Monday, 10 April 2023

Coronation, Cherubs, And Baffled in Turin.

  I posted an account of my trip to Turin long ago on Easter Monday.  Then I tried to alter it on my phone, failed, and messed it up.  So I took it all down again.  It's a little way down this page, and I hope you don't mind the delay!  

The Coronation of Charles III has been our big event here in England! It mostly pelted with rain, so I didn't go out all day, but put the TV on instead.  Our picnic in the communal garden was abandoned and the rain continued into the night.    

But yesterday things improved and we visited a nearby street party. Everyone was out with tables, and chairs,  food, games music and socialising. 

Regarding the ceremony, I thought Charles looked tired, not that I was surprised. At 74, he's the oldest monarch ever to be crowned in England, so is entitled not to romp through it. True, he's used to pomp and ceremony but even a fairly young fit person might find it tough to wear those heavy robes for hours and carry  around those huge metal and rock objects.  (Srange to think of gold and jewels like that, perhaps, but .... well, that's what they are!)   I did wonder, also, how he felt when his older son kissed him in homage, but the younger one looked on on this biggest day of his life, having rejected all that he stood for. 

He looked a lot happier out on the balcony at Buckingham Palace, and no doubt felt pleased that all had gone well.  I believe he has always tried to do his duty, like his mother and father did, and I wish him all the best in his reign. 

So, back to Turin.  The idea had been to go to Paris and take a train in a big loop from Paris to Turin, then Genoa and then Marseille,  and then back to London. So one March morning, after a pleasant overnight in Paris, we set off to Gare de Lyon to Turin.   As you see from its clock, we arrived pretty early to begin our trip to Italy. 

 BUT.... instead of the usual bustle of a big station, we were greeted with empty spaces and long queues of despondent people. 

Rail strikes, which should have finished the day before, were escalating instead. All was chaos.    
We'd booked accommodation in Turin that night, but no tickets to anywhere were being sold at the station that day.    And plane, bus, and hire car were simply not practical.  

To cut a long story short, after several tiring hours of queueing and arguing, we got a later train and believe me I jumped like a cat on a mouse on the chance to stand in its corridor for six hours!!  Not the best trip, I'll admit.    If you're sitting on your luggage,  you don't see out of the windows. So the beautiful Alpine scenery on route rushed past the windows unseen.  
We were shattered the next day, but I don't think that put me off Turin.  Nevertheless, the city seemed so much darker and sterner and colder and grander than I'd expected, and I never quite warmed to it. It was hard to find pleasant parks and gardens and little neighbourhood squares to sit in on a sunny day and watch the world go by.  

Of course there were lots of good things. My favourite was a small and under-publicised museum called Fondazione Accorsi-Ometto, It's a mansion full of the lifetimes' acquisitions of art collector Pietro Accorsi.  Don't look it up online - even though it's absolutely charming, nearly all the focus is on Mr. Accorsi's valuable paintings and furniture, with very little about the intensely personal, humorous nature of the place.  It seemed so full of colour, interest and character to me.   

Of all the things there, my favourite was a room of hand painted Chinese wallpaper, showing a detailed panorama of old Chinese daily life.  As well as being amusing and intriguing, it is also touching and mysterious, because the world it portrays has passed beyond living memory.  I couldn't find much information about it.  But I still loved it, so let me try to show you why....      

Here is most of one panel. Do you see in the middle, on the left, are two people? They're standing on  a box or table with nobody taking any notice of them.  

Go closer (below) and they are larger, clad in finery, and carried on a box by four men. Are these people actors so skilled they can perform on a small box being carried over mud roads? Are they statues being taken to some new site? Or are they actually rich people who choose to live out their lives in full public view while trying not to fall off?     Whatever they are,  nobody cares.   Even the woman with the howling child doesn't spare them a glance....  

And anyway, what about this woman and child?   She carries a basket , so perhaps she's carrying something to market. The little lad is being pulled along, crying. Is off to a school he hates? Or can't he go to school even though he wants to?  Who knows?  They're surrounded by tiny rice paddies with half naked peasants toiling knee deep amongst wet rice plants.  And there on the right are a richly dressed group carrying placards and flags and emblems. Are they part of a noble household? Perhaps that's the nobleman on the horse, the only one not walking?        

