After our Paris trip, we headed for Turin, Italy for the next six days. We took the train and the neat thing about about the ride over was how comfortable and quiet it was. Even though the ride itself was about six hours, it certainly didn’t feel like it. Napping was easy and it was pretty spacious.
Just like the last post focused on Paris, this one will focus on Italy. Same as the last post, the pictures below are a compilation of pictures that everyone took during our awesome trip.
This post will be a bit lengthier than the previous one since we spent more days in Turin than Paris, so feel free to skip around. We visited The Palace of Venaria Reale, Langhe (Wine Country), Gran Paradiso National Park, the Italian Riviera, and Sacra di San Michele. We even celebrated 4th July, Italian-Style. 🙂
29 June – 6 July 2017
Here we are at one of our favorite Italian restaurants, La Capannina!
For me (and others agreed), here is one of the yummiest gnocchi I’ve had. I mean, look at this:
Perfect amount of softness to firmness ratio, and perfect cheese sauce to complement the gnocchi. Okay, I need to stop, my mouth is watering 😛
The Palace of Venaria (Venaria Reale)
Our first stop was a palace in Venaria Reale that was home to the House of Savoy, who were an ancient royal family. We basically had the entire place to ourselves, with the exception of a few other people. It was very peaceful.
Along with the beautiful inside, there is more beauty in the gardens of this palace. There were even swans in the Grand Canal!
As some of you may know, I really love seeing architecture that has been around for centuries. It just gives me a sense of appreciation of how much work was put into specific structures with much less technology than we have today. The following picture features what is called Fontana d’Ercole (Fountain of Hercules). Isn’t it cool to have a grand palace and right below it this structure that has been around for centuries?
The Fontana d’Ercole was built between 1669 and 1672 and was meant to connect the Upper Garden with the lower level. The fountain focuses on Hercules, his work, and other mythical figures. However, by the mid-1700s, the fountain was demolished. It was excavated by archaeologists and is now on display as ruins.
And here we are enjoying ourselves, that is before the rain started to trickle down, lol. Don’t worry, it wasn’t much. Just sprinkles.
Afterward, we walked around Turin a bit, and aside from seeing the usual sights, we walked by this ancient ruin that I love to see. It’s called The Palatine Gate, built in the first century BC. Look at the amazing shape this structure still has after thousands of years!
Do you notice the three different sized doorways?
- Smallest ones (one on each side): Meant for commoners to walk through
- Medium-sized one: Meant for those riding on horses
- Largest one: Meant for those riding in horse-drawn carriages (typically those of higher status)
Marchesi di Barolo
Our first stop in Lange (wine country) was the beautiful vineyard of Marchesi di Barolo. Here visitors are given tours, offered tastings, and/or meals. For us, we chose a tour and lunch with wine pairings for each course. The tour was a bit short here, but it was kind of cool to see the giant barrels where wine is aged.
Take a peek at the picture below…see that tiny door? (You can actually see it in the picture above, as well) This tiny door is the entrance to the barrels. People go inside the tiny doors to clean the barrels! Geez, can we say claustrophobia?
After the short tour, we were taken to this beautiful and lovely room (kind of unexpected, lol) for lunch. This room really felt like we were at an elegant wedding reception. It was very spacious and peaceful.
This will be the only meal that I take the time to describe the food here. For one, it’s Italy – food’s yummy here. For two, it was probably one of the most well-presented (and delicious!) meals we had on our trip.
The meal here was served in four courses, and with each course the server would pour some wine that paired well with each meal. The meal consisted of typical Piemontese courses.
- First course (left): Tartare di bistecca – raw beef. Presented very delicately.
- Second course (top-right): Agnolotti del plin – this type of small pasta, almost ravioli-like, is a typical one for this area. It can either be filled with meat or spinach and cheese.
- Third course (bottom-right): Brasato al barolo – veal cooked in Barolo wine.
Aside from everyone raving how delicious everything was, this restaurant accommodated me very well with non-red-meat options. My agnolotti del plin was filled with spinach and cheese, while my meat was seabass. Both were super delicious!
Then there was…dessert. Wow! As you can see there are different parts to this dessert. Chocolate cake with a raspberry sauce, fruit jello, and panna cotta with a grape sauce. Panna cotta is a typical Italian dessert made with sweetened and thickened cream, sometimes accompanied with other flavors.
Many of you may know that I have a loving relationship with chocolate. For me, dessert is not dessert if chocolate is not involved. But…what came as a shock here was that I fell in love with the panna cotta, even more so than the chocolate cake. 😮 The cake was good, but the way the panna cotta was prepared here was something special, and I definitely could’ve eaten more!
After filling our happy and satisfied tummies, we took a drive through these windy country roads.
Aw…here are all the lovebirds! How cute! 😀
For a quick stop before our next tasting, we stopped at an overlook that really captures so much of the beautiful rolling hills of this area.
And here we are!
Costa di Bussia
The next stop we visited was Costa di Bussia, another lovely vineyard. This vineyard gave a more personalized tour, which was nice. We were taken through their small museum, where old letters and vintage bottles tell the story of how the wine process first began and when Barolo wine was first shipped to the U.S.
