Suddenly, the announcements are in Italian, as if all the passengers changed nationality with the wave of a magic baguette. Bardonecchia arrives at the end of a long, very long tunnel. Our introduction to Italy is subterranean, and dark. One moment to the next we're in the sun, in a new country.
It's rather like France. There are wooden chalets all up the mountainside, the train yard full of weedy rails and piles of extra ties. The river is still alongside us, only flowing the other way. A new river, then. A twin.
Can't see anything of Oulx-Cesana-Claviere-Sestriere. On my side a wall of trees, on the other the passengers have pulled all the shades down against the sun.
Down the Alps we go. Past Chiomont, without stopping although it's a much bigger town than the discreet Oulx. Down past the ski station exits, down through the vineyards laid out like striped green towels on a vertical beach. Down to Torino.
Why say Turin? All the signs say Torino.
It's not a big city; just one metro line. That's convenient for not getting lost, but if only there were a map somewhere...n...n...nope. They do list the stops the metro makes, but while the little map I printed to find my hotel has helpful "M"s for the metro, it doesn't name the stops.
A map with no names, a list of names with no map.
I have a vague idea the stop I want is Porto Nouvo, so I just get on a train going that way.
My first experience with Torinos is a good one. I show my map to a random passenger, and he says yes, Porto Nuovo. In fact, he's going just there. When we exit the train, I'm off for whatever exit; I'll find my way once I'm above ground. But my nice man sticks with me, showing me which of the many exits it's better to take, and then points me down the right street. No getting lost with the guy. How wonderfully kind.
Out and about in Torino the streets are full of people and the shops full of fashion. Around us rise ornate brick and plaster buildings made of history and converted to our current needs. Palazzos abound. Every one has a plaque outside and its photo in a guide book. Some are quite pretty. Some are just imposing or uselessly complicated.
I like the way the children playing keep away from nanny are dwarfed by the heavy porticos. And the dogs. Miniscule dogs in Gucci, pony-sized dogs, prized and pampered dogs all around. I've heard they're more common than children, being less time-consuming and bothersome.
For about two hours I walk around, snapping photos, and it's just on my way back to base, around seven, when I remember that yes, I did bring the memory card. It's in its adapter for the computer, which I was so proud to think of yesterday. Right there in my bag, just not in the camera. I remind myself of Mister Pilgrim, always taking his heavy camera backpacking, then shooting all his film with the lens cap on.
I'll just remember all those scenes, and the evening light on the ochre facades, in my head.
Mmmm, they are not shy with the garlic here.
Eight is a bit early for dinner in these parts. I don't mind eating alone, but I don't like to be the only one in the whole restaurant, so I ended up in this place you'd really go for a quick lunch. Nothing elaborate, but not far from fast food. There is a specials menu, and I have quite a nice meal.
Canoli or sfoglia for dessert? Or gelato? Oh, the pastry I will eat tomorrow. Pasticceria on every block. You can't get far before another delicacy is offered. I must test them all.
Morning note to self: Do graze from cafe to pasticceria. Do not bother with the breakfast buffet at the hotel.