My time in Italia coincided with the first anniversary of my father’s death. It was probably why I was so weird and stressed out in the first week and why I felt ill, in the next. Torino had often come up as a place that I had wanted to live, ‘when’ I moved to Italy. I knew nothing of it, except that I was drawn to it. So May 14th seemed like the ideal day to go and visit there.
It started out completely normal, a beautiful two hour train journey cutting through the landscape. Burnt terracotta homes clustered in towns, with snow-capped mountains and blue skies as a complimentary backdrop; enhancing the tones and hues. Lipstick red poppies popped up in fields of green pasture and fresh spring produce nearing ready to be picked.
Torino was the final stop and I was welcomed into a clean and bustling station. It actually had shops to look in. I bypassed them and with some basic screen shots of google maps as a rough guide in mind, I basically walked out and followed my nose.
The street that I followed was picturesque and serene. It was plain, but I liked it. I found a wee spot for an espresso in the sunshine and carried on in some general direction. Out in a massive piazza, I walked towards this sound, a hullabaloo. There were a couple of guys dressed up in women’s outfits and I thought I’d struck it lucky with a carnival.
Red flags and shirts, white flags and shirts; chanting, singing, cheering, clapping, dancing. I went from walking through one street moving in a tide of rosso e bianco, to another larger piazza, with more groups; TV cameras filming, policizia patrolling… and me in a blue tank singlet and pink and blue strawberry skirt, wondering what the feck was happening. Everywhere I turned there were men in celebration, with bottles in hand. And each street that I turned, lead me through more clumps of cheery men. It was barely midday. Was this a giant stag do of epic proportions? And why was a man moonwalking alongside me, smiling?
I worked out from the memorabilia that this was for some kind of football match and that it was possibly Espana vs Italia. I later found out that it was the 2014 UEFA Europa League Final, with the Spanish side Sevilla against the Portuguese team Benefica. This was apparently a big deal.
So there I was in Torino, on my rugby fanatical Dad’s anniversary, stuck in a sea of men who were there to support their football teams. To which I’m positive that my Dad would’ve reckoned that the party was for him.
I took solace in a quarter where the fanatics had petered out and I snacked on prosciutto e melone con aperol spritz. I watched a scarfed beggar approach me with her gnarled hand outstretched. I’d preferred to have shared my lunch with her; but not knowing how to offer, I gave her some coins instead.
I strolled the alleyways, smiling to myself. I love walking through streets where you can picture yourself in a postcard. I found some fresh food markets that were packing down, but I still went for a quick peek, hearing ‘fresca bella!’ from the turning heads. I found a wee jazz café, and at the advice of a friend, ordered a cioccolato calda. The mug before me was a thickly dripped hot chocolate that I sipped at, while relaxing amid the dulcet undertones. I took a filled pastry to go, to feed another woman perched with a sign down the street. I placed it down next to her. She didn’t utter a peep.
Back into the thick of it, the piazza was fuller and the crowds were rowdier, with broken glass scattered here and there. It was like the Sevens, but sans costumes, just a sea of whites and reds. A group of police leaned back on their van, arms casually folded and posing. I would walk, a sole female, ending up in clumps of crowds and singing in my ear. I found a statue that would usually be the source of turning to take pictures and admire the scene, except I was drawn to watch the drunken antics unfold. While I was tiptoeing to avoid wine bottle shards on the cobbles, I was approached by a young guy who asked if I was Spanish. This was definitely a first. Throughout my years travelling I have been assumed Australian, English, French and now Spanish. I later realised he was trying to chat me up, until I got swept off into another direction.
Now it wouldn’t be an NJ blog in Italy, without another creepy old man story. The streets had quietened to the point where it seemed like normal people going about their afternoon business of having a beverage at a café. Behind me I could hear a bicicletta approaching. I moved off to the side to let the bicycle pass, but it didn’t, which seemed strange. Every move I made, it felt like the wheel was right on my heel. The old man swooped a big circle around me, and then continued to follow me. I made an exit stage right and lost the bicycle by getting lost in a crowd of supporters.
I window shopped then looked at the time, realising it was gelato-o’clock. The park benches were full of locals, and not a hint of football was present. I found a spot to eat and try and not spill drips on me, especially when I appeared to be something that needed to be stared at.
The train was bustling at peak hour. Across from me sat a man who appeared to be sending emails from his smart phone. Next to him was a stranger who was not so sneakily reading what was being written. Strange. Not so strange was the delayed train that missed my connecting train, which was also delayed. I was learning what was ‘typical’.
Dad’s day had been a crazy surprise and in a European way, very fitting of him. I’m kind of near the end of my Italian sojourn story, but I’ve yet to fill you in on being overfed to the point of bursting out of my belly button, being mocked by a man on a train and eating the best ravioli I had tasted during my Italian experience.