Tag Archives: saturday

Snow in Giardino Aiuola Balbo, Turin

Notes from my extremely glamorous life: Let it snow

It has been an extremely, ridiculously mild winter here this year, with blue skies and daytime temperatures often getting into the teens. (Celcius, I mean. That’s how mild it is.) The other day, I got gelato on my way home from work and ate it standing in the sun, thinking, Is this really February?

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I also sent this picture to various friends, saying, “I’m eating gelato, what did you achieve today?” because I am a terrible person.

So I was as taken aback as everyone else in Turin when I woke up on Saturday morning and saw white fluffy flakes falling, the first snow in the city this winter.

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I’m not normally much of a fan of snow. It’s cold, it’s wet, and if you think Perth drivers are useless in the rain you should see how people drive in the snow. But I needed to go to the pharmacy anyway, so I pulled on a woolly hat and my warm coat and took a walk through the city centre.

When it’s a late winter Saturday one-off, it’s harder to be cynical about snow. The buildings and statues look statelier. The dusting of white brings out the form of the bare trees. The snow on the ground makes everything look brighter even when it’s overcast. And on a Saturday morning, I wasn’t the only one enjoying the snow — the parks had plenty of delighted dogs running around wondering what had happened to make the ground so much fun all of a sudden.

As I walked, the clouds lowered and the snow fell harder and I brushed the snow off my arms as I went. By the time I got to the river Po almost the whole scene was grey and white.

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And then by lunch time it had turned to rain, and by evening you wouldn’t know that it had snowed at all.

Avigliana, near Turin

Visiting small town Italy: Avigliana

I suspect my whole personality can be captured by this statement: on Friday night, I left the party early making vague excuses about being too old to go dancing at the newly re-opened club “Giancarlo”, then on Saturday I went for a quiet stroll around Avigliana.

Continue reading

Ivrea, Italy

Visiting Italian small towns: Ivrea and Chiesa di San Nicola

I’ve lived in Turin for 3 years now, and the more I get to know Italy the more I feel like I’ve hardly seen it at all. I’ve “done” the tourist trifecta of Rome, Florence and Venice, and I’ve made the odd weekend trip to slightly less common destinations like Bologna, Genova and Naples, but almost all my travel has focused on the big cities. I’ve barely been to the mountains, I’ve never found a beach that wasn’t crowded (well, I did once… in February), my knowledge of the smaller towns around here is limited to being able to say, “yup, this looks like a northern town, alright” as I stand in a stereotypical piazza with a church and some cafes.

And the thing is, when I do finally get out of the city, I love it. Continue reading

A walk out of town

The other week, as I was popping down to the shops to buy some eggs, I noticed an odd sticker on a lamp post. It was a cartoon-ish figure of a pilgrim, and below it was an arrow labelled “Roma”.

“Odd choice of street art,” I thought. Except there, across the street, was another, placed exactly as if to show hikers that yes, they were right to cross the street and keep going.

Turns out, I live on a walking trail, the Via Francigena. Or rather, one of the Vie Francigene, since it turns out there’s several routes which diverge and converge as they make their way towards Rome. This clearly needed some exploring.

So after lunch I set out again towards the shops, and kept going. The trail headed for the river and more or less followed it exactly.  That day, I made it to San Mauro, about 10km from central Torino, before I turned back and walked down the other side of the river.

Trail sign! Rome seems and implausible goal.

Trail sign! Rome seems an implausible goal.

Going past the Jewish section of the cemetery on the way to the river.

Going past the Jewish section of the cemetery on the way to the river.

This lamp post will be warm in winter.

This lamp post will be warm in winter.

Under the bridge.

Under the bridge…


And through the trees.

So obviously, having reached San Mauro, the obvious thing to do was set out the next Saturday, get the bus to where I’d left off and keep going. The first 10 minutes was through the suburbs, and I wondered if I’d misjudged and was about to spend the next few hours walking past peoples’ apartments. From one of them, I could hear someone practising the piano, and old tune I couldn’t quite place (and they couldn’t quite play). It was a hot afternoon, and I was tempted to bail or at least make a substaintial gelato break before I went any further. But once I reached the farmland it was good going:

Country style trail marker!

Country style trail marker!

Looking back on the Superga.

Looking back on the Superga.

Navigation was never difficult.

Navigation was never difficult.

On the banks of the Po.

On the banks of the Po.

Peaceful afternoon.

Peaceful afternoon.

It took me a bit longer than I’d planned and I developed a good sized blister¬† on the ball of my left foot, but I made it the 19 km to Chivasso which conveniently has a regular train service back to Torino. (I certainly wasn’t walking back!)

So. On to Rome??

Ten things you should know about hiking

A post about something recent! Some friends and I went hiking last weekend.

  1. Everything feels like more of an adventure if you get up early for it. Even if you’re only up early because you woke up an hour before your alarm, and you decided to get out of bed and clean your apartment.
  2. If your plans involve Italian trains running on time, they will be delayed, pushing everything back until your hike is an after-lunch hike.
  3. Which isn’t a problem, because a picnic lunch in a village in the Alps is pretty great in its own right. Especially with fresh bread and cheese and sausage and fruit.
  4. It turns out the haze you always thought was air pollution must be partly just humidity, because even in this valley, it’s there. You won’t get the crystal-clear mountain air you’d been daydreaming of during the week, but the haze does make the landscape rather painterly.
  5. When the trail mostly follows the road, you can go fast, even when the clouds come in and visibility is low. This will seem like a good idea at the time. Your stiff muscles and awkward-baby-giraffe gait 3 days after the hike will disagree.
  6. Cows and calves are almost as cute as sheep and lambs; cowbells are useful for warning you there are cows on the road when walking through clouds; it is impossible to resist mooing loudly as you pass a herd of cows, even if you’ve passed 4 already.
  7. A woman with grey hair and wellies will pass you as you pause for a drink, and wish you a pleasant hike. One minute later, she will be nowhere to be seen on the road, even though there are no side paths. Probably she is a farmer and has gone into a field. Maybe she is a witch.
  8. In the end, even going fast, you won’t reach the lake the signposts were vague about the location of. You will however witness the clouds lifting and the sun coming out over a meadow of wildflowers, complete with a mountain stream and views to higher hills beyond.
  9. Nettles are real, and they do look just like on the box of nettle tea you used to drink in Australia. You’re only going to realize this after you walk through a patch of them.
  10. Homemade fruit cake you weren’t convinced about while in the city will taste amazing when you’ve just walked from 1400 to 2000 metres above sea level. (You need to go hiking again – you’ve got nearly a quarter of the fruitcake still in your fridge.)

Saturday highlights, 23 March 2013

  • Trying a pasticceria near my place for the first time, and discovering they have amazing fresh breakfast pastries. Om nom nom.
  • Finding the bug in my code that I’d been hunting down all week. (Or is that a lowlight, seeing as it was an embarassingly dumb mistake on my part?)
  • Visiting the Museo d’Arte Orientale and checking out some fascinating Indian/Chinese/Japanese artwork…
  • … and being able to leave off the Tibetan and Islamic sections for another visit, since with my museum pass I get free entry whenever I like. Sweet!
  • Randomly stumbling across this show. Everyone’s saturday afternoon needs a merry-go-round with cows.
  • Baking anzac bickies, which may be a little more like flapjacks thanks to my sloppy/nonexistant measuring, but who cares? They’re delicious anyway.