Tuesday early evening, we used our little Torino guidebook to make a walking tour of the Quadrilatero Romano nearby. It's an area of tiny streets, old churches, buildings newly restored or in the process, lots of little cafes, restaurants, and interesting galleries and shops. The people-watching is a wonderful facet of the scenery. We didn't want a large meal, so ended up in a friendly little place called L'Acino on via San Domenico, where we could watch the parade outside. We had a bottle of Barbera and a mixed antipasti for two. An array of little plates with vitello tonnato, a warm puffy cheese torta, some cheeses, a salad of farro and arugula, some mystery meat (thinly sliced tongue?) with a zippy green sauce, and a zucchini flan. Everything was great, and I loved all the little tastes.
Wednesday morning, we headed out into the centro, again using the walks in "A Civilized Traveler's Guide to Turin" by Eugenia Bell. Torino's blocks and blocks of arcades reminded us of Bologna, another city we like. Torino feels full of contrasts in scale--you walk down small dark streets, and then turn into long straight ones where sunlight shines, then into a shaded portico, or into large open piazzas, or tiny ones. We ended up spending two hours in the Egyptian Museum, which luckily has English on the display cases help you make sense of the 300 sculptures of a goddess with cat's face. Actually, I wound up finding it quite interesting.
We had lunch at an outdoor table in Piazza San Carlo, and then continued our walk through the city. When our (OK, my) feet gave out, we went back to the hotel to rest. And wonder of wonders, our bags are here! I take back some of what I've said about Alitalia.
Our usual selection of hotels while traveling are driven by price first, then location, and finally by reviews or my own sense of what the reality may be. Given that we'd rather spend our money on a pleasant rental for the longer stay, our hotel choices are generally some mixture of Motel 6 (a super-cheapo US ) and Fawlty Towers (some element of charm, but nutso to stay at). When it became apparant that the loft I thought we'd be in wouldn't be a great choice because of the location, I starting looking at hotels again. I didn't want to spend over 100 euro, which seemed to be on the low side for Torino. After poking at the web, I ran into the Hotel Santo Stefano, a very new place on the edge of the Quadrilano Romano, near Piazza Costello. The photos looked nice, the few reviews good, and so I booked. It turned out to be a great find. The hotel looks odd from the exterior--the designer had some concept to make the thing look like a Roman insula (ancient Roman apartment building) to echo the Porta Palatina and the surrounding archaelogical park (which seems to be the unofficial city dog run). It's lovely inside, the room is done up in simple decor, white walls and wooden floors, comfortable bed, and a very fancy bathroom larger than some hotel rooms.
In the afternoon, we decided to take the funicular up to Superga, the basilica way up on the hill that was built to celebrate the Savoy voctory over the French in 1706. We took the number 15 tram from Piazza Costello to the Sassi stop, which took around 25 minutes. Upon arriving, we learned that the funicular only goes once every hour, on the hour. Yes, we had missed it by 15 minutes. Whoops. We decided to wait, since we were already there. The funicular is adorable, a teeny little wooden train that climbs up the hill, passing pretty villas and wooded parkland. The views down to Torino, and the Alps behind, are extraordinary. The basilica is a lemon-yellow Baroque pile with a lot of ex-Savoys in the basement.
We walked back into the Quadrilatero for dinner, and ended up at a place L recommended, Il Bacaro, in Piazza della Consolata. We had some excellent venetian cichetti, then I had risotto and Larry pasta with lots of low-tide bits and pieces. Very fresh seafood, nicely done. It's lovely to sit outside here, with the buildings glowing and people passing by.