Dreaming In Italian

More adventures in Torino

Tuesday, March 5th, 2019

I’m spending a lot of time in Torino lately, every other weekend in fact. Laura has a book of 100 things to do in Torino so I went through it and marked a few of the things that interested me. So this last weekend we went to see a couple of things.

The first one is the Mercato di Porta Palazzo. The real name of this piazza is Piazza della Repubblica but everyone knows is as Porta Palazzo. In any case it is an enormous market of just about everything to eat as well as goods for the house or clothing often of dubious quality. There are markets of such things also at Bologna but not nearly as vast as this market.

The main structure shown below houses mostly meats, cheeses, breads and pastas as well as probably some other things. It’s quite large and we didn’t go through all of it but did buy some torinese ravioli called agnolotti del plin. Cute little rascals that in a certain sense resemble tortellini. Very torinese. Served with butter/sage sauce they’re very tasty.

The original structure for the market – meats, pastas etc inside.

agnollotti del plin

Next we went to the fruit and vegetable section. Vast and crowded.

LOTs of fruits and veggies

Also very crowded

We skipped the clothing section and went to the other enclosed building which had several large fish markets. Here, the process seems a bit strange. The wide variety of critters from the sear are displayed on a large area covered with ice as you can see. The customers are at the bottom of this sloping surface however the scales are at the top. So a couple of guys at the bottom ask what you’d like to buy. They put the approximate quantity that you want in a plastic bag and toss it to the guys at they top. After it is weighed and the price is announced the scale guys toss it back down. The customer then pays and goes away with the purchase.

Scales at the top, customers at the bottom
Creative display
Yes, that’s what a swordfish looks like in pieces

In the same zone as the market there is the Balon . This is a really big flea market. It too is quite vast. While the market Porta Palazzo is open every day the Balon is open only on Saturdays. There is also the Gran Balon which is every 2nd Sunday. The Gran Balon is even larger and has lots of antiques rather than the humdrum normal flea market stuff. One of these weekends I want to go to he Gran Balon.I can barely imagine how large it must be if it is significantly larger than the regular Balon.

Only one of the streets with Balon vendors
Finally at the end of the Balon in a piazza

On Sunday since it was really a nice day we took a trip into the hills of Torino and ate at a nice trattoria called Antica Trattoria “Con Calma”. They offered a piemontese specialty – un fritto misto (mixed fry). I have had fritti misti in other parts of Italy, usually near the sea and they generally consist of fish and other seafood along with vegetables which are breaded and fried. This dish in piemonte has vegetables but most of it is meat of one sort or another.

We made the mistake of ordering two orders. We could easily have eaten our fill sharing and order but we did take the left-overs with us.

Both of our plates were full and there is still a lot left in the pan on the table
The special menu for the fritto misto

So the translation of the above – as best I can: Veal cutlet milan style, lamb rib, sausage, batsoa’ (not sure but better not to ask), brain, granelli (i don’t know but some kind of innards), sweatbread and liver, snail and frog, artichoke, fennel, some kind of potato thing, zucchini, eggplant and cauliflower, apple, pavesini (some kind of cookie) sour cherry, zabaioni ( a kind of sweet creamy stuff – how they manage to fry it is beyond me) and finally semolini (a kind of sweet made from wheat). Whew, just eat it and don’t worry about it. I pretty much liked it all except the frog – too many little bones.

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Exhibits at the Venaria Reale

Tuesday, February 26th, 2019

OK, of course you don’t remember what exactly the Venaria Reale is. I did a blog post about a visit there (Another Trip to Torino) and since it is so vast it was impossible to see everything. So Laura and I returned for another dose of Torinese culture. This time we went for the stables. They’re not your ordinary stables; they could house 160 horses and there is also the Citroniera (big greenhouse for citrus). That all come out to roughly 54,000 square feet that has all been converted to other uses including several exhibition spaces. We didn’t see everything by any means. We saw 3 exhibits in all. “Easy Rider” had a bunch of motorcycles including the one used in the movie of that name.

Some classic motorcycles

Then we saw an exhibit of the works of this guy below. This is one of his most famous photos but he did a lot of very interesting stuff and naturally I took no photos of his photos and they are all copyrighted and difficult to find available on the web. But it’s worth a Google search to see some of his stuff.

And then the exhibit that impressed me most of all. Furniture. I did amateur woodworking for over 10 years and really appreciate artistry in that medium. All pieces by a guy (Pietro Piffetti) who lived his entire life in Torino other than an apprenticeship in Rome. Now considering that this was in the mid 1700s when he was doing this work, it is absolutely astounding considering the tools available almost 300 years ago.

The furniture is made of fine woods with marquetry using other woods and non-wood materials including mother of pearl, ivory, tortoise shell and colored stones to make a design. Needless to say I was quite impressed.

A meticulously inlaid top of a desk. Other than the small ivory inlays all of the other parts are different types of wood.

Truly mind boggling. Mother of pearl, ivory, tortoise shell and colored stone … make up all of the images. It is a facade for a church altar.
Detail of part of the work pictured above.
And a nice little desk. he center part near the bottom folds out to provide a writing surface

We didn’t stroll through the gardens. Well, stroll would be an understatement since the gardens since the gardens are about 150 acres in size.

