Readers in the snow belt of North America may have a hard time picturing the hot, dry summers of Australia, but summer is nearly upon us.  Well, it would be if we were actually there.  On October 29, my wife and I boarded a flight to Singapore, then another to Munich.  Our final destination was the sub Alpine city of Turin, Italy.  It will soon be winter here if global warming doesn’t interfere.  We must be crazy, right?

This adventure began, as most of them do, with a serendipitous meeting several months back.  A colleague of my wife suggested that she look into teaching a course at a brand new, private university that was being set up in Turin. The teaching would fit into the semester break at Melbourne.  The downside is that,  in addition to teaching a new course, my wife will be consumed with marking papers and exams for the next three weeks.

For me, it is a wonderful opportunity to learn a little Italian, a language I actually studied for one semester at University some forty years ago simply because I loved the sound of it. When you arrive in a new city it seems like the parameters of your world are very small.  You hardly know anyone and there are a limited number of things that occupy your time.  Sleeping, eating, and looking for affordable accommodation.

This city may be cheap compared to Rome or Paris, but it is certainly expensive compared to Melbourne, especially now that the Australian dollar has taken a beating.  One euro is roughly equivalent to two Australian dollars.  And everything costs at least what it would in Australia, only in euros.

November 1 was All Saints Day, which is an official holiday in this part of the world. Entire families were out walking the streets and most of the stores were closed.  Our hotel is not far from Via Roma, which has every luxury shop I have heard of and quite a few I haven’t.  The Italians really have nailed that market. It never occurred to me how many of those brand names were Italian until we took a stroll down Via Roma.

Both sides of the street are covered with porticoes protecting the wide sidewalks below.  It is a wonderful avenue for strolling, a semi-enclosed Fifth Avenue. At one time, Via Roma led to its namesake (as all roads do), but a grand train station was plunked in the way 150 years ago.  If you were going to Rome by car you would have to take a slight detour.  By train, of course, it is very convenient.

Turin is home to most of the factories that produce Fiats.  It is an industrial city as well as the administrative center of the region of Piedmont.  It is Italy’s fourth largest city, with a population that hovers around a million inhabitants. Renowned for its Baroque and Art Nouveau architecture, its museum of cinema, and its chocolates, Turin indulges its artists like a patron saint.  In Piazza San Carlo. a moving photographic exhibit based on Buddhist texts caught my eye.  Our stroll took us down to the Piazza Castello, then over to the spectacular Mole Antonelliana.

Originally intended as a synagogue, this stunning building quickly became more expensive than its clients felt they could afford.  It was eventually taken over by the town council.  Begun in 1863, the structure was  completed in 1889.  Until a high wind broke off 47 meters (154 feet) of the spire in 1953, it was Europe’s highest brick building.  More on this later, after I have been inside and seen the Museo del Cinema, a unique, vertical museum.

The Mole is a short walk from the Po, the liquid highway that brought the Romans to this site.  Our stroll led us, inevitably, to the charming park along its bank, the Parco del Valentino.  Stay tuned.  There is much, much more to come.

Ciao for now.

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