Phil and I have had A Holiday Abroad Together. And it was brilliant. The main attraction was the long-awaited, COVID-postponed wedding of two of his friends, in a small village north of Turin, in the Aosta valley.
We flew to Turin, spent a couple of days there, caught the train to Ivrea and a lift to Nomaglio for the weekend’s celebrations, returned to Ivrea for a day or so and then had a final couple of days back in Turin.
The wedding was magical; Turin is a lovely city to stroll around with plenty of sights and museums to visit, and restaurants and cafes to relax and eat in; and Ivrea is a fascinating mix of old mediaeval fortress town and Olivetti’s 20th century model industrial city complete with modernist architect designed factories and offices, houses and flats, nursery and canteen, social services and R&D centres.
Phil did all the planning. Top marks.
A hot and sunny week. We lived in shorts and T-shirts (except for the wedding day, of course!), ate al fresco at pavement cafes and streetside restaurants, strolled, sightsee-d and relaxed.
Photos are in my Italy, September / October 2023 Flickr album, and here is my write up of our week in Northern Italy.
Wednesday 27 September 2023: Home – Abergavenny – Newport – London Paddington – London Gatwick – Turin (Photos)
Wednesday was Travelling To Turin day: drove to Abergavenny – TfW train to Newport – GWR train to London Paddington – Elizabeth Line to Farringdon – ThamesLink to London Gatwick Airport – EasyJet to Turin Airport – Arriva bus to Torino Porta Susa – 5 min walk to Hotel Torino Porta Susa.
Even though I’d swear blind I put a mask on my bag, it definitely wasn’t there when I sought it out on Abergavenny station platform, so I took my chances on the trains and then bought some more masks at Paddington. LGW has had to cancel flights to due to air traffic control staff shortages caused by COVID, so I wasn’t taking any chances.
Email admin kept me occupied on the train, including lining up KMC catch ups for Oct and Dec – hello ladies!!
Excellent flight with EasyJet, and gorgeous evening light as we flew over the Alps. Phil got a better photo than I did – the benefits of being the one who’d paid for the joint hold luggage. On the ground we were swiftly through passport control, collected our wheely suitcase (yes, a suitcase – not a rucksack!) and easily spotted the Arriva Bus desk where we bought our return Airport-Porta Susa bus tickets from a super helpful young woman.
It was almost 9pm by the time we’d checked in at the hotel and put our stuff into our spacious room. Planner Phil navigated us along Turin’s cobbled streets to DaZero pizzeria – a busy place, a good sign. We feasted al fresco on freshly made, wood fired, sourdough pizza. And relaxed with a beer.
Back to base via Carrefour Market for water, and chocolate….
Thursday 28 September 2023: Turin (Photos)
We spent Thursday sightseeing in Turin: breakfast al fresco at Pastarell (heavenly pastries), then on along arcaded streets to the Museo Egizio (the Egyptian Museum) where we spent the rest of the morning.
After a large veggie lunch at l’articiocc just off the Piazza Castello, and the first of two failed attempts to visit the Museo Nazionale del Risorgimento Italiano we adjourned to the gardens to digest and watch the world go by.
Back to the hotel for a rest and refresh – and some Panda spotting en route – then back into town for early dinner at le vitel étonné – the “poshest” place we ate at, but very relaxed, plenty of veggie options and good wine recommendations.
And, as we sat with our wine and grissini, a trio of Pandas circled the block – a Panda Parade!
Friday 29 September 2023: Turin – Ivrea – Nomaglio (Photos)
Woke up a bit groggy and with a headache. A paracetamol and breakfast back at Il Pastarell sorted that out. We went for straight caffè (and, yes, it turns out you do get more in a caffè lungo) and cornetti albicocca – apricot jam croissants (oooooozing jam, too much really).
I counted Forty Fiat Pandas – and that was just in the hour we were out having breakfast, buying train tickets (easy, using the ticket machines. There’s a language option and the step by step process Just Works) and wine and water from Carrefour.
Back in our room we sorted our luggage, cramming in the gifts. Checked out of the super Hotel Torino Porta Susa – it’s not fancy but it does the basics really well, and the location is great – leaving our bags there and heading out back into Turin Centro.
A bookshop, a coffee at Bar Francia, a mooch around Muji then back towards the hotel along a new route, the pedestrianised Via Garibaldi before stopping for a leisurely lunch at another of Phil’s veggie finds, L’Orto Bistrò, sitting outside in the cool, watching the world go by.