View from the palace
View from the end of the “canal” that can be seen also in the previous photo.

Well, we’ll just have to go back. It should be better in spring time anyway.

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Movies in Italy – and where one led

Tuesday, February 19th, 2019

My Italian continues to improve but it is still all but impossible for me to watch and Italian language films without subtitles. I have both Amazon Prime and Netflix here and watch a bunch of stuff, choosing the spoken language as Italian and the subtitles also in Italian. I hope that it is soaking into my brain.

I’m not constrained to watch movies at home on the TV. In Bologna there are 2 or 3 theaters that show films in the original language and fortunately one of the better ones is near me, Cinema Lumiere. I’ve seen several films there, the most recent was Green Book. Of course all of the films shown with the original language have Italian subtitles. One thing that I’ve noted is that when it comes to cursing like a sailor we Americans seem to have a larger, well, range of options than Italians judging from the subtitles which largely are limited to variations of “cazzo” (shit) or “vaffanculo” (fuck you).

Recently I also went to see a film in Torino. It seems that Torino, although a much larger city than Bologna has only one theater that shows films in the original language, Cinema Centrale Arthouse. So I went there recently with Laura to watch the latest Clint Eastwood film “the Mule”. It was a good film as most of his are. One thing that struck me as I watched the movie was how old Clint is by now. I found that he is 88. Oh my god, that’s me in 15 years. Of course we’re all getting older and I’m much more aware of it now (as is my body) but I really started to reflect on the fact. So where do I want to be in 15 years? Would I return to the United States, California or elsewhere? Would I stay in Italy and if so where? Do I want to live where a car is essential to living a decent life? Where the lifestyle tends to emphasize quantity versus quality? Where the cost of living is generally higher than where I am right now?

Well, the answer obviously is that at least at this point in time I cannot imagine living anywhere but Italy and probably Bologna. Torino has it’s attractions but it is much easier to live in Bologna (especially if you live in the center as I do) without a car. Bus service is very good and relatively cheap (unlimited bus rides for a month for the price of a tank full of gas in the U.S.). Since the city is medieval and the streets are generally much more narrow, the traffic in the center is severely limited. So crossing the street is pretty easy. Things are generally close by or at least close to a bus stop when you arrive. The quality and variety of foods in the markets is spectacular with costs similar to that in the U.S. Costs of eating out are substantially less for the same quality here. What more can I say?

Now if only the bureaucracy was more efficient….

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Wine can be dangerous to you health

Tuesday, February 12th, 2019

I have never had a problem with wine. What beverage is better with food? However a few days ago I stopped at an enoteca to buy a bottle of wine. The person there wrapped the bottle in paper and since I had a little backpack with me I needn’t need a bag to carry it. As I started to put the bottle in the backpack the bottle slipped out of the paper and fell toward the floor. I was pleased and amazed that the bottle didn’t break but a few seconds later I realized why. Instead of falling on the floor it landed on my right foot. It was damned painful and I had to wait a couple of minutes before attempting to walk. So, after awhile it wasn’t to bad so I took the bottle home and went about my business for the day.

The guilty party.

But that evening when I was ready to go to bed the pain became more severe. The next morning a friend (thank you Gianluca) bought some of the medical tape used for such things and brought it to my home so that I could wrap the injured toe to the one next to it (the toe with the pain was the middle toe) and I iced the toe during during the day and never left the house. The next morning I went to my doctor. He said that he didn’t think that it was broken but advised me that I should get an x-ray right away. He wrote me a prescription and I went to what is called a “poliambulatorio”, (outpatient clinic) closest to me. They do blood tests and x-rays there but only if reserved well ahead of time and my prescription was marked urgent, meaning that it should be done within 24 hours. So the information guy said to go to the room where they handle a variety of things, take a number and wait for an hour to get directions for an x-ray elsewhere. Well, he didn’t exactly say “wait an hour” but that’s what it took for them to call my number and they gave me a reservation and directions to a hospital not too far away. Since the radiology department at that hospital closes at noon (it was already 11) and would not be open the next day I had to hurry. If I didn’t get the x-ray within 24 hours the prescription would expire and I would have to start the whole process over again. Not far from the poliambulatorio there was a taxi stand so I took one to the hospital. At the information desk there they directed me to the radiology department and said to wait there for 45 minutes to get the x-ray. Of course they didn’t say “wait 45 minutes” but that’s what it took to get the x-ray. After that the radiologist said to wait for 30 minutes to get the written opinion of the radiologist and a CD with the images of my foot. Of course he didn’t say “wait 30 minutes” but that’s what it took. Fortunately the toe was not broken.

The X-ray. I’ve never seen this image of my foot before. Complicated.

A broken toe takes a long time to heal and one should not walk much for a month to six weeks which would have been a real disaster. The system is different from the U.S. but the result was much the same. For a non-critical x-ray in California there is quite a bit of waiting involved as well, but as I now know, in Italy there is always a line and it’s usually pretty long. I have also learned that if you need to interact with any sort of bureaucracy, take a book to read.

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