During the Cinque Terre segment of my trip to Italy, my colleagues and I stayed in La Spezia for two nights. La Spezia is a city slightly to the east of Riomaggiore, the southernmost town in Cinque Terre. It is easy to access any of the towns in Cinque Terre by train, making it an ideal location for us to set as our home base.
In case you’re not up to date, you can read the first part about Bologna and the second part about hiking in Cinque Terre.
In the two previous entries, I didn’t mention much about food, but the things I’ve heard about real Italian food in Italy, saying stuff like “pasta is just different and BETTER in Italy”, got me really excited to try some good ol’ pasta and pizza. Pictured above are the spaghetti alla cuccarese and “Balmy” pizza (with stracchino cheese and balsamic vinegar, among other ingredients) that Kana and I had on our first night in La Spezia. OK, the spaghetti was delicious, but what really caught me off guard was the pizza, which I had to honestly say was the best pizza I’ve had in my entire life. NOT KIDDING. I think it was the first time I tried stracchino cheese and that feeling of melt-in-your-mouth goodness is to be cherished forever. And the crust – perfect thickness, warm and crispy. Ahh. How could I ever eat a pizza outside of Italy ever again?
Though Kana, Jiaji, and I stayed in La Spezia for two nights, we didn’t actually explore the city – which was a pity – as we arrived on the first night and spent all of the second day in Cinque Terre. Well, except for dinner on the second night, which we had at the same restaurant as the previous night because we couldn’t resist getting pizza again 😉
The next leg of the trip was done without Kana as she split from us to head to Florence. Jiaji and I arrived in Turin (or Torino in Italian) in the afternoon. Turin wasn’t really “chosen” as a destination; we only went there because our flight back to Belgium would depart from Turin, so we figured we’d spend some time there and see what we could find. And Turin held some surprises for us…
As usual with spontaneous travel, Jiaji and I wandered around the city without any real route or itinerary. Really, by 5pm we were just too tired (still from the hike) and hungry and we were just waiting until 6:30pm when the restaurant we wanted to go to would be open. Here we were at Mole Antonelliana, the tower that houses the National Cinema Museum of Torino. If I knew we could go to the top (with a lift!) I would have gone in for a top view of Turin 😦 But the real question is…why is the Fibonacci sequence lit up on the tower???
I guess this building also had the same question, and the question boggled its mind so much that it turned upside down. Hmm…what else is interesting about Turin? The only thing I knew about it before this visit was that it hosted the 2006 Winter Olympic Games…and that Grenoble is on the other side of the Alps? At least that was what my friend studying in Grenoble told me…
…aaaaaaaaaaaand dinner time. Finally. I couldn’t resist when I saw seafood risotto on the menu. The only experience I had with risotto was a home-made attempt by my friend in South Bend 4 years ago, and it turned out rather nicely. Combined with seafood? Deal. And it might not look like it from the photo, but this was one very splendid risotto stuffed with loads of a variety of seafood, including mussels, clams, squid, shrimp, and of course that huge langoustine on top. The restaurant certainly wasn’t so stingy 😉 Mmm…I was so satisfied by the end of that dinner and so ready to go back to the hotel and rest for the night…
…until I saw the night scene of Turin! Jiaji and I headed back to the River Po, nearby our hotel, and when I saw the lights in the Turin night I almost screamed “wow!” Fatigue gone, I suddenly became energetic and fascinated. I know some people must think that I’ve seen these beautiful scenes over and over and I’d probably find them boring by now but no, city night scenes never cease to amaze me. I especially liked that blue cathedral-looking building on the right, high up on a mountain or hill of some sort, surrounding by floating ghost lights and reflected into the river. If we had more time in the city I would definitely would have liked to see what that place was.
Walking back to the hotel, we encountered what I assumed were Christmas lights on Via Po, one of the shopping streets of Turin. Quite stunning!
The next morning we left the hotel at around 7am to catch the bus to the airport from the Turin Porta Nuova train station. These two sculptures were waiting for the sun to rise, as were we. The streetlights were still on when we started walking towards the station, but I think at around 7am, all of a sudden they all turned off simultaneously and the lighting in the atmosphere completely transformed. I think that was quite a cool moment, at least for me.
Well, good morning Turin, as you look at yourself in the mirror to get ready to shine for a brand new day! Yet, it’s also good bye Italy…for now! I thoroughly enjoyed my first Italian experience and I’m really eager to see what else it has to offer. Next time, it’ll be the big guys: Venice, Florence, and of course, Rome. See you in less than a month 😉