02 October 2015

2015 ITALY Torino 4 - First Look

We connected onto KLM from Amsterdam to Turin (or Torino), Italy. It was a long trek between gates and a long 3.5-hour layover. There were lots of shops to browse, but we were just too tired for that. So just hung out at the gate reading and people watching.

Our short flight was on a Fokker 7, a small aircraft with only 5 across seating. We left on time (thankfully) at 09:15. We weren't really hungry but had an egg salad sandwich for "breakfast" on board. The view of the snow covered Alps through the clouds was spectacular. We happily landed at Torino-Caselle airport on time at 11:00.

All our bags made it along with us, always a great start to a vacation. Outside immigrations, our driver Stefano was waiting with digital sign in hand stating "Deb." Our vehicle was a shiny black Mercedes mini-van. Stefano was a safe driver, manipulating his way through the crazy Italian maze of traffic and streets. He spoke little English but we figured out he originally came from somewhere in "Arabia."

First impressions of Torino were that of a sooty, working class, manufacturing city. Neighborhoods looked poor and ordinary. Monotone in color. The sky was over cast, so that did not help. Not the romantic Italian vision in our imagination. Population is around 900,000 (about the size of Austin, TX).

As we got deeper into the city center and nearer the hotel, however, things became more interesting. Not that we are big shoppers, but familiar brand name stores (Benetton, Apple, Ralph Lauren, Armani, etc.) appeared. And more impressive were the castles, government buildings, and resident apartments with balcony greenery and flowers overflowing. Little bars and cafes, many with street-side seating, were abundant. 

At the Grand Hotel Sitea (click here to read more), we bid Stefano good-bye (he did not accept a tip!!) and were met by a friendly, uniformed bellhop. And we had a most pleasant surprise waiting for us. The hotel had recently converted two rooms to suites and each couple was upgraded there at no charge. Yahoooo!!!

L&S's room was ready, but we had to wait a half hour for ours. The lobby was large and inviting, including a smaller sitting room with fireplace and period furniture. We opted for the hotel bar, which had just opened for the day, to hang in while we waited. We each had a glass of local red nebbiolo wine (even though this was the only place we saw our fave Myers Rum on the shelf). Along with that our bar tenderess served oiled olives and hazelnuts, cheese, salami, and bread-like crackers. We still did not feel like eating, but could not help ourselves. It simply looked too good to pass up. So we tried a little of each and then could hardly stop. It was delish!

We plunged into the comfy bed for a nap to help us acclimate to Italy time. After a couple of hours, I could not wait a moment longer for a pizza Margarita. Mike would not be rousted and L&S were doing their own thing. I decided to take a walk on my own.

By that time it was raining, but it felt refreshing. Streets and eating establishments were fairly crowded. There were many pizzerias and I did not know, of course, which to chose. Finally I pick Faridina, as it looked filled with locals. I ordered two personal size, each about 6-inches in diameter. Instead of cardboard pizza boxes they wrapped the pizzas in thick paper. Very eco! 

Mike awoke with the smell of the pies when I returned. The first thing he said when I opened the paper wrapping was "where is the basil?" In the U.S., traditional pizza Margarita is green (basil), white (mozzarella cheese), and red (tomato sauce). This had no basil and the crust was thick like Pizza Hut back home. Mike had a couple of bites and went back to bed. I ate mine and the rest of his. Although our expectations were disappointed, I can eat just about any pizza put in front of me. Nuff said. I really don't want to complain about my first  meal in Italy.

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