And it turned out to be closer to the hotel than I realised so we were at Torino Porta Susa station by 1pm, and sat on platform 2 ready for the 13.34 RV 2729 to Aosta.
The train was packed – standing room only for the hour journey to Ivrea. An easy rendezvous with fellow wedding guests M&C, parking close to the station and going for a lovely late lunch / coffee and cake at Monastero cafe where we chatted with the owners’ daughter, bilingual courtesy of a life lived in Ivrea and Kent. Plenty of veggie options.
Then the drive through very, very windy and narrow stone wall lined lanes to Nomaglio, a gorgeous village of old stone houses and cobbled streets. M navigated us to M&K’s where we found a lot of folks gathered catching up over coffee, water, tea, wine…. sitting out on the shaded top floor balcony enjoying stunning views out over the village and the valley.
In due course we found out we were staying at the trattoria where we all also went for a chestnut themed dinner. Our booking for “between 10 and 17” turned into a long table of over 20, but the lovely family who run Trattoria ‘l Burnel were not phased in the slightest.
Saturday 30 September 2023: Nomaglio (Photos)
Nomaglio has two sets of church bells, and they strike the hour and half hour few minutes apart. A lovely way to wake up, with our fab views out over the village and valley across to the high wooded hills on the far side of the valley.
Leisurely breakfast at the trattoria, a stroll around the village for half an hour or so then over to M&K’s to help prepare for the wedding party.
A magical day. M arriving in all his finery, a wonderful wedding in the village chapel, presided over by the lady Mayor, once we’d insisted that Hussar K come and get married (it’s a tradition), and the village brass band of 4 had serenaded her down the cobbled street and into the chapel….
A lovely afternoon back at M&K’s of prosecco and nibbles, toasts and chat, laughter and dancing, then we followed the band back to the trattoria for dinner on tables that had been set up on the cobbled street. A barrel of wine (one half) and beer (the other half) served as a self service bar.
I’d faded by the end of dinner and wimped out of the dancing at the village hall, which went in until 2am….
Sunday 01 October 2023: Nomaglio – Ivrea (Photos)
Breakfast, then over to M&K’s. Caught up on all the dance party stories until it was time to stroll across to the neighbours for coffee, cakes, wine and nibbles. Amazing hospitality.
Joined the walk down the cobbled mule track that descends into the valley, but turned around before getting right down to bottom so as to be back in time for our lift to Ivrea.
Handily the hosts at Dora Maison De Charme have a keypad / code door and we were able to get into our lovely room – LaUno iPesci – not long after 3pm. Showered off the sweat that had been generated by the valley descent and ascent, had a mug of tea, then left P to relax while I went to explore.
Having failed to find the Roman Amphitheatre, I did find this cool building:
Back in the old historic centre of Ivrea, Rosso Gelato served up a delicious cornet of dark choc ice cream and lemon sorbet for 3 euros that made my exploration all the more enjoyable.
Strolled back via the castle and the cathedral and a side street shopfront with old Olivetti posters. Ivrea old town is great for pottering around in.
Come 7pm we headed out for dinner, strolling up the road to the Porta Aosta where we feasted on bruschetta and pizza at Pizzeria Sale E Pepe. Lovely family running the place; we were made to feel very welcome.
Back at base, Phil logged into Netflix and we watched the first episode of Sex Education season 4. Smashing!
Didn’t sleep so well, even once Phil turned the aircon back in. Too much red wine …..
Monday 02 October 2023: Ivrea – Turin (Photos)
After a fresh fruit and cake themed breakfast at the Dora we headed out to explore “Ivrea, industrial city of the XX century” – a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2018 – following the not-so-great MAM map and signage to visit the various buildings commissioned by successive members of the Olivetti family for their business and its employees during the 20th century.
A fab way to spend the morning. I loved it.
