Epilogue

I stepped out of the airplane nervous, confused and scared all at the same time, despite the view of snowy Alps that stretched far into the horizon, golden fields and chilly air outside. I thought I had to learn the language to understand you and in course of time, I learnt of your patience in understanding even my helpless silences.

And without knowing, you became my home. Walked around listening to Moda and Emma Marrone. Gulped down café Lungo and Prosecco. Lied content in Parco Valentino on weekend nights watching the starry sky above with river Po flowing softly beside. Studied late into the nights with a Moka Pot brewing in kitchen. Polishing off brioches for breakfast. Set out for the open market on Saturday mornings dragging my shopping cart. CountingCinquecentos and Seicentos on the way.

Walked along the cobbled lanes, castles and churches without being fascinated like I had been there my whole life. Like I’d be dying there old. Like it was really my home. It was strange how I thought it would last forever.

And I left abruptly irked by a old foe, the sun. As if it was just a matter of time that I returned. And now, on this the 12th day of September, 2013 I realize that you were just a dream. Borrowing lines from a friend, a “what just happened”. You were too unreal to even be missed.

Yet I miss you. Though I do not deserve to even feel that way.

—-

This concludes this blog. With no reason to ever return, Turin shall for ever be a memory that I’ll keep confusing for a dream. If I start thanking, I wouldn’t be able to end. A toast to the country that civilized me enough to feel a sort of culture shock on my return to India.

I’ll however keep writing on this personal blog that I maintain. You could take a peek if interested.

Lago di Como

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This was the day after that strangely mesmerizing night at Stresa wandering aimlessly by Lake Maggiore. I didn’t follow it up because compared to Stresa and Maggiore, Como was a mild letdown. And now I’m feeling a bit guilty because I realized that maybe something is wrong with me and not the place.

My concept of beauty is inseparably linked with (and even hopelessly dependent on) serenity. Touristier a place is, lesser attractive it’d be. Since it’s none of the place’s fault that it has become touristy, I started feeling bad for Como and decided to complete the account.

Now, writing (even in the poor way I do) about a place that you are not impressed with requires some effort. And this one really required a mammoth initiative (not to mention the ambiance). So I chose this day after most of the work was over and let some really nice music play in the background. Pablo Alborán. And I tell you, right music can simply manipulate thoughts to start feeling good about even lousy things.

Perdóname in the background can make even the visit to a nuclear waste dump romantic. I remember playing the OST of Batman Begins (Hans Zimmer & JHN) all the time during my dreary desk research job in Delhi and feeling as excited as a commando working behind enemy lines.

Coming back to the trip, we left Stresa pretty early in the morning to catch the first train to Como. Unlike the previous day, this was predicted to be sunny and the dawn did foretell a nice day ahead. It was heartbreaking to leave Stresa with clear skies and amazing view of Alps in the dawn.

The first letdown was from the ticket machine at Stresa station. It simply ate the money and froze without printing the ticket. That got us all panicked and the lack of any help from the station master made it worse. Finally we decided to deal with it later and got another ticket.

O.K. I am getting sleepy and distracted. Will resume after a coffee.

All right, I was in the train to Como. The locomotive passed through enthralling landscapes, with occasional misty flashes of Maggiore. Gazing out through the window, I could see glimpses of foggy pockets in the geography. It was like an aeroplane drifting through a cloudy sky. The train entered one such foggy pocket and then it was all hazy and white outside the window. Haze surrounded my senses getting it all muddled and I went blank.

I woke up to find the train already in Milano Centrale Station. Next hour was spent trying to figure out the train to Como. In the train this time, there was no foreplay of sleep. I just passed out the moment we got in the train and woke up in Como.

It was a small nondescript station. Fortunately there was a place to dump our baggage. After getting rid of it, we wandered around and found this typical sightseeing bus service from the station that goes around Como all day in circles. So we got in it and went around the city.

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What can I say about Como? It was teeming with people. Disappointingly crowded and lacked all elements of serenity. Beautiful nonetheless. I would just let my poor photography speak.

