Helen in Europe travel blog

Po and Dora sculptures at the CLN Piazza

fascinating brickwork at the Palazzo Reale

Mummified cat at the Egyptian museum

Having decided that I really need to see more of the country rather than endlessly roaming Lecco I narrowed down my next day trip to either Turin (Torino) or Verona and mainly settled on Turin on the basis of a blog celebrating the contemporary art museums there. So off to the Lecco station I journeyed again to pre-purchase my tickets both to Turin and to Riomaggiore, which is in the middle of the Cinque Terre and my last leg of my trip. I have found that writing down all the legs of the trip is helpful in Italy as you cannot assume that everyone serving you can speak English. This staff member could speak English but it didn't soften the blow of learning how much my return trip to Turin would cost - 60 euros!! 'You don't have to go', the staff member rightly reiterated but having done all the research, I went ahead; you win, some you lose some with travel budgeting. It was even Stevens again when I discovered that travelling to Riomaggiore was a lot cheaper - 'One way', she explained, 'and you did choose express trains'. Well, yes I did, but having accidentally jumped on a non-express train a week or so ago returning from Milan to Lecco, I experienced a difference of 1.5 hours on a slow train that I was tempted to get out and jog alongside to see if I could beat it. Express all the way if possible! With so much to do in Turin, I again eschewed the 'touristy' sites which meant no observatories, no car factories and no shroud, and there would have been no shroud anyway because apparently if you attend the appropriate museum, you don't actually see the shroud but other stuff instead. So I headed to GAM (Gallery of Modern Art) first; actually I got off the train one stop early as it was such a large stop I assumed it was the main one. Porta Nova and Porta Susa do sound the same to a non Italian! Fortunately it didn't take that long to get to the museum from 'wrong stop' and my ICOM pass again gained me free entry to this historically interesting museum. Satisfying my urge for Brutalist architecture, this museum was a beauty; but spending more time reading the didactic texts than usual (in English too, yay!) I reflected on how much post-war Architecture is only there because um... of the war. So there I was looking for art and instead I learnt about how Turin was actually one of the worst hit cities in Italy during WWII. All the tourist attractions have been somehow affected by WWII and its outcome. The Fiat factory was occupied in 1920 but during WWII, Mussolini subsidized the automotive industry, to provide vehicles to the army' no wonder it became a target for bombing by the Allies. At GAM the director had the foresight to move most of the artworks guessing they'd become a target for bombing so he moved them to a castle. The collections were originally housed with the ancient art collections in a building close to the Mole Antonelliana (where tourists now ascend the building for the panoramic city view).

In 1895 they were transferred to a building near corso Siccardi (now corso Galileo Ferraris), which had been built years earlier for an art exhibition, and where there they remained until 1942. After the building’s destruction during the World War II, the current building was erected on the same site and opened in 1959. The building later became unusable in the early 1980s and was opened to the public again in 1993 after extensive redevelopment. So that explains its 50s style architecture! Of course Modern as an art term in Europe seems to mean anything from the 19th century onwards and this museum devoted a floor to the 20th century and one to the 19th century; I viewed the 20th century first and I actually think this was a great way to appreciate the history of the building before going back in time. Unfortunately they have run out of money to buy contemporary art (the funds come from private philanthropy) so I just had to suffice with some Giorgio di Chiricos, Chagall, Andy Warhol, and a very rare (I assume) Yves Klein blue sculpture: Portrait Relief of Arman. This is one of three planned portrait reliefs, each based on plaster casts of Klein’s closest and oldest friends from Nice, Arman, Martial Raysse and Claude Pascal. It's something you don't see everyday. After lunch in the cafe I headed towards the Egyptian museum, as recommended by Marcella but found myself, as you do, enjoying the piazzas and plazas along the way. The brickwork in Italy is worthy of analysis itself. I was drawn to the Palazzo Reale forecourt mainly for the brickwork and realised that you could go inside. However the ticketing man only spoke Italian and directed me and another patron outside. I am assuming it was full as they only allow 25 in per hour. So back to the Egyptian museum I went and ended up there another two hours; then there was only time for a stroll towards the station (the right one this time) ready for my train trips home. I think I have just about mastered the Italian trains now and learnt when to look for your designated seat in the second class carriages as I did for the Turin to Milan train. I also have experienced the Milan to Lecco ones which are often dirty, and without air conditioning, everyone opens the windows; imagine the sound as we whiz through tunnels at high speed with trains passing us on the opposite side; the signs remind us, in four languages, not to throw anything out the window; perhaps they should add and 'don't put your head outside either!'

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