Winter olympics 2006: A personal itinerary

Danielle Capponi
January 12, 2006

With just weeks to go until the start of the 2006 Winter Olympic Games, the beautiful baroque city of Turin is bustling with excitement. Flags and banners wave from bridges that cross the lovely Po River. Road and building work have switched into high gear, and as the date of the opening ceremonies inches closer, a general buzz permeates around Turin and the gentle hillside towns that overlook it. An oversized clock in majestic Piazza Castello has been counting down the days, minutes and seconds for several years now and the numbers are finally getting smaller. The official Olympic superstore has popped up in the center of beautiful Piazza Vittorio Veneto causing some Torinesi to complain about how the games are ruining the city. For the most part however, the people of this once overlooked former capital of Italy, are thrilled with the fame that the upcoming games will unleash. Without a doubt Turin is the city in Italy to visit both pre and post Olympic games. Not only to experience the excitement of the Olympics, but to discover the hidden secrets of this amazing area.

 

Just 30 kilometers away from Turin are the glittering snow-capped Alps, which encircle the city and offer breathtaking views. Guided tours will bring you to visit the charming mountain towns (Bardonecchia, Cesana, and Pragelato, the elegant Sestriere, and the young and fun Sauze d’Oulx) that were chosen as the Olympic villages. Once the site of the original FIAT factory, Lingotto, in the Mirafiori district of Turin, was turned into an upscale shopping center, museum, and movie theater and it will also be the base for the International Press Office. Throughout the city there are also the sites for speed skating, figure skating, short track speed skating, ice hockey and the opening ceremonies. The buildings were all created or revamped by well-known architects, and are impressive. Tickets are still available for the events on the official website for the games http://www.torino2006.org.

 

While sports lovers will consider Turin famous for the winter games of 2006, food and wine connoisseurs will delight in this region where the art of eating and drinking is taken very seriously. Home to the “slow-food movement” and to some of the strictest guidelines in agriculture, Turin offers a wealth of different regional Italian cuisines. However to fully appreciate the area one must eat Piemontese. Look for agnolotti del plin (small stuffed pasta), bagna cauda (a garlic anchovy dip that amazes the palatte) polenta, and some of the best wines internationally. The regions famed reds Barolo and Barbaresco are named after nearby wine villages that are a true delight to visit. To go on a wine tasting tour by car, bicycle or on horseback contact www.langheroero.it.

 

The apertivo started in Turin with the creation of vermouth in 1786. Since that time the ritual of a light cocktail in an elegant bar in the early evening has become a second religion here. Several magnificent cafés create the perfect atmosphere taking you back to the origins of the event. Café Torino and Café San Carlo, both in Piazza San Carlo, are two of the most impressive. However just walking down the ritzy shopping promenade of Via Roma will introduce you to others. These cafés also offer the perfect backdrop to sip Bicerin, a velvety chocolate liqueur, or San Simone, a strong digestivo. Both were created in Turin, and both are highly prized by the Torinesi. Since all the cafés are a must, consider a light lunch in one (maybe Baratti & Milano), a gelato in the next (try Café Pepino), and so on. Be sure also to stop by Gelateria Grom, a new gelato shop that is getting a lot of attention for its all-natural and very special gelato. For guided tours that highlight the historical and political past of the most beautiful cafés in Turin and include an apertivo at the end of the tour, or for a evening city tour on an antique tram with live music and apertivo or dinner included, contact www.somewhere.it.

 

Architect buffs will relish in simply walking around this noble city. Capital of Italy from 1861 to 1865, the 17th century was Turin’s most prolific cultural, architectural and artistic period. During this period it became the creative center of Baroque architecture in Europe. Two of the most eminent baroque architects, Guarino Guarini and Filippo Juvarra, built magnificent churches, palaces and royal residences, such as the Savoy Royal Palace of Turin, surely one of the most beautiful in Europe.

A meandering walk through the oldest part of the city, the Roman Quarter, offers visitors an exciting contrast between ancient and modern. Inviting pubs and restaurants, some elegant and some hip, dot the narrow winding streets and offer a glimpse into the nightlife of the Torinesi. Candle-lit cafés in small piazzas, such as Baccaro in quaint Piazza della Consolata are a great place to stop and sip wine. Should one ever tire of Italian food, this ethnically diverse area is also the place to sample authentic Moroccan fare. In the summertime an area along the Po River known as the Murazzi, is swamped with young people enjoying the discos and bars. Known as one of the greenest cities in Italy, Turin’s Parco Valentino comes complete with winding paths, a pond, small bridges, a medieval castle and an imposing Baroque palace.

 

Turin’s geographical location at the gateway to the rest of Western Europe and proximity to the Alps and to the sea (less than 2 hours by car) help in making it one of the most exciting cities to visit in Italy.

 

For more information on tickets and all game-related events visit: www.torino2006.com

 

For information on staying in the Turin area visit:  www.turismotorino.org

 

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