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That’s all I can write about this one. It’s pointless to go anywhere after being exposed to the miracle of nature that was Stresa.

Learning to Pick Myself Up

It seems sun means a lot to the people on this side of the world. I see a lot more people outside now than my first few days in Turin.

Sun. Oddly, it reminds me of a welding torch. A horrible reminder of the days in Delhi when I frequently got fried inside either my top floor apartment or my car.  Hard to change these kind of memories. Rain or snow can spark off some delight but definitely not the sun.

14th was a Sunday forecasted to be sunny.

This weekend was supposedly reserved for Suprega, a church on top of one of nearby hills. But due to some change of plans and its deferment, I was left pretty much free.

The attic was slowly heating up. And for some reason, my internet connection got stuck. Found out that the despicable technology had such a grip on my everyday life that nothing productive could be done without it. Working was impossible.

So I decided to confront the sunny world outside. And it turned out to be a disappointing experience.

Looking out of the window squinting to avoid the glare from the fire spitting monster above, I could see vague outlines of snow capped Alps. And for no reason, I still get Goosebumps when I look at these mountains. The mightier they are, stronger they pull me. There is some kind of a creepy connection which I can’t fathom. Maybe there is something up there waiting for to reach.

Anyway, the sum and substance of this rant is that I got enough hooked to the idea of going there. Forthwith.  So I kitted up. Jacket, emergency food, plenty of water, rain kit, accessories… And before I knew, it was a full hiking kit. All that was needed to complete the picture was a tent. Yet, I didn’t bother making it lighter. It was like being in a stupor.

Now for the research. I had no idea how long this could be and what route was I going to take. Cached Google maps in my tablet had it to level 17 till Rubiana, from which point I guessed the mountains began. No internet and no means of verifying it.  No internet to get the bus schedule. No internet for jotting down few Italian phrases that would help.

But, to give up was like being pinned down at home by technology.

So, I picked the stuff. And left.

Found out an internet point on the way and did a 2 minute research. Bus No. 38 to Grugliasco and some other GTT bus from there till Rubiana. And hike the way up thereafter. Jotted it down on a piece of paper and that was more than enough. I figured that enthusiasm would supplement lack of information.

It was irritatingly warm. Bus No. 38 stopped at 52 places before dropping me somewhere in Grugliasco. This was not really a familiar place. Day being a scorcher, I felt like walking through a desert.

Looking at the map in the tablet zoomed to level 17, what do I find? A familiar red sign of metro about 5 kms. away. It was Fermi metro station, the last station on the North-West side. I could have easily got in it and reached here in half the time.

It was already 2:30 in the noon. It was the other kind of buses from here to Rubiana. Bus No. 13392. This was one of those birds that rarely appeared and demanded a lot of luck to find one suiting your itinerary. Took about an hour for it to find its way to Rubiana. It was nearing 4 when I reached there.

It was a brilliant valley from which point it was all the way up to Col Del Lys Nature Park. There were plenty of things to see in Rubiana and I was particularly interested in the Resistance Museum which was built in the memory of the strong anti-fascist and anti-nazi resistance movement which operated here in the 40s.

And now the fall.

I enquired about the bus back to Grugliasco and was told that the service was pretty infrequent on Sundays. The last bus, apparently was to arrive in another 15-20 minutes.

And the same helplessness with communication. I desperately needed a lot of information. Whether there was a train station? Whether there were trains to Porta Nuova at this time? Whether GTT had any buses for returning to Tornio in the night? Whether I could make it to the museum before the 5:30 bus?

The ones who understand English did not have the information. And ones who had the information could not speak English. It was entirely my fault. In places where people speak an unknown language, you either do the research well before the journey or learn at least the basics of that language.

A kind old lady tried for 15 minutes in vain to tell me a lot of things which I am sure would have been helpful had I understood it. She kept asking “capisco?” (I guess it is “do you understand”) every 2 minutes and I kept saying “Scusi, No”. It was admirable that she never got frustrated. Not one bit.

