated Jews, but wouldn’t you know it, the architect went over budget, which led to some sort of land swap (Whitewater?), with the city giving the Jews another parcel in exchange for the Molé plot. After relishing the vistas, we rode the elevator back down but decided to forego the cinema museum in favor of dinner as recommended by our guidebook and the above-mentioned New York Times article. Dinner caused Trofie Wife to perk up such that when we disembarked from the bus, she noticed that the lights were still on in Eataly, henceforth known as the most amazing place ever (to be discussed in greater detail two paragraphs down). As a sort of preview for the adventures that we would have there the following day, Trofie Wife and Martello ducked in just a few minutes before closing to get Gelato #2 of the day. With the staff trying to kick everyone out so they could go home, we returned to our hotel to rest and prepare ourselves for the culinary journey that awaited us in the morn.

For as long as Trofie Wife has been capable of booking her own hotels, she has been certain to pick those where breakfast is included (sometimes you have to double check these things, if it’s not automatically noted on the Web site). Martello doesn’t believe in this principle as firmly, believing that scavenging for breakfast provides the first opportunity for adventure each morning. However, I believe he will agree that it was well worth my nagging to get us to spring for breakfast at Art + Tech. We enjoyed the luxurious setting of the dining room ensconced with suspended lighting fixtures along with the buffet breakfast, complete with yogurt in glass containers and chocolate hazelnut sauce and honey (which may have found their way, half opened, back to Arenzano). After breakfast, we ascended the structure, finding ourselves on top of the roof of the old Fiat factory (the building’s original use prior to its conversion into a hotel). We had the dual sensation of overlooking the gorgeous Alps, while feeling as though we had entered the racing scene in Grease. Martello took the opportunity to get some exercise, as pictured below, while Trofie Wife took the opportunity to take pictures of Martello and find shortcuts around the track (she did, however, climb up the side of the track in order to commune with her inner Nascar driver). We then stopped at the floating art gallery, also on the roof, to view the Fiat owners’ permanent collection as well as the temporary exhibit of works from an eclectic Zurich gallery. Finally, it was time to head to Eataly.


To understand just how amazing Eataly is, imagine the largest Whole Foods in the world, running on hyper antioxidants. Eataly is a foodie’s mecca. Both Disney World (fun) and Epcot (educational) for acolytes of the Slow Food (keywords: natural, local, seasonal, greenmarket, biodynamic, organic, fresh, anti-prepared foods) movement. Essentially, heaven on earth. The aisles upon aisles of fresh, all native Italian food ranges from pasta to produce to prosciutto (we, of course, skipped #3). In addition to stocking every possible bit of Italian food you can imagine (well, except for black pasta, which was surprising and disappointing), there are nine—yes, nine—eateries within the complex, allowing visitors to sample fare from a specific genre and have it paired with wine, which you can then find in the cellar downstairs. We narrowly resisted the all-white truffle menu in favor of the fish bar. Trofie Wife dined on an excellent fish soup, while Martello enjoyed some grilled fish. I should also note that before heading into any of the food aisles, Trofie Wife navigated into the book section, and she and Martello nosed around there for close to 25 minutes, finally settling on a catalogue of Piedmont-produced delicacies (with a recipe section; all in Italian) and an awesome chart noting seasonal availability of vegetables and fruits. Our carts (and, eventually, eco-friendly shopping bags) were filled with pastas, sauces in jars, cupcake tin liners (!), and chocolate (lots of it! To atone for missing this year’s Chocolate Show).  Somehow we managed to leave the store with some money still left in the bank. Rumors circling the Internet say that Eataly is set to land in Rockefeller Center in 2009, but given the business climate right now, who knows. For a virtual visit see,  http://www.eatalytorino.it/eatalytorino/welcome_eng.lasso


We returned to Arenzano early that evening, laden with good food and great memories. We will certainly be sure to return to Torino in the coming months…perhaps with guests? Still to check out is the synagogue (courtesy of that land swap), Victorian-era chocolate stores, and maybe some more art and architecture, not to mention the happenin’ night spots down by the River Po, which Trofie Wife assures Martello she’ll stay awake for, provided she’s given wide latitude on an afternoon nap.

Baci e gelato,

Martello e Trofie Wife

2 comments:

andy said...

I certainly want to be your guest in Turin.

Meryl said...

As if one needed more convincing, the existence of Eataly has definitely put Torino on the itinerary of my next trip to Italy. At the rate I'm going, that trip will occur when I'm well into my 60s, but as I stroll the aisles of Whole Foods this week, I will simply pretend to be at Eataly.

In any event, trofie wife, this is the first time in weeks I've remembered to check your blog. Suggestion: send e-mail with link to circle of correspondendents each time you post. I check e-mail multiple times per day; I have managed to check your blod just twice so far. It's not a time thing, it's a blocked arteries to the brain thing. Menopause, no doubt. So in deference to my aging cells, would you please get in the habit of an e-mail with link to updates? And please, if you think your dinky shower has anyone feeling sorry for you, think again.

Meryl