But ah, though, see the wider picture. (below) He's got a companion, also on horseback, They are accompanied by servants carrying things which could either be luggage or gifts, and they're emerging from a sturdy building. Perhaps they're going hunting or maybe on a trip to visit some important person.  On a path at bottom left of the rice field is a peasant with a bird perched on his outstretched arm. Is he a hunter of small mammals? A birdcatcher? Whatever, he seems to be working with the tradesman with the two tall baskets, presumably collecting small livestock to sell.    

Back to the big picture and look at the top left. A red and black banner flows down a waterfall, a magnificent sight on a river. It is probably associated with the building  And that's probably a temple, with a broken old wall with flags at the entrance, with someone reading important words from a scroll.  There is a pole with some mysterious emblem, and two ladies watching.   A religious ceremony? A trial? Is that poor kneeling figure in his straw hat praying or pleading to the well dressed figures surrounding him?   

Oh, what does it all mean? If only this fine little museum would put its treasures into their cultural context.  The whole teeming lost world of lovers and ladies and tradesmen and labourers and women and ceremony and entertainment, and it's all such a mystery.  All i can say is, if you are an expert on Chinese art, or if you know of a description and explanation of the wallpaper, please get in touch - I'd love to know!  

I spent half a day admiring the many other wonderful things in the Accorsi-Ometto, and could have stayed more.    Some highlights - well, I'd love a few bits of this brassware in my kitchen. And see the lifesized "silent companion" lady servant figures in the back, keeping everything clean and tidy? The dresser was full of animal china of wonderful quality.  

And the most wondrous birds, butterflies, flowers and bees were found throughout the place, making you feel as if you had a grandstand view of a magical natural scene. 

 I was intrigued by the beautiful but crazy marble statue of a seller of cherubs shown below.   I expect that you, like me, think of cherubs as sort of baby children.  So I was shocked to see  this bored looking peasant woman taking one out of its cage and displaying it to a ladylike pair who obviously had a house to decorate.    They all clearly saw the cherubs as a species of animal. 

I gave myself a mental shake when I thought this, since I know that actually cherubs are totally fictional anyway, and so neither human nor animal.  But on thinking about it, I think they might be a great deal happier as animals. Real humans would get mightily tired of sitting up on ceilings and on columns for years on end, whereas many members of the animal kingdom would be perfectly happy to do so. Spiders, for instance.  

What do you think? LOL

So this lovely little museum charmed me, made me think and entertained me and I'd definitely return if I went to Turin, just to see it all over again. An additional bonus is that the staff were so friendly and helpful that they made it a pleasure to be there. 

By contrast, the most famous museum in town is about cinema. Before I visited, I wasn't sure that a provincial Italian town could have a world class cinema museum, but I really was wrong.  I thought it was amazing, and not just because of what was in it.  For a start, it's situated in one of the most noticeable buildings I've ever seen.    If you don't believe me, look at the panorama of Turin below, a view which I took from high above the town on a country hillside.  

 Yes, you can see the cinema museum.  There it is!   This domed construction,  nearly three times the height of the surrounding buildings,  is called "Mole Antonelliana" and construction started on it nearly 200 years ago.  It is completely unique, and if you are interested, you can learn a little more about it here. 

Like Accorsi-Ometto this museum is really wonderful, but I found it considerably more frustrating. In fact,  I was peeved that I couldn't see more of it.  I hadn't a clue that if you bought a ticket on the door, they might not let you actually go inside for many hours.  And that they would sell you a ticket with a very late entry time, so even when you had got in, you had far too little time to see the museum before it closed.  .  

But I was so impressed with what I did see.  The museum has made good use of its remarkable building and constructed a gigantic glass lift which rises through the middle of the entire building and into the dome, offering panoramic views of Turin from an outside walkway. So many curious things are glimpsed through the lift's glass walls...

After the lift, we started the tour, on the  "archaeology of film", as they called it - the pre history of film, before cinematography got going. It had  one of the best collections i've ever seen of magic lanterns, toy theatres, peepshows, mechanical music and other ingenious old fashioned curiosities 

And some cool sets and props... like the giant fridge and room full of toilets. They almost certainly relate to some film or other.   

I recognise this from "!02 Dalmatians."  I think. 

If I'd had more time I could probably have got the captions of everything, but this was as far as we managed to get. before the staff started closing down at 5.30 to be sure we were all out at 6 pm. 

