3 days in Piedmont/Lombardia – the things we did

We went on Saturday. We were late in the end, of course. We arrived at the Viavai Bed and Breakfast. We were shown to our rooms. The lady, Francesca was so sweet and the place was an absolute delight. I would definitely go there again. It’s about half an hour from Turin in the old part (read hill-top town) of Casalborgone.

For the afternoon, we went for a drive around the area, finishing at the Abbazia di Santa Maria di Vezzolano, which was rather a pleasant surprise.

I particularly like the frescoes and the frieze at the entrance (which, I hope, is pictured below – but not my picture). It’s worth a visit and will probably take you about an hour to walk round, at the most. But it is lovely.

We had a coffee at the coffee shop in the car park. It was just like one of those places in the UK at a castle or something – run by volunteers with home-made cakes and things. Except, here, was local wine. The guy serving looked like he was two steps away from his grave but he was very nice. One of the things I like about F is that he drinks cappuccino at any time of the day.

We sat outside on the wooden terrace. We had jackets but it was quite warm in the sun. We went back to the B&B and got ready to go out. Before we went, we had a little walk around lower CasalBorgone and upper Casalborgone. The upper part being the original medieval town and the lower part a later addition, as is normal here. But what a nice place. The lower part had the shops and the restaurants. Quite pretty. Not somewhere I’d stop if passing through but worth a look if you’re staying there. The upper town was medieval and, apart from houses, had nothing in the way of shops or restaurants – but pretty nonetheless. Then we got in the car to drive to the restaurant. The food part comes in another post.

The next day, F had thought it would be nice to go to the Chocolate Festival at a place called None, pronounced nonay and not nun.

F had looked at the site and said it had stalls along the streets.

We arrived and found it was true – there were stalls along the streets – selling all manner of items, as any normal market! The chocolate event was in one (not so big) marquee. And mostly it was full of shops from Turin and nearby towns selling, unsurprisingly, chocolate! We got to taste some and bought some things including, in my case, a couple of bottles of chocolate liqueur.

But we were a bit disappointed. I expected some exhibitions and some history of chocolate or something, rather than just stalls selling the stuff – however nice to eat they were.

Ah well, onwards and upwards. I had already said that I really wanted to go to Turin as I had only been there once (when I went to look at a flat for V when he went there for the Olympics) and, although it filled me with bitter-sweet memories (for his stay in Turin is what really started the end of V and I), I wanted to erase those and also see something of the city which, apart from a big square in the middle, I couldn’t really remember.

Driving in along the wide boulevards, it seemed more like Paris than northern Italy. It really looked quite an elegant place – and I wasn’t to be disappointed.

F had been there before (as part of work) so we parked right in the centre. We went, first, to a shop that he knows because the guys that run it are customers of his company. In fact, he was, until this year, responsible for the sales to them (they used to ask for him). We had a bit of a chat. They were very nice.

Then F wanted to go to the Museum of Cinema which is in the Mole Antonelliana – some tall tower thing that, apparently, is one of the main symbols of Turin. Sometimes I feel that I have learnt nothing whilst here, in Italy.

The queue for the trip to the tower and the museum was over 1-hour-wait long. But I noticed that there was another entrance which said Museum and there was nobody. I suggested that we ask the guy controlling how many people went through at a time. F didn’t seem to want to do it but I knew how much he wanted to go into the museum and so I went and asked.

Yes, we could go to the museum only and yes, we could use the other entrance and yes, there was no queue. Result!

I cannot adequately describe how wonderful this museum is. I would, in fact, recommend it to anyone coming to the northern part of Italy as a really good place to go – particularly if it is raining (which it wasn’t). Stunning, magical, interesting, exciting, informative and very, very interactive are some of the words that might help to describe the experience.

It lacks only one thing – a clear way of going round it so as not to miss anything. Lots of buttons to press to see how things work, lots of film clips (mostly dubbed into Italian) but truly wonderful. We spent a few hours there but I could go back and spend all day there. For an Italian Museum, it was truly the best I’ve seen.

I could spend longer in Turin and, I’ve no doubt, we shall go again. Quite a beautiful city. The feel is different from Milan. Surprisingly (well, surprisingly for me as I always think of it as the Detroit of Italy) it was elegant, chic and beautiful. More so than Milan although another city that does not fit your stereotypical thought of an Italy city. Florence this ain’t. But, in it’s own terms, possibly more interesting. Maybe even more than Milan (and that’s saying something as I love Milan).

We went back to Vaivia and went for our meal (see, probably, next post).

Sunday dawned bright and clear (as Saturday had been). We left the B&B and decided to drive back slowly, avoiding the motorway. Our first destination was Casale Monferrato. We had no idea what it would be like but it meant that the navigator would avoid the motorway.

We stopped in Casale Monferrato. It was OK but nothing much. I’m sure there were things we might have missed but the day was nice and we sat outside for a coffee.

Our next destination was Vigevano in Lombardia. A colleague at work had told me it was nice – but that’s not why we went. We only went because it was on the way home.

We parked and walked towards the main square. We saw the facade of the church at the end of the sqaure. It looked nice but when we turned the corner it was like ….WOW!

It reminded me of St Marks’s Square in Venice …….. but more beautiful. On three sides were the most beautifully painted (I suppose) buildings, with arches underneath. The roof of the buildings dotted with chimeny pots, made of brick, of all shapes and sizes that made it seem as if it had come directly from some fantasy book town. We walked around the town a bit and through the castle grounds and through the arch under the tower, down the steps and back to the square. Stunning. Designed by Da Vinci, it is amazing. We went for lunch in the square – eating outside as it was still warm enough. It was all lovely. Considering this is only half an hour or so from Milan, it was as if we were in a different world.

And then home.

It was, all in all, a truly lovely weekend and lovely anniversary day yesterday.

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