The next day was a Monday and I couldn’t risk being held up here. Plus staying in Hotels would mean loss of money. I had made it till this point with just 1€ for the energy drink. My GTT monthly Urbano+Suburbano ticket had covered the entire journey.

And as I wasted more time seeking information and fishing around for people who understood English, the 5:30 bus arrived. It was time to make a decision and I got in.

A huge disappointment.

It was all there in front of me. Alps, the valley, woods.

I just sat inside without looking back. Research, Organization, Planning. It kept playing in a loop inside the brain. Research, Organization, Planning. On and on and on.

The lesson was that. Enthusiasm would never replace lack of information.

Lago Maggiore

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Self imposed rules and deadlines for documenting my trips lead to the buildup of a state of insistency that I could no longer endure and I decided to break them just for the fun of it.  Commitments of all sorts have that effect on me.  Even self imposed ones. And thanks to this decision to stay silent for a while, I could very much find out that I had not many readers. (It was simple, no one seems to be concerned about the lack of updates) Convinced now that this is more of a personal journal, I decided to get back to making entries.

The onset of Easter break didn’t register a bright note with people in my batch leaving one after the other. It just foretold the end of this short life at Viale Maestri Del Lavoro in July after which it would be another reminiscence dispersed amongst few images and words. As always, it would soon fade into those overlooked pits of memories to resurface rarely in the snippets of some conversation.

Coming to the Easter break, I decided that something had to be done with the ten days and spending the entire stretch inside my attic didn’t seem like a good idea. It was decided to check out the Northern lakes of Italy. There were two of them in the list, Como and Maggiore. The deciding factors were ticket prices and weather forecast.

It was sulky weather everywhere in Italy that weekend. The only hopeful one seemed to be places surrounding Lake Maggiore where weather websites foretold the probability of precipitation to be just 20% which was better compared to 40-60% in Como.

Saturday morning. Turin was drenched in a steady drizzle from the previous day. Fine mist of a rain it was. Cars sped past with headlights peering into the fading misty darkness. A hesitant dawn.

With merely an hour or so of sleep the night before, I doubted whether I would stay away during the journey. So we started off, 3 with one trailing behind from Porta Nuova at about 7 in the morning.

At Novara, where we had to change the train, rain displayed no signs of receding. Everything was damp, cold and gloomy. The journey from Novara to Arona was humdrum, with the sights of the northern villages and patches of desolate deciduous woods, which assume a depressing appearance in winter.

I have to confess that despite my often declared dislike for the country, south of India still lives somewhere inside me making me acutely aware of its influence on occasions like these. Of the train journeys back home. Lashing merciless rains that seep in through the imperfect pull down shutters of rail coaches. One glass shutter and one metal shutter. The sight of swaying dark green foliage desperately fighting rain. Thunderstorms. A bedlam of sounds from hawking cries of tea, raindrops pelleting train’s roof to the steady rhythm of sound made by metal wheels on metal rail.

A friend had commented long back, “It’s the inherent craving for chaos that lives inside Indians”.

The lake started being visible by the time our train reached Arona. Blanketed with a heavy mist and the steady rain, it was just a part of the shore that we could figure out through the blurry windows.

It was not a crowded station. We ventured out braving the rain. Lake stretched before us, mild mist letting only a hazy view of its banks on the other side.  There was a friendly girl at the local tourism office near the train station who suggested us to try the place Stressa if we wanted more stay options. Stresa also was on the shores of Lake Maggiore, and was about 20 minutes drive from Arona. She suggested that we take the bus instead of the train, which offered a better view and cost just about €2.5.

Wandering around Arona in the rain to pass time till our bus to Stresa started, froze the last bit of warmth out of me and that’s when I discovered the Italian magic portion that goes by the name of “Café Correto”. It is a normal espresso coffee spiced up with a shot of a grape based pomace brandy called grappa. As far as my taste was concerned, it was an agonizing drink to consume, but the moment it gets inside, you start thanking your lucky stars for having discovered it. Strong coffee kills sleep, perking you up and grappa shoots heat into every cell of the body.

