Serendipity in Piemonte


Serendipity in Piemonte

Wednesday, September 11th, 2019

As any reader of my blog knows I spend a lot of time in Torino these days because my “girlfriend” (seems silly to call a 70 year old woman a girl) lives there. We alternate long weekends between Torino and Bologna. So on a recent weekend we were pondering what to do on a lazy Saturday. Another museum (boring), yet another posh residence of a king (tired of viewing their extravagances), return to a beach in Liguria (to rainy)? So we decided to visit a town near Torino which neither of us knew much about. We discussed Ivrea but settled on Susa.

I knew that there was a porta Susa at Torino and it’s the name of one two major train stations. With a little research I found that Susa is in a little valley at the foot of the alps and has a little river running through it. Plus it has a history that predates the Romans who left their marks there. And it’s only about 50 km from (about 30 miles) from Torino. One interesting thing about the town was a lot of these passageways under buildings like the one shown below. I’m guessing it’s because there’s a lot of snow there in the winter.

It’s really a cute little town of about 6,000 inhabitants with the requisite Roman ruins. After a disappointing lunch we went looking for the Roman amphitheater. They could use some better signage for visitors but we finally found it after asking directions from a couple of locals. It was rather underwhelming but is used for various performances which surely makes it more interesting. From there we could see what looked like a very old fortress. I had read that there was a Roman arch in Susa but had seen nothing about a fortress. While we could see the fortress there were absolutely no signs. Again locals came to our rescue pointing to the road (more like a path) to take. There were actually 2 arches the first was much rougher than the triumphal Arch of Augustus build in 8 BC. I actually liked the big rough one the most.

The Roman amphitheater

This is NOT the path to the arches. It was next to the amphitheater and was the “road not taken”. I’m really curious about where it goes.

My favorite arch. I think that the top of this is the aqueduct so it didn’t need to be particularly pretty.
The Arch of Augustus – pretty nice and beside the wall of the fortress. Not much of the fortress remains except some exterior walls like this one.

As we walked around the town a did a bit of shopping I kept noticing violet and white ribbons bunched together and we seemingly everywhere. When I first saw these in the restaurant I thought that perhaps they were the celebration of a birth of a child but since they were also along the streets I finally asked a guy what they were about. Because of my heavily accented Italian he tried (without much success) to respond in English until I told him that Laura was Italian. So he explained to her (and I understood absolutely everything that he said) that these were the colors of the “borgo” (borough or district). With some research I found that each year there is a contest of medieval skills in, where else, the roman amphitheater. The competition is between the 6 borgi of the city. The violet and white are the colors of the Borgo Storico, which would be the city center – which won this year.

When Laura asked about the “games” he said with a laugh, “it’s not a game it’s WAR”. Anyway it’s held in July and I really want to go next year. I recommend that you follow this link to see some photos and videos of this year’s “war”. Italian language not required.

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