Traveling Day — Torino to La Spezia to Corneglia

Waiting for the taxi
Waiting for the taxi

Writing on Monday. Seeing the Pope yesterday could not have been more unexpected. He was in Torino because of the exhibition of the holy shroud of Turin which has perhaps been on view because of the Milan Expo. We could not get tickets to his mass in a piazza but that’s worked for us because the square was very sunny, we would have been standing for more than an hour and it was just a sea of people. Instead, we went along the road that he was going to get to and from his mass site. One his way there, we caught a quick glimpse in the very back of a crowd five or six people deep. So, we watched his progress on a video screen. That would have been enough for me. Really. We walked around the city, people watching mostly and then came back to the main street he would use to return. We sat at a cafe table, ate sandwiches and watched the crowds gather again. There were verylarge screens all along the route so people could see and hear the mass and sing all of the music. It was a rather an unaggressive, gentle crowd. Lots of babies and children. People In very happy moods. People seem to be fond of this Pope. Perhaps what I was seeing was merely a crowd with few American tourists. It was mostly Italians., perhaps more pilgrims than tourists.

Before the end of the mass, priests came through the street to deliver communion to those who wanted it. A volunteer in a distinctive violet jacket preceded each priest. The volunteers had small signs and people could gather where the volunteers stopped to politely line up for communion. It seemed like a simple and small allowance to be made and a very lovely way to open the circle of those privileged to be viewing the pope’s mass very large. I was touched by the good humor of the crowd and the gentle kindness of cafe waitresses who allowed us to keep our seats long after we finished eating.

Just to present another side of the pope’s visit, he is still in town and roads are still closed off and diverted in parts of town. Our taxi driver enhanced my colorful Italian. Why is it so easy to identify and remember swear words?

In the after noon, we went to La Venaria Realm, home for hundreds of years to the Savoys who were kings in piedmont. It is about 25 minutes outside of Torino by car. We went just before lunch and stopped on the very small street leading to the villa in a cafe. Julia is very happy with pasta for almost any and all meals. I had a tuna salad that was dressed with anchovies and balsamic vinegar, two of my favorites. Again, I had wine with lunch and again I did not feel tired or groggy afterwards. Is it the Italian wine?

La Venaria, a huge estate–palaces, galleries and gardens– were abandoned and fell into ruin in the middle of the last century. The restoration and redevelopment has been aided by many artists, including theater and media artists. We saw only part of the palace, some of the art, bits of the gardens. We only read and listened to a small amount of the commentary. Because it was abandoned for a long time, there is little furniture in the villa but there are wonderful paintings and wonderful painted ceilings. In the very impressive hall–where you could host parties for hundreds, at least– Julia became captivated by the checkerboard marble floor and she began to take pictures. When we went into the next salon, she was pointing out sculptures. She took many pictures of the portraits. Today, in the La Spezia ticket office she is pointing out the ceiling pictures of Hermes. We’ll see if her interest continues.

This is a traveling day–Torino to La Spezia to Corneglia which is one of the Cinque Terre. We missed the very tight connection and have an hour to sit and wait. Sitting on a stone bench the memory of the last time I was here washed over me. It was a tight connection that’s time 30 years ago as well and to make it we skipped the stairs to get from one train platform to the other in favor of crossing the tracks in front of the trains. It feels very young and foolish now but we were following the example of the Italians catching that same train. It is almost impossible to make tight connections as a tourist without very good signage. And there was none here. Still, it’s cool and we are in the shade. We scored a bench and had nut bars and water bottles to keep us from starving. Pretty much, all is right with the world.

Later, we had our first mediocre Italian meal. Cornegilia is a town clinging to the rocky hills. 30 years ago, David and I visited vernazza, the next town over. There were no hotels, just fishermen dorm rooms. There were a few restaurants for local people, the kind with one sitting and a choice of two or three entrees. We were only here because of a scheduled train strike. It was November, cold and damp. And as romantic as all get out! We may have been the only tourists the nights we were here. Today, it is hard to find the Italians for the tourists.

Back to the meal. It is Monday and many restaurants are closed. Our travel time threw off our meal schedule. None of the restaurants I took notes on were open and it was not quite opening time for the few remaining ones. So, we stopped at what was open, The old guy who showed us to a table was rude, the waitress inattentive, the caprasse salad was ok, the spaghetti con pesto was not as good as mine and the bread was spongy. But we were sated and we left plenty of room for gelato. Julia had mango and I has pistachio, partly in memory of David’s dad.

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