Journey in the bus was fascinating especially with just three of us as passengers. Meandering roads traced the shoreline of Maggiore which was still enveloped by mist. Bus sped past buildings along the shore most of which had piers and a couple of boats tied to the them.

It dropped us at the ferry point of Stresa. There was a trackless sightseeing train that took people on a city tour which I wanted to try out but had to give in to the group plan to go to the islands first by boat.

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As we walked to the boats, a tall guy in a uniform (with a fancy naval cap and all) approached us and sternly asked us whether we were planning to go to the islands as there was a boat leaving in five minutes. Before we could agree upon it, he hurried off and directed us to follow him which we did like a bunch of school kids. From a desk placed in a hole in the wall type structure, he tore down three tickets and demanded €60 (€20 each) for two islands.  We obediently complied and he set us scuttling off to a boat which we promptly boarded. All this happened in about 5 minutes and by the time we realized that he made jackasses out of us, out boat was already on its way to the islands.

There were many operators and this boat was just one of them. It was not like the last boat to the islands. And cost of the ride was €18 but the guy had impressively managed to beat us off €2 each. I did, however, admire the way he did it. Maybe he had a whole repertoire of strategies from which he picked up one titled “authoritarian” and tried on us. And it worked.

The gloom of this setback somewhat subdued with sight of our first island. Apparently, these islands, referred together as Borromean Islands, comprises of three small ones and two islets. Among these, we were to visit only Isola dei Pescatori and Isola Bella as our €20 only covered them.

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Isola dei Pescatori, which we got down first was a fishing island with a permanent population. It had beautiful narrow cobbled streets albeit being sandwiched by too many stalls selling fancy stuff to tourists.

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After an hour, we got in the boat to Isola Bella. This island was a bit more classical with a Palace and a huge garden. Lore (even facts) has it that Napoleon and his wife has been one of the guests at this Palace at some point in time. The stinging rain had not yet subsided and we couldn’t explore much. By the time we got out after the lunch from one of the restaurants in the island, rain had stopped and mist had been lifted off to reveal a brilliant sight of Stresa across the water, surrounding hills and the Alps beyond with fluffy patches of clouds floating above.

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By dusk, we returned to Stresa and having nothing much to do, hunted around for a reasonable Bread and Breakfast place. We finally fixed on one run by an old lady somewhat a bit away from the main road and got out after a much needed nap to roam around the place in the night.

It was here that I saw the moon in its most outrageous size. Huge, yellow and spotted, it resembled a roughly cut lump of cheese illuminated by a dim bulb. But that was really a great night, walking aimlessly though the shores of Maggiore with that huge yellow moon above, the sprawling lake beside and the snow capped Alps beyond.

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A slight change to the initial target just for the sake of keeping the blog alive. Even travels outside Moncalieri are going to find their place here. But I love the title way much to change it. So it shall remain as it is. Cross De-Rusting: Moncalieri and Me.

Week III

I don’t know about others but time has this tendency to fly when I start writing something. Maybe it’s the lack of creativity in me and the effort I have to take to express myself.

The mission is still on. There were many hindrances. An impending class test scheduled for Thursday. A nightmare on Saturday. So on.

Which only means that it would take a while for me to gather my thoughts on the place I visited and upload it. Not before Thursday by any chance.

—–

Week II

With an Indian Standard Buffer time of one hour, I fixed it for 8 in the morning. That meant at least by 9. The route was the same we’d taken to Castello Reale the previous week. And walking all that way really didn’t seem that fascinating, it being the second time.

With the European weather becoming more and more unpredictable (these days) the unusually cold morning on that Saturday was not much of a surprise. I started at about 9.15 in the morning. (That’s the quintessential Indian for you, stretching even the buffer by 15 minutes)

A short walk to Corso Roma, a hop in bus no. 40 and I was on my way to Piazza Caduti per Libertà in Moncalieri from where I had to start the walk up to Castello Reale and continue on for another 3 kms or so to this mysterious structure classified as a castle. (See the previous post details of its discovery)

Feeling a bit lazy and being unsure of how tiresome the walk later was going to be, I decided to take a bus for reaching Castello Reale and ended up getting down at Via Palestro on the search for a café. Having skipped the breakfast, I had decided to check out some joint that is also good enough to write about. And here is what I found.