The Italian vineyards are split into several sections where different types of wine are made. The two vineyards we went to make wine called Barolo, which is the most famous wine from this region. This wine is made from Nebbiolo grapes. Interestingly enough, the Nebbiolo grapes are grown in eleven different vineyards.
We also learned that the varying tastes of the wine depend on three things:
- The soil of the current season.
- The temperature each year.
- The length of storage.
Here are some pictures of the museum and where the wine in this vineyard is made. It is quite the process and seems a bit daunting to me!
In that final picture, do you see the little curvy bottle at the top of the giant wine barrels? That is for the wine makers to monitor the amount of wine in each barrel. Once it goes down a certain level, more wine then needs to be added to make the barrel full once again and prevent oxygen from entering.
Here we are!
After the inside tour, we were guided outside to learn more about the wine making process.
The picture on the left shows the bottom stem of the grape vines. Do you notice how the stem starts off thick, and then thins out? We learned that in the past, there was a disease that started attacking the vines, making them very difficult to maintain. Instead of giving up or switching the type of grape, someone came up with the idea of taking stems from the U.S. that had already developed a resistance to the same disease, bringing them over to Italy, and sort of melding the two together. With this process, the Italians were able to grow healthy grapevines for future production.
Though the grapes in those pictures may look appetizing, they definitely are not ready to be eaten. One of our friends wanted to try one, and with the permission from our tour guide, he was able to. However, from both his reaction and our tour guide’s reaction (she decided to try one too), they are not at all appetizing in the beginning of July. Usually, they are harvested in the Fall.
Coming back inside, the tasting began. It was held in a beautiful rustic room with a very pleasing setup.
The tour guide allowed everyone to try as much or as little of the wine on display, which was very nice of her and was appreciated. I’m no expert on wine, but that seems like a lot of options! Along with the tasting, everyone was given water and snacks (bread, salami, and cheese).
Parco Nazionale Gran Paradiso
The day after wine country, we visited The Alps! Going to the mountains, specifically to Gran Paradiso, is one of my favorite outdoor activities. There is just something about its seemingly unrealistic beauty that brings me peace and appreciation. It’s sort of like when the weather is too muggy and kind of weighs you down, but then it rains and the air is suddenly clear and a light breeze passes. You just want to take a deep breath and your body feels refreshed. This is what it feels like to me. 🙂
There are a few entrances and areas to this national park, but the one we usually go to, and the one we went to on this day, was the Ceresole Reale side in Valle d’Orco (Orco Valley). Ceresole Reale has a beautiful enormous lake named Lago di Ceresole (Ceresole Lake). This glacial lake is open for both kayaking and wind surfing, and in the winter time part of the lake is used for cross-country skiing and snowshoeing.
Nick and I visited this park a couple of weekends before our friends came, and it was amazing to see how much more of the lake was filled (with water) when we arrived this time!
There is a walking path around this lake. Fairly light walking, but you could easily spend a couple of hours circling this body of water.
In much of Italy, there are these continuously-running water fountains. Usually, I’m not a big fan of using these in the city, as I’m a bit skeptical on the water’s source. However, being so very high and near the mountains, I had decided to give the one near this lake a try the last time we were here. And boy, am I glad I did!
This one was presented in a really cool carved-out log, and the water was so cold and refreshing. I loved it!
Not too far ahead, there is a magnificent waterfall.
Waterfalls are just a wonderful part of nature. I love hearing the water as it rushes down and sprays mist onto those transfixed by it.
And here we are!
Such a lovely (albeit windy!) day!
If you are curious for a bit more information of this national park and more pictures, we did write another post featuring our first time in Gran Paradiso. Just click here: Parco Nazionale Gran Paradiso – Orco Valley
Italian Riviera – Varigotti
The following day was a more relaxing day at the beach! Along the Italian Riviera there are numerous beaches, but the one that has become our favorite spot is called Varigotti. It’s pretty, fairly “easy” to find parking (as long as you get there early enough), and we’ve found a very yummy gelato place nearby. In fact, each time we’ve been to the beach here, we always end up going to Varigotti. I mean why search for something else when you’re happy and at peace with your usual choice?
Most beaches along the Italian Riviera don’t actually have sand. Instead, they consist of small rocks. The reason has to do with how harsh the waves flow in this area versus somewhere like New England, where there are sandy beaches galore. With harsh winds and water flow, the rocks erode causing them to become more like sand. For sure, the rocks are harder/more painful to walk on, but they make for an easier cleanup!
We’ve always rented chairs and umbrellas for the day for two reasons here:
- Most beaches are private and you can’t just sit yourself somewhere (we tried that once and failed, lol).
- The rocks are not the most comfortable things to lie down on and they are scalding hot.
The other unique thing about these beaches are all the palm trees! Italy does experience winter, though not as harsh as we’re used to, yet palm trees can be seen in several places thanks to the more temperate climate from different ocean currents and jet streams. The Italian Riviera is south of us, but we have seen them further north than the sea by some of the lakes we’ve visited. To put it in perspective, Varigotti is at the same latitude as the northern part of Vermont!