   I don't want to sound as if I am moaning. The place was very busy, so they were obviously doing most things right.  And I am sure if I'd had better Italian language skills, I wouldn't have felt so much at sea. But as I said, I never quite felt I gelled with Turin, and everything about it felt like a struggle to me. Not just the museums, but everything.   

It was a bit of a relief getting on the train for the quirky and charming city of Genoa, and then, a few days later,  from Genoa on to Pisa - a place I hadn't expected to revisit (Marseille and Paris remained inaccessible.).   Everything improved.  The sun came out, people smiled, and you could sit in pavement cafes and feel surrounded by bustle and city life.  

So overall it was a good trip, but we returned home with several days of the interrail pass left unused.  
And that's fine too.  The company have said they'll credit the lost days to our next interrail pass. So now we just have to decide where to go. 

It can be anywhere you can reach by train. And, we've just had an invitation from a friend in Dresden, a place I have never been.  Sounds promising.  


  1. Aye, Charlie looked tired, but he is very fit. You recall the walk from Holyrood up the Royal Mile at his mums funeral? That is a big hill and a very long walk indeed. He is also a Farm Boy, so I expect he is used to hard work there, far from camera's and nosey people. A debate is needed on today's monarchy, but at the moment all we get is loud shouting from both sides. Turin: to me this place is famous for Torino and Juventus only. Judging by the photo, the council like blocks look almost East European at first, no wonder there were no parks. Sorry you had such travel problems, that would not happen in the UK....

  2. Honestly, I think the only thing I've ever associated Turin with is the shroud. And to think there's a Cinema Museum there!

  3. Oh Jenny, so good to see all these photos. That museum with the wallpaper -- that's my kind of thing. I love the observations you made. It reminded me of a picture I have in my living room that hung in my parents and how, in those days, I'd sit on the sofa and make up stories about it. This one had FAR more stories with all those characters! (Mine was largely landscape with only one person!) I've often thought it would be fun to show kids a painting or art with so much action and have them create a story about it! You know I would find the cinema museum fascinating but, like you, I would be terribly frustrated by the timing of it all. Still, it sounds like there was some good in the city -- and then off to the sun!

    I watched the Coronation at 5 a.m. here, in a hotel room in Cleveland. Rick slept through it, waking shortly before it ended. I agree. Charles looked tired and old. He usually looks pretty vital. Maybe he didn't sleep well that night. I wouldn't! In some of the balcony shots you could see torrents of rain really coming down hard and I thought about your party and not surprised it was canceled, though I wish it had been rescheduled for the bank holiday -- and glad you could find one to visit. It looks so festive. It did seem to go off very well -- and that's history I'm not likely to see next time around.

    Have a wonderful week. Loved reading this!

  4. Easter wasn't that long ago, Jenny, so glad you were able to post the photos about the visit to Turin. Those rail delays, of course, were not fun, and neither was standing onboard for so many hours even if you were able to get on a train! While the Fondazione Accorsi-Ometto, mansion museum, sounds interesting and those wallpapers quite intriguing, as was the size of that kitchen with its brass pots and the seller of cherubs. The cinema museum, Mole Antonelliana, would have been my first choice and too bad your visit was shorter than expected. It was good to read that you received a credit for the unused interrail pass and you can explore other locales, hopefully without a rail strike.

  5. Yeah, I'm curious about the Chinese tapestry, too, namely, when was it made and is the imagery contemporary as far as the artist is concerned, or was the artist living in one era while depicting life in another? You'd think they'd tell you that in a museum.

    I know I would just love that cinema museum, especially if doesn't merely start in the 1890s, as one might expect, but centuries earlier with invention of the magic lantern.

  6. My dear, I give myself a mental shake every day! LOL! I love your lively descriptions of your trip to Turin! About the Coronation, I couldn't help but think of Prince Harry sitting there while Prince William kissed their father, the King. I do hope that one day they all could be reconciled. If only he hadn't written that book....once words are out there, they are there forever, written or spoken. Remember the expression "hold your tongue"? I hardly hear that anymore.

  7. Nice to see your photographs from your trip but sorry you had travel problems. At least the company have said they will credit the lost days to your next interrail pass. Have fun deciding where you go to next.

    We watched the Coronation, including Sunday's Concert, on the television and enjoyed it.

    Can you believe we are now half way through May, the days seem to fly by.

    All the best Jan

  8. I love your banner photograph.

    The trip sounds interesting, and entertaining to navigate.


Blog Archive