 
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A small bar by the name of “Bar” with a coat of arms on the board.

I told the owner of this bar that it will be featured in my blog and he kind of looked pleased letting me take a few photos and all. 

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I stopped before the Carabineri Gate of Castello Reale to take a few snaps of the mountains and all with the proper camera this time. I guess it is better than what I took last time with my playbook.

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Sparing all other uninteresting details, I’d just start from where we had turned back the previous week.

It was a steeper ascend from this point onwards. The road was Via Remembrenza that connected me to Strada Castelvecchio.

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The Moncalieri from this point was not one which I was used to. Public transport gave up at this point and the stretch that lay ahead was demarcated chunks of private property containing large mansions in wide stretches of land with high walls.

These structures conveyed a classical sobriety and the care that might have gone into its upkeep was evident. This was the different kind of affluence which I did not find tough to appreciate.

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The roads were sinuous,sandwiched between high walls infusing a strange claustrophobic feeling. However, at every hint of uneasiness, one could just turn to take a look behind and thanks to the elevation, the air and the panorama of the valley below,  it was easy to get over.

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A sign misunderstood took me to a dead end on the way. Fortunately, I got over the resulting depression and regained the senses enough to put myself back on track. In many parts, the road could accommodate just a car and this made it precarious for the hikers, not that I saw any on the way. Bikers, however, passed by in plenty.

And when the clock displayed, 11:45 (about an hour’s trek), the board became visible.

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Castelveccio Casaforte X sec”. That was the name. There was some description which I reserved for decoding later.

To my disappointment, the castle was somewhere inside and the entire compound was walled with a remote operated gate like that of a private apartment with the names and the calling bells and all.

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Unprepared as always, I had nothing in my Italian vocabulary to convey my interest in the building or even the purpose my visit.

There were some old men talking to each other at a distance. So I went to them and managed to stutter the following pieces of absolute rubbish that was my best shot at Italian:

“No entrata? Castello Casaforte? Privato? Per Turisti?”

And I get back a volley of Italian with a genuine intention of helping me out. But it didn’t make any sense to me. So they take me to the gate and show me the bell against the word that probably meant “the one in charge of maintenance and upkeep” (I forgot the word).  Relieved, I thanked them and pressed the bell. Again, there is a volley of Italian from the speaker and I repeat the same old stuttering. For which, I hear Italian replies that I couldn’t make head or tail of.

And I stand there, helpless as a fish in the woods, unable to express the volumes of narrative on my journey all the way, the excitement that I nurtured for a whole week for this one moment and all that. The person on the other side finally hung up and I stood there dazed.

Another minute and then I observed that the gate was slightly ajar.

I could just walk in.

Fortunately before I was reported for trespass, a lady who was taking her car out appeared and I went to her to try my luck with the access to the compound.

And she could speak English!!!

And came out the story (though not that much about the history of the Castle). Its origin goes back to the year 1490. It is a castle but is a private property now. Curiously, this ancient castle houses few people and a firm of some sort within it. Being some kind of a historical thing, they can live inside but never do anything to alter its appearance. So it is like a private apartment building in all ways, but is supposedly an ancient historical structure.

It’s a hard concept to digest but Italians are a truly admirable lot who can do it. They still maintain the castle as it is and they manage to live inside it without disturbing the appearance. I was wondering what would have happened if the same experiment was tried in India. Put a few Indian families inside Taj Mahal and they would have painted it rainbow before you know it.

She also told me that it may be difficult to get inside the castle, but I could check out the quadrangle inside and the garden on the back side which was more than enough access as far as I was concerned.

The quadrangle really was a relic reflecting the times it had witnessed.

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A walk through a cobbled archway that surrounded one side of the castle took me to the garden on the side that was not visible from the road. It was marvelous though a coarseness was visible in the maintenance.