Some handy websites:
- Ivrea, industrial city of the 20th century | Unesco
- Ivrea, città industriale del XX secolo | Unesco Italia
- Museo Virtuale dell’Architettura Moderna di Ivrea (MAM)
- Fondazione Adriano Olivetti | Ivrea industrial city of the XX century Unesco Site
- Story of cities #21: Olivetti tries to build the ideal ‘human city’ for its workers – The Guardian, 13 April 2016
- Welc-home to My House – Visite ed eventi sull’architettura Olivetti <–Such a shame we so narrowly missed this Ivrea / Olivetti version of London Open House (and that it’s so awkwardly named …)
I had my first taste of a Chinò at the Borgo Nuovo Cafe in Banchette and, a little later, Phil tucked into a burger lunch at Ocio just up from the station. Then it was back into the old city and up to the Castle, the red rooftop views, into the Cathedral where, following Michael’s instructions, we checked out the reliquary displaying the skull and bones of Tadhg Mac Cárthaigh, an Irish priest who died in Ivrea in 1492 on his walk back from Rome, and the 10th – 12th century crypt.
After ice creams in the square from Rosso – mango and dark choc this time …
– we decided we skip an extra hour in Ivrea, lovely though it is, and to get the next train back to Turin. So we collected our luggage from the Dora (and uploaded photos over their super fast wifi), trundled over the old bridge and down to the station.
Thankfully the train was nowhere near as busy as on the journey up and back in Turin we checked back into the Hotel Torino Porta Susa, settled into our new room and relaxed until it was time to go out for dinner at Selezione Naturale which lived up to the reviews regarding the slowest service ever ….
Tuesday 03 October 2023: Turin (Photos)
After a late start, our whole day in Turin provided two highlights – Pastarell’s (twice) and Pandas! Plus a smashing veggie lunch from Mezzaluna.
- Found the bus stop for tomorrow’s return to the airport
- Visited GAM (Galleria Civica d’Arte Moderna e Contemporanea). Done in an hour. Underwhelming but the again I’m no artist.
- Decided to book Premier Inn Gatwick North (train strikes + tube strikes = stress)
- Bought a bag from the market (me)
- Failed to get into Il Museo Nazionale del Risorgimento Italiano for the second time. It was shut as was the main square, with a heavy police presence. We later found out it was due to strident protests against Georgia Meloni who’d been visiting. We were oblivious.
- Read in the Park (Giardini Reali di Torino, at least the bit we could find our way into)
.. and went on a Gelato quest – Mara dei Boschi seemed too keen on its laboratory credentials, Gelateria Pepino looked closed but turned out to be just starting to open upso we waited on one of the benches in the shaded square by the Egyptian Museum. Time enough for Phil to review the reviews and decide we’d try elsewhere. 5 mins later we were deciding on flavours at Gelateria La Romana on Santa Theresa… WINNER!
In the evening we returned to le vitel étonné for our final dinner in Turin, and one of the few meals eaten inside (because they were fully booked outside).
The stroll there and back provided plenty of Pandas to photograph …
Wednesday 04 October 2023: Turin – London Gatwick (Photos)
Packed (no mean feat), checked out of the hotel leaving our bags there, headed round the corner for our last breakfast at Pastarell’s… where I snagged the last Girella – the circular pain au raisin / brioche that is my favourite from their vast offering.
We walked a new route into Centro, via the familiar Piazza Vincenzo Arbarello and then onto the pretty much pedestrianised Via Giuseppe Barbaroux all the way to the Piazza Castello and on to the iconic Mole Antonelliana where we visited the MNC Museo Nazionale del Cinema (National Museum of Cinema). Lots to see, particularly about the development of moving image entertainment and science prior to full on film. And the panoramic lift was Quite Something!
Back to Mezzaluna for a late lunch – not as successful on the selections compared to yesterday but still tasty! – then to the Roman Ruins Park by the Royal Palace for a read in the shade before heading back towards the hotel, after stopping at Cafe Paris for a Bicerin and to while away our final hour in Torino.
I spotted 234 pandas between the bus stop and the airport. TWO HUNDRED AND THIRTY FOUR!
Good flight. Dinner supplies from M&S Simply Food at Gatwick Airport. Premier Inn did A Great Job, as it always does.
Thursday 05 October 2023: London Gatwick – London Paddington – Newport – Abergavenny – Home (No photos)
Awake at 6am, well ahead of the 7.30am alarm. Both a bit anxious about the train into London the day after a strike so we sped through showers and packing and marched over to the North terminal where we caught the train to the South terminal and boarded the 08.06 Thameslink (standing room only) to Farringdon where the Elizabeth Line got us to Paddington with a good hour to spare.
GWR got us back to Abergavenny where our Panda was waiting patiently for us in the station car park.
Then Home to provide some parental TLC.