La Bella Figura in Torino

La bella figura, literally “the beautiful figure”, is an essential philosophy that dominates the lives of gli Italiani. For many foreigners it’s a difficult conceptto comprehend as Bella figura can mean many things. Essentially, it’s how one looks, how one composes oneself and how one makes the best possible impression in all things. That such a concept is hardwired into the Italian psyche is no surprise: what else could be expected from a country that’s been creating beauty for centuries? Beauty is revered and truly respected in Italy, whether expressed grandly through art and architecture, or more simply by the perfect cut of a suit. But Bella figura goes well beyond image, visual beauty and presentation…it also is defined by behavior: knowing how to properly and graciously interact with others in any social or public situation. Exhibiting good manners, tact and gentility is an essential component of “cutting a beautiful figure”. Why bring all of this up now? Well, here in Torino i finally understand it’s meaning as beauty, poise and elegance is EVERYWHERE!

Leaving Pescara Central Station in the morning

we had a 5 hr 30min train trip going directly north along the adriatic coast and then due west until we finally arrived in Milano. After sunning ourselves in the Piazza and grabbing a coffee we boarded our next train bound for Torino and arrived in the late afternoon.

We are staying at a gorgeous little B&B run by my friends, friend which whilst retaining it’s classical feel (high ceilings painted with frescoes and elegant furniture) has been decorated with a wonderful array of eccentric and retro items – I LOVE it! The owner, apart from his day job is the tenor singer in a choir and has all these quirky music posters and each room is named after a classical musician – my room is called Mozart 🙂

Allora, Turin (Italians call it Torino) is a major city as well as a business and cultural centre in northern Italy, capital of the Piedmont region, located mainly on the left bank of the Po River surrounded by the Alpine arch. Turin is a flourishing, industrious and cosmopolitan European city, which enjoys state-of-the-art technology and architectural developments. It boasts a rich culture and history, and is known for its numerous art galleries, restaurants, churches, palaces, operahouses, piazzas, parks, gardens, theatres, libraries, museums and other venues. It’s several monuments and sights make it one of the world’s top 250 tourist destinations, and in 2008 the tenth most visited city in Italy.

It used to be a major European political centre, being Italy’s first capital city in 1861 and being home to the House of Savoy, Italy’s royal family. Even though much of its political significance and importance had been lost by World War II, it became a major European crossroad for industry, commerce and trade, and currently is one of Italy’s main industrial centres, being part of the famous “industrial triangle”, along with Milan and Genoa

So, late on Wednesday morning (We had a late night in the restaurant below us joined by another traveller staying at our B&B, he was Italian born, living in french and is a Professor. So naturally i spent HOURS quizzing him on everything – from the Euro to education, immigration, EVERYTHING … IN ITALIAN! Well, the conversation was all in Italian and i was able to follow it all 🙂 but when it came to speaking i spluttered a bit and didn’t know how to string my sentences together but got the point across. We were talking until 1 am!) So yes, later Wednesday morning we walked along the tree lined streets,

most of which have amazing, towering colonnade walkways.

Passing fashionable people, in fashionable cars (whether expensive or not they ALL look good) and peering down fashionable streets to the mountains (which in their own majestic way you could easily describe them – as fashionable)

We passed monuments

Peeked into Churches

And eventually arrived at Piazza Castello, the heart of Torino! We picked up a salad and some drinks at a healthy takeaway (who knew those two words – Healthy and takeaway could go together?) and ate in the beauitful, warm sunlight ( a pleasant change from chilly Pescara!) on the chairs pictured behind me

Fueled up we ventured into the Grandiose, Palazzo Madama. On the ground floor we found the archeological remains beneath the Medieval Courtyard. Covered in glass, we walked above the original internal courtyard of the small medieval fort, which Marie Christine of France, the wife of Victor Amadeus I and the first royal dowager, or “Madama Reale”, had covered over in 1637.

We wandered through some extravagant rooms but made a beeline for the elevator to take us directly up through one of the old Towers. Thanks to all the gelati and biscotti i’ve found myself enjoying, i took the stairs

and came out to find an incredible panoramic view of Torino.

I had the best time peering down at the people below, enjoying the sun,

or walking in big groups to see various exhibitions. Most of the tourists we saw were pilgrims coming to see the Shroud of Turin. A centuries old linen cloth that bears the image of a crucified man, who millions believe to be Jesus of Nazareth. It is, in fact, the single most studied artifact in human history and is kept in the royal chapel of the Cathedral of Saint John the Baptist in Turin. Pope Benedict XVI has not publicly commented on the Shroud’s authenticity, but in June 2008 he approved the public display of the Shroud in the spring of 2010 from April 10-May 23 hence – which suits me just fine as i love seeing all the nuns and monks in their outfits 🙂

Once i’d exhausted almost all possible photo angles and people spotting opportunities were continued through the Museums incredible rooms.

and made our way to Cafe Madama for a perfectly executed Cafe Macchiato (i always get funny looks when i order my coffee – a foreigner who doesn’t just want a cappuccino – Mama Mia!

We walked down the incredible double winged staircases in the footsteps of countless nobility

and took pleasure in both the enormous grandeur of the building as well as the ornate details.

Afterwards we continued our Passegiata and finally arrived at the Po, Turin’s fast flowing and relatively clear river of water coming down from the Alps

We didn’t get home until 7pm but it was light until about 8:30pm! Which puts my mind in a bit of a whirl but seems to extend the day which it fantastic!



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2 responses to “La Bella Figura in Torino

  1. sally

    What an amazing day of art and culture and warm weather to boot.

    Sent your package today shoud take 2 to 4 days to arrive.

  2. margaretbiggs

    dearest hollie, i think you are la belle figura .a doting grandma ! torino looks very beautiful.the shroud has always interested me. jack approves of you staying in the mozart room . thankyou for the belle calendar. so thoughtful of you. turandot on the front.dying to take you to aida. lots of love margoo xxxooo

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