Light snow showers were forecast in Monforte today and the thought of amusing ourselves inside for another day was a little daunting.
As the Italians are proving to be super efficient at clearing the roads, we thought that we would journey up to Turin (Torino) in search of “i dinosauri”, and “la Mole“.
Jo and I were happy for the chance to see Turin in the snow. In our previous travels we have passed over Turin in favour of other Italian cities, on account of its reputation as an industrial powerhouse.
After a couple of visits this time around, we are coming to realise the error of our ways and have been charmed by the City.
As Counting to Dieci always seeks to provide the answer to those random quiz questions, stay with us as we take you through a potted history of Turin (with the usual disclaimers as to the quality of our facts!).
Turin’s elegant layout is largely due to a quirk of history that saw the House of Savoy relocate to Piemonte.
Unlike most other major Italian cities, Turin doesn’t seem to have had much of a Roman presence, appears to have been largely forgotten during the Middle Ages and then completely bypassed during the Renaissance period.
Consequently, in 1574 when the Counts of Savoy decided to move their capital from Chambéry (bringing the Holy Shroud with them), Turin was a small provincial town of less than ten thousand people.
In the early 17th Century the Savoys, wanting a showcase city to rival that of the French Court, commissioned a significant program of building, development and renovation.
As a result, most of Turin’s major buildings date from this period and the city centre is laid out in an ordered grid fashion with wide major thoroughfares and an abundance of parks.
The streets are lined by elegant, highly decorative and grand old Baroque buildings fronted by magnificent porticoes (the Savoys, having an aversion to getting snowed upon, commissioned 18 kilometres of porticoes to ensure that they were unconstrained by such things as the weather!).
All this combines to give Turin a distinctly Parisian feel. However, with a population of less than a million people, it is more comfortable and relaxed – a sort of charming, country cousin to the French capital.
Enough history! We do highly recommend adding Turin to any Italian trip, but today was all about dinosaurs and the Mole!
Our first stop was Turin’s Natural History Museum. No dinosaurs there, but the collection of bears in the Zoological display were definitely the standout for us….rating somewhat higher than the rather unusual looking, stuffed kangaroo!
The next item on our agenda was to search out Turin’s ‘Mole’.
The Mole Antonelliana is one of the most enchantingly eccentric buildings we have come across. It was originally built as a synagogue for Turin’s Jewish community and planned to be 159ft tall.
When the money ran out, the building was completed by the City Council (who also added 400ft to the original plans, just for good measure).
Today, the Mole houses the National Museum of Cinema and has a viewing platform at the top that provides a magnificent view of Turin.
Interesting? We thought so but it seems not nearly as interesting as the prospect of “real life dinosaurs”…
Fortunately for us, Turin is currently hosting a dinosaur exhibition that managed to outweigh the expectations of our four year old.
It was an interactive exhibit with fossilised skeletons of the Velociraptor, Europasaurus and Giganotosaurus – the highlight of the day and christened the “Gigantosaurus”.
In addition, the exhibit had us ‘walking through the tunnel of time’, which detailed the dinosaurs’ place in history; stomping through the woods with the thundering footsteps of the Apatosaurus following close behind; life sized mock ups of the Eoraptor, Allosaurus, Protoceratops and T-Rex (a close second on our highlights list!), and an excavation area where the boys could dig for fossils.
We went through the exhibition loop three times and even Master S was caught up in the excitement, clambering to see more “animoos”!
In all, a fun day in wintery Piemonte.