We're Here

We made it! And as we drove into town from Torino airport -- a night without sleep notwithstanding - impressions came fast.

One of the first things I noticed was the relative absence of that telltale Italy sound, the rapid, insistent beep-beeping of car horns. When I used to come to Italy as a child from the U.S, I'd lay in bed that first night at my grandmother's house marveling at the strange honking outside. It was the soundtrack that told me I was back.

But here in Torino, it's different. The streets are quieter, calmer than what I'm used to in Naples, Rome, and other parts south of here. The drivers aren't as crazy.

And as we walked through town, I noticed that the people seemed different too. They looked sterner, more serious. They weren't gesticulating as much or talking as loudly.

Not surprising this city is more like its northern European neighbors, I thought. After all, Torino is a lot closer to Geneva than it is to Rome.

But as we walked through the city center, the Italy I know and love started to emerge.

Couples leaned against ancient buildings locked in passionate long kisses (even in the January cold). Young Torinese seem to conduct their love lives outside too, just like other Italians. (In Naples, a parked car with newspapers hanging from the windows usually means someone is having some kind of sex inside.)

And as the afternoon turned to early evening, older, smartly-dressed Italian couples came out too for their walk through town, their leisurely "passeggiata", arm-in-arm, hand-in-hand, chatting.

So it is Italy. But it's not the sun-drenched, hands-waving, work-shy Italy of the stereotypes.

Saturday morning, one person quickly made the differences clear -- the middle-aged hotel cleaning lady in her starched pink uniform.

"Are you a Torinese?" I asked her as she made my bed.

"No, I'm a Neapolitan," she answered with a big smile. "But I've been here since 1969." She's one of the hundreds of thousands of southern Italians who migrated north to this city for work in the 1960s, mainly in the booming FIAT car factories of the time.

"Torino has given me what my own city couldn't," she said matter-of-factly. "And I'm grateful for that. But I've had to work hard for it."

I could tell that what she really wanted was to sit down and have a nice long chat. But her beeper rang.

"I have to go," she said. "In Torino, we're ruled by the watch."

By Daniela Deane |  January 22, 2006; 3:34 PM ET  | Category:  Torino
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I travelled throughout Italy this summer and I never went to Torino. What a mistake! your blogs make me feel like I am missing out. In fact, I might just plan a visit. Keep up the good work!

Posted by: Jack Blackburn | January 25, 2006 10:17 PM

I was an Erasmus exchange student in Torino from October 2004 to March 2005. Perhaps the best 6 months of my life.

Ahhh, where to begin... I have also seen Milano, Roma and Venezia. Venetia is a city in a category all of its own. But Torino... the piazzas, the portico, the astonishing Via Garibaldi (the commercial pedestrian way), La Mole, the Po river with its superb bridges, with Piazza Vittorio Veneto on one side of Po and Grand Madre church on the other. I could write ages about Piazza Castello, the Cathedral with the Holy Shroud (la Sindone), Palazzo Reale.

If you want a breathtaking view of both Torino and the Italian Alps, take the tramvia a dentiera (teethed train) to the Superga hill and cathedral, a place where every pope went to pray and regain strength, where the AC Torino team's plane crashed. You will feel royal and the sites will stay with you per sempre (forever)...

But what I really want to say now is that I was totally surprised by the people, the Torinesi. From numerous persons I heard, before leaving, that Italians from the North part are cold people, selfish and far from the welcoming people the Italian South has plenty of. Nothing further from the truth. I interacted with people from all social levels, from Medical School professors, province officials, fellow students, vendors, old and young, men and women. The site of senior citizens going to the opera at the local Teatro Regio (newly refurbished according to the original plans), with their fur coats and fancy shoes (of course, Italian) made me rethink my attitude towards the elderly.

All in all, go see Torino. Don't just stay for a day or 2, take a week, visit everything, the town and also the surrounding small villages.

Perhaps I will return with some details...

Posted by: Sebastian Manoleasa | January 26, 2006 07:03 PM

I'm leaving for Torino to attend the Olympics next week - can't wait! I'm glad to discover your blog and I'm very eager to begin discovering Torino.

Posted by: noelle | February 5, 2006 12:11 PM

I'm Torinese and I love my city.
I hope that after this Olympics Turin will become a major tourist destination (like Barcelona after its Olympics) because citizens are tired to heard that Turin is only the home of Fiat and Juventus.


Posted by: alberto fosca | February 5, 2006 04:38 PM

Ciao, Alberto! And hi to everyone!

My friends from Torino just told me the Metro has been inaugurated these days and it's free in February. No drivers! That's a first in Italy.

Noelle, prepare for the holiday of your life. Torino is spectacular, royal, smart and very chic.

Alberto, after the time I spent in Torino, I hope I can say I am a Torinese, also! Torino has and always will have a very special place in my heart. I also hope this Olympic Games will show everyone what Torino is and can give to the world. When I think that a lot of people will walk for the first time in the city I love, it brings tears to my eyes. I realy look forward to see the coverage on TV and papers, maybe spot some of my favourite places and... relive the experience!

Viva Torino!

Posted by: Sebastian Manoleasa | February 6, 2006 09:52 AM

Hello everybody!
How odd and...wonderful to read such comments about my home town!
It is really a pleasure for me to see that you realised that Italy's not just Rome, Venice, Florence Milan, Naples. I hope you will give a chance to us and yourself to discover what Torino has to offer you. The city is not an ordinary one. Torino has so many hidden secrets which are hard to discover, but once you do, you understand why it is known in Italy and abroad as the "magic town"....

Posted by: Arianna | February 16, 2006 10:51 AM

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