17th October 2018

The City of Turin is a place Stephen has wanted to visit on his previous visits to Italy, but it kept getting pushed into the "next time" basket through lack of time. As Italy's national car museum is in Turin, and Steve wanted to see as many things automotive as possible on his first trip to Europe, Turin ended up on our list of 'must-see' places to visit, and so became today's destination.

Our Eurail pass comes with First Class travel on Europe's trains, and here in Italy, that not only means comfy seats and more leg room; you also get complementary coffee/tea/fruit juice, a sweet/savoury snack and a tiny bottle of water - very civilised and very comfortable (you still have to make advance reservations on inter-city trains).

The train journey took just over an hour; we arrived at 9.55am, long before most of the city had woken. Most places in Italy are like ghost towns until around midday, when people start appearing on the streets and the place comes alive, (just in time for afternoon siesta!).

Turin. The ornate building left of centre is where the famous 'Turin Shroud' is kept. Nowadays it is not open for public viewing.

As is customary for us, we headed for the old part of town first, as this is where the buildings and places that would most interest us are generally found. As it is a highly industrialised city, we were surprised to find the city centre imposing and noble, with many massive public squares (piazzas), a castle, gardens and elegant palazzi. The Palazzo Madama was built between the 16th and 18th centuries. Turin is well known for its Renaissance, Baroque, Rococo, Neo-classical, and Art Nouveau architecture, and we did not let the opportunity to photograph its many examples of them pass us by. There were many churches, with the obligatory bells, both deeply resonating and tinkly, that chimed their way through the morning.

Museo Nationale Dell Automobile

There were far too many attractions - mainly museums - to fit into the short period of time we were able to give the city, so we made sure we had plenty of time to see the one thing that had drawn us there - the Museo Nationale Dell Automobile. Getting there initially proved somewhat of a challenge. As it is 3 km from the city centre, we decided not to walk, but rather to try out Turin's Metro underground railway system, as we discovered the car museum is a short walk from the suburban station of Lingotto.

Rona and Debbie recall driving 1920s-style

As Italy is the home of Fiat and Alfa Romeo, we expected both marques to feature prominently, as they did, but the museum is not just about them, but cars in general. Its comprehensive displays are laid out over three levels, the top level - which visitors are advised to see first - tells the story of the automobile's evolution from a 'motorised' horse-drawn vehicle, to the comfortable, reliable and technologically sophisticated vehicles we drive today.

The theme of level one was "Cars and People", documenting our relationship with motor vehicles, and the ground floor dealt with design and development. It was all brilliantly presented and Steve and Stephen were in their element. We thought it wise to not attempt to take it all in on empty stomachs, so we had a pleasant lunch at the museum's cafe before venturing into the display galleries.


Time did not permit us to see any more of the city's attractions. Stephen has a propensity to try and fit as much as he can into each day's schedule, and as we left the museum, though our minds were quite willing, our bodies (particularly legs) were starting to tell us they had had enough for one day. We therefore thought it wise to catch the train back to Milan, allowing us to have an early night after planning our next couple of days and updating our travelogue.

18th October 2018

Another early start .. this time on the high speed train, but not before Stephen waxed poetic as we boarded the train...

Roses are red, violets are blue, and strangely...
... today's train smelt like poo.
It must be because it was next to the loo!
So we changed carriages, from 1 to 2.
Is this enough rhyming for you?

With the problem of odours wafting through the train addressed, we sat back and watched the scenery flash by for an hour. Europe's high speed trains don't hang about; this one almost reached 300 km/hr, and we have a photo to prove it! Note, the information sign in the carriage also indicates the weather was going to be a very warm 23 degrees C.

For those reading the blog who are not familiar with Bologna, the city is famous for its food and fast cars, which goes a long way to explain why it made it onto our itinerary. It lacks the gondolas of Venice, the ruins of Rome and the acres of galleries of Florence, but somehow has managed to stay off Italy's tourist radar, which is puzzling, since it does have it own Leaning Tower - though the hordes tend to head to Pisa to see theirs. But in spite of what it hasn't got, it can lay claim to the title of Italy's gastronomic capital. It is the original home of balsamic vinegar, Parmesan cheese, Parma ham and Bolognese sauce. The latter and Pizza are the most famous Italian dishes in the world.

Bologna is also known for its porticos, with about 40 km of arcaded streets, so it doesn't even matter if it rains, though the sun shone brightly as we left the station and headed for the city centre. We found it easy to explore on foot - the beautifully-preserved, medieval centre is compact. We started in Piazza Maggiore and marvelled at the Basilica di San Petronio, dedicated to the fifth-century bishop and patron saint of the city, St Petronius.