Aw…someone is so tired!
We did grab granita (a smooth form of Italian Ice – sooo good! And a must if you come to Italy), but there are no pictures of it unfortunately since we all pretty much devoured them. 😛
4th of July – Italian-Style
By the time 4th of July came, I think I can safely say that we were all pretty tired at this point or our trip, lol. Instead of doing anything too crazy, we stuck around Turin and celebrated our Independence Day, Italian-style. What does that mean?
Well, we went food shopping at the giant market, Porto Palazzo.
Had some American-style cold drinks, haha!
Yup, there is this place called Busters Coffee – guess what its logo is similar to? If you guessed Starbucks, then you’re right. I don’t really go to Starbucks in the U.S., but if they have this chocolate-mint frappe there, then I would find excuses to go! So yummy!
After some lunch and souvenir shopping, we spent some time outside a gelato/granita shop with great friends, ate gelato/granita, and passed baby Lucas around! Look, he’s wearing blue! He must have known it was 4th of July!
Here we are playing a pre-dinner game of Farkle!! Which, by the way, Nick, does not consist of stacking the dice. 😛
Then, we made a giant home-cooked feast!
And what’s a holiday without some family weirdness? So, here it is:
Not sure what was going on here, but apparently, I was not amused, lol!
Game time after dinner!
We played Go Fish Yourself! Thanks, Erik, for bringing this awesome game!
In case you are wondering about the GIFs and what in the world Nick is doing, he is talking like a pirate! That’s right, talking like a pirate was part of this game and it was awesome! And I’m making fun of Nick in the other one, lol.
At one point, Nick was talking like a pirate and I had to talk without showing any teeth. A bit painful task, I might add. Especially, when at one point while we were sounding a bit crazy, Matt decided to point out that we were “Nick and Heidi, the later years. Nick becomes an angry pirate and Heidi loses all her teeth because of all the chocolate she eats.” Hahaha!!!! It was so hard and painful to not show any teeth while I was laughing!
Finally, the last part of our 4th of July was limoncello, an after-dinner drink.
This was honestly one of the best nights we spent on our trip. It was relaxing, fun, and it felt like we were at home again. 🙂
Sacra di San Michele
On our friends’ last day here, we visited an old and historic abbey, Sacra di San Michele (Saint Michael’s Abbey). This abbey is a symbol of the Piedmont region and was built between 983 and 987. It sits on the top of a big hill overlooking the Susa Valley.
Even though you can park your car fairly close to the abbey, be prepared to walk up some!
This monument is dedicated to the Archangel Michael, defender of the Christian people.
I was excited to see that Matt took this picture!
It is used as a route for pilgrimage, as well as for hiking or mountain-biking. There are outdoor parts to this abbey and a church. Here are some pictures inside the abbey:
Within the outer parts of Sacra di San Michele is the Torre della Bell’Alda. This tower was built in the 12th century. But, after some earthquakes during the 16th century, some of it broke and this is what we have today:
There is a legend of this particular tower, and here it is (if you’re curious):
According to legend, there was once a young and beautiful woman named Alda. She, along with others, desired to escape the rage of some soldiers in the 17th century. They sought shelter here in the monastery. However, once the soldiers were done looting the houses in the town below, they found evidence of the fugitives and their climb up to this abbey.
Believing in her faith dearly, Alda prayed and prayed to be saved from the soldiers. So strong in her faith, Alda heard Mary tell her to jump from this tower. When she did just that, two angels caught her up and brought her back to safety.
As time passed, she told his story, but no one believed her ridiculous account. Because of this, the angry Alda decided to jump once again to prove her point. However, this time, because of too being proud, when Alda jumped no one was there to save her.
Oh boy, that’s quite the story!
Anyway, here is a view from above:
And some outside views:
If you’re curious, Nick and I also visited Sacra di San Michele before, and you can look at our previous blog post here: Avigliana, Lakes, & Sacra di San Michele
After the day’s activities, it was time to pick up our pups! We wanted her to have the chance to see her our friends before everyone headed back home the next day. Plus, I think we were all kind of curious of what the baby/dog interaction would be like. After picking her, we all met in Parco del Valentino.
Oddly enough (but not really), they didn’t really care about each very much, lol. This GIF sums up their reaction perfectly:
As Zoey pulls away, LJ is entertained by Nick’s goofiness, haha! I guess at least we know Zoey is fine with babies – she just would rather smell everything else around her than see an adorable baby. 😛
Yup, not interested, lol.
Our last night together in Italy consisted of dinner, Amsterdam Chips (lol), and gelato. This was before I was practically eaten alive by mosquitos…17 bug bites! Geez, good thing the itchiness goes away in a couple of days!
And then…the last day came 😦
It was a sad day…
Here we are for one last selfie at the airport:
We love you all and can’t wait to see you again!! Thank you for making Eurotrip 2017 awesome!!!!
Here are a couple of maps showing where we visited:
Thank you all for reading!