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Day 2: Turin

We had a slow start to the morning today, but that wasn't a problem as the local shops didn't seem to open until 9am on a Sunday morning anyway. After the doom and gloom of some of the weather forecasts, we were pleased to see that the day was reasonably sunny, if a bit cloudy, and when we stepped outside into the street after breakfast it was already plenty warm enough for just shorts and t-shirts. We hadn't seen any of the main town centre yesterday, so we set off back in the direction of the train station and beyond to what we hoped was the main town. We were slightly hampered by the fact that the only town plan of Turin we had was framed on a wall in the apartment!

The first place of interest that we came to was Piazza Lagrange. We weren't completely sure at the time whether the statue was of the famous mathematician Lagrange, whose equations I remember failing to understand at university, but having subsequently looked it up it transpires that he was not, in fact, French as I had assumed, but was born and studied in Turin.


We wandered around the backstreets for a while, enjoying the views. Turin is laid out in a grid-like system with all the streets being very straight. The ones run towards the river all have beautiful views towards the hills.


We arrived outside an art museum with an impressive facade, and were slightly confused to see vast quantities of people queuing to get in at 10am on a Sunday morning. This was a pattern which repeated itself outside all the major attractions as we strolled around the city. Turin was exceptionally busy, and there appeared to be some sort of marathon, a bike race, boat races on the river Po and a jazz festival all going on at the same time.


Trying to avoid the crowds, we walked further away from the centre and happened upon what appeared to be a beautiful square, unfortunately mostly hidden behind construction barriers. The guidebook said that Turin had undergone a lot of restoration prior to the 2006 Winter Olympics which had been held locally, but it seemed that a lot of work was still ongoing. I was slightly amused to see that the guidebook, which was published in March 2011, referred to the Porta Nuova train station as currently being a construction site, a description which was equally appropriate in May 2015, potentially making its renovations even longer running than those at Birmingham New Street :)


We did get an unobstructed view of some of the statues and churches though.


Perhaps the most famous building in Turin is The Mole Antonelliana, which was constructed in the late nineteenth century. Originally a synagogue, it now houses a museum of cinema. You can pay to go inside and ride a lift to the top, from where there must be amazing views, but unfortunately the queue outside was of epic proportions with signs saying that the wait was over an hour, so we decided to give it a miss.


You can see the tower from all over the city.


Walking through a park, we found ourselves outside a rather menacing castle. It didn't look like it was one that you would break into in a hurry!


From there it was only a short walk to the main square.


There were so many impressive buildings in the square that it was hard to know where to turn. This one was Palazzo Madama.


And this one was Palazzo Reale, a former royal palace belonging to the House of Savoy.


We walked down Via Roma, the main street in Turin, which seemed pretentious with its rows of designer shops, and found ourselves in Piazza San Carlo. Again, this seemed a bit of a construction site, but we managed to get a picture of this statue from behind the railings. It depicts one of the Dukes of Savoy celebrating after securing the independence of Turin from the French and Spanish at the battle of San Quintino in 1574/


At the far end of the square there are two separate, but almost identical, Baroque churches.


The sky was starting to look a little grey by this point and we were worried that the promised rain might be on its way. We decided to walk back towards the edge of the city again for another stroll along the river. On the way we found this beautiful church and clock tower.


Despite the greyness, there were some lovely views from the banks of the Po.


We walked past the riverside castle again. There was some sort of boat race taking place on the river and it seemed to be causing a great deal of excitement, with hordes of people lining strategic points long the river and cheering the participants on.


The rain ultimately didn't materialise, but we had walked nearly 8 miles by this point so headed back to the apartment for a rest. Later in the afternoon we went out for another stroll to the train station and bought tickets for the first leg of tomorrow's journey. Our ultimate destination is the little town of Domodossola, near the Swiss border, but we are splitting our journey into two stages; firstly taking a train from Turin to the railway junction of Novara, and then a second train from there to Domodossola. It will be a little bit of hassle tomorrow as we will have several hours to kill in Novara between trains, but it means we can do the entire journey on regional trains (costing about €15 each) rather than taking the high speed trains (which would cost about €100 each). Regional trains are always a bit of a gamble in Italy as it's hard to know in advance how busy the route is going to be, but the savings are so significant that it seems worth the risk :)

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