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It even retained a faded coat of arms.

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Thanks to the kind lady, (That’s how much of an ass I am – I didn’t even ask her name) I spent about 15 minutes inside the compound started back for Turin by about 1.30.

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Another weekend that was well spent.

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——

Post Hike Research

I am fairly proud of my googling skills and yet I couldn’t get one bit of information about the castle. As far as the board outside is concerned, this was how Google translate decoded it:

“The castle is documented in 1037 in during the creation of walls outside of a tower and the church Internal. From 1490 there was the transformation in residence with a range in XVII which century was used as a workshop by Blessed Sacrament Fathers”

I would be really happy if any of the readers can throw some light on this.

 

Events Leading up to Week – II

This was the week immediately after the hike to Castello Reale.

It all started with when I stumbled upon the website of “Associazione Turistica Culturale Pro Loco Moncalieri”, (It is a voluntary organization that claims to  promote tourism and cultural initiatives in Moncalieri)

I idly wandered around in their website checking out the information on the history of Moncalieri and so on and stumbled upon a map of the region. Casually absorbing the details of Castello Reale from the map, I saw that they used this weird sign for indicating castles. What started me to attention was that there was another castle sign about a few kilometers from the first sign of indicating Castello Reale.

With my interest adequately aroused, I downloaded a better map from the website of Geoplan Italy for confirmation. And there it was, the distinct sign of a castle without any details.

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Being sure that Google maps would have something on the details, I went to it (map mode) and found nothing. There was a road by the name of Strada Castelvecchio which (according to my poor Italian) could be translated as ‘old castle road’. And nothing.

I switched to the satellite version and what do I find?

This:

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Clearly a castle like structure and recognized so by two maps. This is the point where hesitation should end and planning should begin.

So that is the story of how week-II plans were finalized.

With a strange sound from its drive chain cover diagnosed as a loose chain later and having not one piece of tool to fix it, Sicur was again removed from the picture. It had to be a hike.

2.7 kilometers up from Castello Reale.

Week – I

Castello Reale di Moncalieri (The Castle of Moncalieri)

This was something which I came across while idly searching in the internet for places to visit not far from my apartment. It was, according to google maps, merely 3.5 kms away from where I stayed and dated back to the year 1100, when it was merely a fortress and was later expanded to the shape of a castle under Charles Emmanuel I.

As far as I was concerned, the castle was at a walkable/bikable distance and was situated at an elevation. Being a sucker for elevated geography, I decided to make it my first destination for the project. Since some non-biker friends shared the enthusiasm, Sicur was removed from the picture and due to a general transportation strike, buses were likewise. So, we decided to walk.

We started at about 11 in the morning and chose Corso Trieste as this was one straight road that took us to Carduti Liberta from where the ascent began. The Castello was already visible from Corso Trieste by the time we were near the first bridge across Po river. (Moncalieri is partially divided by the river Po).

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You may find a small slightly mucky but beaten path to your left near the first bridge across Po which may tempt you to try it out. However fascinating it may seem, I would suggest you to avoid it as it curves back to Turin after a while and you will find yourself looking at the opposite bank of Po with no means of crossing it. We learned it the hard way.

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The ascent began at this place called Carduti Liberta and the road that connected it with the Castello was Via Vittorio Alfieri. It is mostly a cobbled road with few shops on both sides and being a Saturday (and it being Moncalieri), they were generally closed.

Though the Castello didn’t seem that charming from down below, dampening our enthusiasm to a notch, Via Alfieri was a delight to fare. Something about the street gave a vague indication of an imminent change in the landscape.

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In India, I have experienced a similar feeling when the bus from the Northern plains begin the arduous ascend towards the hills. It is as if an atmospheric veil is lifted, exposing you to the slowly increasing chill. There is a distinct freshness that is hard not to discern. Added to this was a mildly overcast sky, occasionally enthralling us with harmless drizzles. The ascend was steep at times but there was the anticipation coupled with an unfounded certainty of something good waiting.

