Thursday, November 21, 2013

Tesori di Torino

The girls are studying ancient civilizations as part of their school work, and we made the short train trip to Turin last weekend so we could visit the famous Egyptian Museum. (Okay, okay…Turin is also famous for a chocolate drink - the bicerin - that is layered with espresso then topped with heavy cream, which might have slightly influence our travel planning!) As it turned out, there were a number of other treasures (tesori) awaiting in Turin, making for a wonderful weekend.

The Egyptian Museum is remarkable, although – like many museums displaying foreign riches – it does require overlooking the way in which many of the items were likely acquired. In this case, those “acquisitions” number over 30,000 artifacts, with the fraction on display covering everything from talismans to temples. In fact, one room features an entire temple chamber that was carved into bedrock in Egypt, extracted in 1966 just prior to being submerged by the Aswan Damn project, and then relocated to Turin. Knowing that a trip to Cairo is unlikely due to the unrest there, this was the next best thing:

The experience also helped to further stretch the timeline in which we view our place in history. In the US, the timeline is relatively short. Here in Genoa, we have daily encounters with Roman-era artifacts, such as the aqueduct which spans an alleyway next to our apartment. Then in the Egyptian Museum, we could see and sense the continuity across more than 5,000 years, especially the commonalities of religious and spiritual traditions – noting that the stone Temple was later used as a Church. (In the photo collage above, you can see a Christian cross and star carved into the scene of King Thutmosi III, which adorns the Temple's walls.) 

All of that deep thinking made us thirsty, and we enjoyed the first of several rounds of hot chocolate and bicerin. In fact, the bowls of hot chocolate that arrived for the girls lead to hours of chocolate-fueled fun!

The next day we visited The Mole Antonelliana, and jumped forward several millennia from ancient Egypt to mid-1800’s Turin. The Mole is a major landmark building in Italy (it is the tallest brick building in the world and was used as the ‘06 Turin Winter Olympics’ emblem). It was originally designed as a synagogue and is now home to the Museo Nazionale del Cinema. In addition to providing amazing views of the city, the massive open atrium houses interactive film exhibits and projected displays. Plus, there’s a 10-story suspended elevator that is equal parts horror film and thriller!  

Yes, we needed to soothe our stomachs with hot chocolate after that experience!

Our last day in Turin was a day of walking and exploring, including jumping to contemporary history when visiting Santuario della Consolata (the Church of Our Lady of Consolation) and seeing the hundreds of framed drawings of incidents in which people were saved from harm by holy intervention. The depictions of the moments in which people miraculously survived are all marked with "G.R." -- "Grazia Ricevuta" or "Grace Received."

We expressed our gratitude with – you guessed it – hot chocolate! But this was no ordinary bicerin, since we went to The Caffè Al Bicerin.  
The Caffe was founded in 1763 and is thought to be the birthplace of the drink. While we’re not experts (yet), their bicerin was fabulous and ensured that we happily left Turin with a pleasantly persistent cocoa buzz!

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