To start, Ali and I both want to acknowledge all of the kind comments we have received on the blog. When we are far from home, it is very nice to receive your words of support from across the ocean. Please know that we read all of your comments and are always excited to see what you have written. It truly means a lot to us.
As much as we are enjoying France, it is exciting to take advantage of how close we are to its neighbors. With our location in the southeastern part of the country, we are especially close to Italy. Last week, we ventured across, or more accurately, through the Alps, to the city of Turin (Torino).
Above: View from our bus as we approached the Italian border
Although Turin is less than four hours away by bus from our apartment, I was surprised by the dramatic differences in food, language, and culture from what we have become accustomed to in France. In Turin, we did not hear any French spoken whatsoever, despite its proximity to the border. The small gains we have made in everyday communication were completely erased. At least in French, I know how to say that I don’t know what to say! I quickly realized that perhaps I should have looked up a few Italian phrases before crossing the border…
But, a friendly smile and hand gestures can go a long way. Soon enough, we learned that Bonjour becomes Buon Giorno, Bonsoir becomes Buona sera, Merci becomes Grazie, etc. Also, because Turin attracts many foreign tourists, there are more English speakers than in Grenoble. We are grateful for the many kind people who directed us and answered our questions! Grazie!
The city of Turin is very beautiful. We spent most of our time simply wandering the streets enjoying the sights.
Below: Piazza San Carlo Torino, Piazza Castello, Via Giuseppe Garibaldi
As lovely as the city is, the food is even better. Everyday, Ali and I mention to each other how much we loved the food, and how we cannot wait to return for more (next week).
My very first meal in Italy was a margherita pizza that I attempted to eat with fork and knife (as the Italians do). Pizzas are not served pre-sliced and are not to be shared. Instead, each person must order a pizza for herself. “Doggie bags,” or in this case, pizza boxes to take home your leftovers, are so severely frowned upon that they are not even offered. Your best bet is simply to bring a large appetite and to take your time. It was amazing to see people eating entire pizzas the size of a large plate (14′?) entirely on their own. Yet, many people are very thin. Perhaps, it is because the Italians seem to share the French disdain for breakfast, and thus are ready to consume an inordinate amount of carbohydrates plus dairy for lunch. It remains a mystery to me. I will say, too, that the Italian restaurants close around 2pm, just like the French, and do not re-open until 7:30pm for the start (!) of dinner service.
Speaking of dinner, we had the best dinner of our entire time in Europe thus far. Ali, who is not nearly as prone to hyperbole as I am, admitted that it may have been one of the best meals of her life. At Restaurant e Cucina, there are no menus. Instead, you choose to have fish, meat, or vegetarian. Each day, new courses are prepared for each of the three options depending on what is fresh at the moment. It was a bit intimidating at first, since you do not know what will be arriving at your table. Seeing that we were Americans, the waiter looked worried when I ordered the fish sequence. This, in turn, made me worried. Struggling to find the English, he eventually asked me, “Will raw fish be ok for you?” The sea bass ceviche that followed was incredibly delicious – clean, citrusy, and very fresh. The entire meal followed the same pattern. Concerned waiter, concerned self, delicious food, complete satisfaction, repeat. With all due respect and love for one of my favorite restaurants from home , this was completely different than the stereotypical vision of Italian cuisine. Where was the fettuccine alfredo? The tin plates of Chicken Parmesan baked with mountains of mozzarella? Piles of spaghetti with baseball-sized meatballs?
We loved our meal so much we returned for lunch the next day. The line of locals waiting for lunch service to begin at 12:30pm (remember, it’s Italy and things run even later than in France) was a great sign. For 10 euros per person, we got all of the following:
Starter: Asiago cheese, sea kelp, blueberry jam
Beverage: Homemade juice (very light, very refreshing, not too sweet)
Salt and carb sticks (also known as bread)
Main: House-made pasta with fish (more al-dente than usually served in the US)
Dessert: Custard with Fig Jam
Reminder all of that was for 10 euros (about $12) and there is no need to add a tip or tax. Mind blown. We highly recommend Turin!
Gelato from the old city, Ali on the bus home