I am succumbing to the temptation to skip the part where we got into a poetic Café (with a friendly Italian girl who took pains to converse with us in broken English on her knowledge of Indian jewelry) and get to the part with the Castello and the breathtaking view of Po, Torino and the rest of Moncalieri from it.

I have nothing much to say about the castle. It is an impressive structure. A part of it was the headquarters of the Carabinieri Battaliaon. There was another gate through which tourists could enter the castle. As a mild letdown, apparently the entire staff had caught a flu (this is what our imperfect understanding of Italian could gather from the Notice), and the castle was closed. Image

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But the view of plains below from the Carabineri gate of the Castello was just magnificent. Pictures, especially taken by an unimaginative soul devoid of any creativity like me can never do justice to that view.

The rapturous snow clad Alps laid out in rows extending to the horizon where the plains ended. And mildly blanketed by a haze, stretched Turin and a part of Moncalieri. I still keep wondering whether it was really the sight or a lingering nostalgia of the South Indian monsoons that instilled the fine impression in me.

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After a contemplative lunch at the serene Al Castello Ristorante near the castle, (albeit marred by a snobbish waiter who didn’t make an effort to conceal his disdain at our ignorance on the subject of Italian wines) we descended back to the plains. Overall, a trip worth the effort.

Prelude

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While being in Delhi, I lived close to Safdarjung Tomb for about an year. I spent the free days in this period, mostly locking myself up in the semi dark comforts of a small room near Jor Bagh, blocking all natural light, reading, cooking or watching some movie.

Being involved in a full time research job from 10-10 during the weekdays (and it spilling over to the weekends frequently) under a fluorescent lamp in another small room, it wasn’t any different from my weekends.

Weekend after another, I kept cocooning myself to the four walls remaining unaware of how this was making me some kind of an introvert monster who would cringe when hit by sunlight or fresh air. Sparing the depressing developments that followed, it essentially turned me into a psycho who had to seek medical help by the second year.

All this time, there was the beautiful sprawling Lodhi Garden merely a five minute walk away from my room. And the historic garden tomb of Safdarjung just a few steps away.  And never did I bother making an effort either to breathe the fresh air at Lodhi Garden or cud a few moments of history at the Safdarjung tomb.

I left Delhi for Turin after three years of stay.

In Italy, unlike my batch mates, I ended putting myself up somewhere in the sleepy town of Moncalieri, a bit away from the hustle and bustle of Turin. Moncalieri was hardly a town in European standards and could be termed more accurately as a destination for retired people. I have heard many youngsters dismissing it as a “village”.

It was peace, quiet and solitude. Cafés that generally closed early. Shops that kept the shutters down on weekends. View of the river Po.

In due course, however, I discovered that the life in the small attic was evolving itself into something similar to what I had in Delhi. I discovered that I kept opting to stay indoors with the exposure to the world outside restricted to an occasional peek through my dormer window.

Since I wish to retain my valued sanity here, I decided to venture out into Moncalieri, which I had started loving in spite of the aloofness with which it treated me. And I didn’t wish to remember it regretfully later as I do with Safdarjung Tomb or Lodhi Garden. This blog is a part of that plan.

Penniless that I am, step one was ensuring means to economize the cost of exploration. I, therefore, got a bike from Porta Palazzo Flea Market, seeing to it that I picked up something which is not stolen (both in the past and the future tense). And I got a badly painted vintage Sicur Brevettato Folding Bike (fondly and/or mockingly referred to by my delightful buddies here as a ‘lady bike’) for €25 which I was certain would not appeal the attention of any right minded thief.

The plan is to explore Moncalieri in one way or the other every weekend (this is an adopted version of the original concept of “one so called tourist attraction a week” devised by my ingenious friend Aarti) and write about it in case some penniless sod like me reads it and musters enough inspiration to try it out.

So, we have the bike, fortunately two feet and the entire rapturous Moncalieri before me till the death knell of my stay in Italy would start ringing by August.

Do not expect it to be detailed as far as description is concerned, but I’ll assure you of enough images to keep your attention glued.