So here I am, getting settled in Italy, readying
for yet another Olympic adventure, my fifth. Traveling to Torino was
a bit of an adventure. There are no direct flights from the United
States to this city, so I came via Paris. However, about half an hour
before I was supposed to leave Manhattan, word came from my travel contact
that the Torino airport was shut down because of a wildcat labor strike.
So I was re-routed through Paris to Milan, flying over the sparkling Alps,
and then suffered through a windy two hour drive to Torino. So it took
much longer than I thought, but I have settled in, safe and sound, and hopefully
the Torino airport will be fully functioning soon.
And now the countdown begins: Opening
Ceremony is February 10th, but there’s a lot of work to do between
then and now. One of my first tasks, as with anywhere that you are
going to live for any period of time, is to get to know this place and think
about what is to come, so how about a bit of background?
Where am I? Torino, the capital city of Piemonte (the Piedmont region),
is the gateway to Italy from western Europe, with ancient roots that predate
its first destruction by Hannibal in 218 BC. With over 2 million people
now living in the metropolitan area, it is the largest city to ever host
a Winter Games. While the city is best known as the home of the Shroud
of Turin, it is populated with a wide array of museums, industrial plants,
and some stunning architecture. While almost half of the city’s structures
were destroyed in World War II, Torino soon recovered, largely because of
its heavy emphasis on industrial manufacturing. At the center of the
city stands the Mole Antonelliana,
which dots the skyline with its 548-foot spire, and forms the basis for the
Olympic logo for these Games. It houses the Museum of Cinema, as well
as a glass elevator, and once atop, the mountains and vineyards of the Piedmont
region are visible in every direction.
Of course, it hasn't stopped snowing since I arrived, so the only view I
have seen is gray, gray gray -- so I have been strolling at ground level.
Turin has 11 miles of arcades – covered sidewalks – on which merchants sell
everything there is to be sold. Via
Roma resembles New York’s Fifth Avenue, with everything from Prada
to Armani to Gucci, while the open-air market, Europe’s largest, is row upon
row of stalls with meats, vegetables, giant cheeses, and flowers.
Food, of course, is the centerpiece of the culture here, as it is anywhere
in Italy. Torino is the center of what is called the “Slow Food” movement, an approach to cooking
designed to preserve traditional methods. Rather than what people might
stereotypically think of in terms of Italian culture, its cuisine is dominated
by a lot of appetizers, a lot of game meat boiled in wine (indeed, minced
donkey is one of the local specialties, although it's not one that I will
likely be trying), and, of course, fresh pastas, including local favorites
Tajarin, Agnolotti, and Cappelletti, and cheeses. Lastly,
at every meal a basket of grissini emerges, which could be called breadsticks,
but it wouldn’t do them justice.
But perhaps mostly importantly, Turin is considered by many to have the greatest
of chocolate traditions: it is in this city that people first began
eating chocolate for chocolate’s sake, rather than as a flavoring, and if
nothing else. In 1678, a royal decree authorized chocolate manufacturing,
and with it, the art of chocolate-making began. The local specialty
is gianduiotto, which is a coca-hazelnut
paste, but it has a lot of competition from a range of pralines, caramels,
and other chocolate delicacies.
But Turin doesn’t save its chocolate for chewing – you can drink it, too.
There is, of course, standard hot chocolate, usually served with a light
whipped cream, but even better is the bicerin,
a layered hot drink of chocolate, coffee, and milk. And it’s not just
a mocha drink. Everyone keeps saying to me when I describe it, “Oh,
it’s like a Starbucks mochachino!” No, it’s not: trust me.
It is so much better.
H A V E A
Q U E S T I O N F O R D R . B A S S
D U R I N G T H E W I N T E R G A M E S ?
L I C K H E R E
We will be posting
the questions and answers
on the CNR At
The Winter Games website!
m o r e
Be sure to check back often for Dr. Amy
Bass's updates to her
Online CNR Winter Olympic Games Diary.