The creation of Piazza Maggiore was one of the most important urban projects in Medieval Bologna, built to give prominence to the seat of city government and create a place for the market. The piazza continues to serve this function. It is still the preferred meeting place of the Bolognese who gather in the shadow of the statue of Neptune, a Bologna symbol built in 1566. An entire city block was razed to create the fountain, with both houses and shops paying the price. The statue of the god Neptune was placed at the exact point where the cardo and the decumanus - the proto-typical main streets of a Roman city - intersected. Neptune's trident has become one of the world's most well known symbols: that of Maserati, the Bologna-based automobile manufacturer. Piazza Maggiore is surrounded by the most important buildings of the medieval city, the oldest is Palazzo del Podesta, dating back to 1200.

In Piazza Maggiore and the surrounding streets were buskers, something we have seen in plenty of piazzas throughout Italy. Debbie was charmed by a saxophone/tuba duo - she found their sound so rich and controlled. Another, a female accoustic guitarist, was also a brilliant musician.

Leading off Piazza Maggiore is Bologna's old medieval market and food shopping area, the Quadrilatero, with its tiny cobblestone streets, and the best place to experience one of the richest culinary traditions in Italy. The market has occupied the same area in the city centre since Roman times.

There are many excellent products making up Bologna's rich food tradition, all to be found, tasted and admired by walking around the market area. We saw giant wheels of Parmesan cheese, other cheeses of all shapes and sizes, and legs of dry-cured ham (Prosciutto) and Parma ham lined up and hanging in the windows.

The skyline of medieval Bologna with its hundred or more distinctive towers must have been the Manhattan of its day! It had (and still has) twin towers here too, only these have held up to centuries of war and become the symbol of the city. They used to be interconnected, with a walkway and suspended passageways running everywhere. Torre degli Asinelli and the Torre Garisenda still stand at the intersection of the roads connecting the five gates of the ancient city wall. The most curious feature is they are both leaning, but in opposite directions (though not to the same degree as Pisa's Leaning Tower.

Bologna old city

The Madonna di Galliera, a church with a Renaissance facade and Baroque interiors, located on Via Manzoni, in central Bologna. The interiors were all refurbished to their present condition in 1684.

After lunch it was time to move on, so we caught a regional train to Modena, a town some 25 minutes down the line from Bologna. The factories of the famous Italian sports car makers Ferrari, De Tomaso, Lamborghini, Pagani and Maserati are, or were, located here and all, except Lamborghini, have headquarters in the city or nearby.

Museo Enzo Ferrari

Our destination in Modena, near the centre of town, was Museo Enzo Ferrari, a museum complex which includes the house were Enzo Ferrari, the company's founder, grew up and learnt his trade, as well as a futuristic automotive exhibition gallery next door, painted in the yellow that Enzo chose as the background for his Prancing Horse logo.

Debbie eyes a Ferrari 348 Targa TS. It was the final V8 mid-engine model developed under the direction of Enzo Ferrari before his death, commissioned to production posthumously.

The old Ferrari family home used to house displays relating to Enzo Ferrari, but today we only saw examples of Ferrari motor car engines down through the years. Steve found it very interesting, but the rest of us were in and out in a few minutes, disappointed that the original exhibits which we had come specifically to see, were no longer there.

Stephen's favourite Ferrari, a 1962 Ferrari 250 GT Berlinetta 2+2 Lusso, with Stephen's favourite lady

The theme in the exhibition gallery is changed every year - on Stephen's and Rona's last visit, the theme was "Ferraris in the Movies"; this visit it was "Rosso & Rosa - Ferrari & Women", not about the women in Ferrari's life as the title suggests, but the Ferraris of famous women who own or have owned or driven. Naturally, examples of their cars are on display. Every 30 minutes or so the hall turns into an all-round screening room where images of the history and the men and women who made the marque so iconic are projected from wall to ceiling.

A few blocks from the Ferrari Museum is the Maserati Headquarters - home of Maserati since 1940 - in Viale Ciro Menotti. The original redbrick factory buildings still stand as a reminder of the marque's heritage. It was here in Modena that most of the iconic Maserati cars were born and indelibly stamped the mark of the Trident - replicated from the statue of Neptune in Bologna - on the automotive world. There is no museum here, nor is a factory tour offered, but visitors are welcome to visit the showroom in the entrance hall to Maserati Headquarters. It is a grand affair with a stylized representation of a racetrack dominating the substantial floor space.

Stephen Yarrow and Debbie Hall

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