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treats in Turin

3 July 2013 2,331 views 2 Comments

The Beach

“I hope you’ve got your bikini. I’m taking you to the beach because you like to swim in the sea, don’t you.” That’s how Nad opened a weekend in Italy. Cool.

go karting to the coast

The drive from Turin to Savona, once you’re out of the city and its suburbs, is brilliant. The motorway winds up, around, across, 057through nicely green hills with little villages popping up like a rockgarden. It’s a fast road and if it wasn’t for the pacers – the campervans and really old Puntos – you’d be flying, over viaducts, through tunnels, around crisscrossing motorways. And then the sea, the sky blue sparkling of the Ligurian Sea. Savona is industrial, a busy port for tourism and trade, with refineries just inland. The coastal road winds around the cliffs, affording views of each bay and its sandy strip before you arrive in the little village. We were staying in Bergeggi, which is tiny and mostly sprawled across the rising cliffs. Our hotel, Claudio was designed perfectly for its cliffside location. The rooms are all cool tiles with white fabrics and large balconies opening to the glorious, gently lapping bay.

taste the ocean

One of the highlights of the hotel is most definitely its restaurant, La Terraza, and going here for dinner was another amazing treat. La Terrazze is a large, red-tiled patio with white canopies billowing overhead, dwarf lemon trees between the tables, and flame torches over the balcony, lighting the gardens and the night sky. Really a bowl of peanuts here would be breathtaking. But La Terraza has a photo 5Michelin star (wow wow wow) so Nad wanted to taste the sugar and we had the set pesce crudo menu, which means raw fish. Here it comes… glasses of Prosecco, beautiful bread selection, amuse-bouche of a little, intensely flavoured soup. Local white wine, oysters and clams. The oysters were huge, hand sized, and creamy, ocean heaven. I wasn’t sure about the clams, I forfeited mine for more oysters :) A beautifully presented fish trio: two white fish, and salmon, each delicately slithered and flavoured differently, I remember something like candied lime, and another that was definitely dill. An ice bed with raw crustacean: little crayfish, large red prawns, smaller grey prawns, opened sea urchins containing a musky, dark fish paste. Accompanied with lightly toasted brioche and a selection of flavoured oils and different salts. The crayfish and the fish paste were sensational, the black salt was unbelievably tasty. Another local white wine, this one a Sauvignon Blanc I think. Solid glass plates with tuna tartare and slightly seared tuna in poppy seeds that just melted. A tiny lobster bisque which was fantastically fragrant and rich. Moscato, and a gorgeous selection of petite fours. And finally, local lemon desserts with citrus salsa, candied lemons and espresso. I have run out of words. It was The Best.
What could you possibly follow that with?? The only thing that makes sense to us… chasing around town for half pints of gin and dance music.

taste the ocean pt ii

Next day had a slow start, protracted by watching the first Lions test match in the hotel lobby, and then we struck out on the same coastal road. We were heading for Spotorno a totally charming village that had previously only existed in my imagination. There were boldly coloured, salt-air fed azaleas pouring over stone walls onto the little walkways, children running around with ice creamy mouths, fountains in tiny plazas, and the sound of the sea washing up the alley ways between the shuttered apartment buildings. The water had only the shock of the wet, not the cold, it was beautifully clear and delicious. Another 1950s nod: there were diving platforms that you could swim to and flummox on, looking back at the beach, the pale coloured buildings and the hills rising behind. It doesn’t get much better than this, unless you know the guy who owns a little bar on one of the plazas and wants you try his brew and toasted paninis (Nad does).

The Concert

Our drive back from the beach was good and fun, and we listened to a lot of Muse because we were going to their concert tonight, woo! I was mental excited about this because I’ve liked Muse for a while. I remember seeing them play at a pretty rubbish student venue in Nottingham around 2000. They were awesome then, and I also remember after that making sure I got the first release of their singles when their label rep came to our student radio. Don’t know much about them, just really like their music.

So, anyway, I was excited, and consequently a bit twitchy about are we definitely gonna get there on time, I really don’t wanna miss anything, and so on, giving Nad a right headache. We were already cutting it fine when Nad decided we should have dinner out… aargh, one of my favourite Turin restaurants… some of the most Italian yummy food… cracking house red… but aargh what about Muse, were they gonna wait for us?!? Well, as it happened, yes. We scurried into the venue (well, I scurried, Nad sort of ambled), grabbed a beer (calm the nerves), found out we could get right to the front with our floor tickets, and then they started.

proper good

It was the best opening to a concert I have ever, ever seen. They destroyed the place with their first few bars, it was unreal. The set was also the best I have ever, ever seen, it kept lighting up differently, opening up different parts and it was all smart, clever, creative. Here’s my best outline of the set list and what was happening on the clever stage. And here’s a link to the Muse channel on YouTube so you can listen at the same time. (I can’t give you Spotify because I listened to it so much on freebie they blocked me. How sad.)

photo 2

  • They opened with Supremacy and had chimneys of fire shooting into the night sky, making perfect smoke rings. The whole stadium went totally bonkers.
  • I think Resistance was when the whole of the back of the stage was lit so it looked like a network of pipes with liquid running through. It was incredible how much the lighting changed the atmosphere, and I realise this is the point, but it matched the music brilliantly.
  • Supermassive Black Hole, may or may not have been when the robot was on stage. There was a giant robot that walked all around, moving his arms and doing robot faces. Was funny.
  • I’ve always understood that Muse are a bit political but I’ve never paid a lot of attention. Well they made their point. During Panic Station they had a video of cartoons dancing, it was cool, giant lizards in suits doing line dancing. Then… hang on… is that… it’s Barack Obama in a stars’n’stripes suit line dancing. A ha ha. He was joined by Merkel and then Berlusconi in a bright yellow. The stadium lost it, people boo-ing and throwing the finger.
  • Then, when they played Animal (“bend more rules, and buy yourself an island”) there was a black and white video of stereotypical fat cats, getting more and more intense, then the guy who’d been in the video came walking on stage, going all ‘buy buy, sell sell’ and chucking fake money into the crowd. He walked down the catwalk, chucking heaps of the money and then they started spraying it through hoses onto the crowd – it was brilliant – then, somehow, he was shot and ended up on the floor.
  • There was a part with a grand piano at the front of the stage and they did some of the quieter songs: Explorers, and Unintended.
  • I think Sunburn was when they had a girl on stage being like a secretary, and then she went mental and stomped over the stage to drink from a petrol pump. Ok.
  • During Uprising Matt (lead singer) was on our side of the stage, and we were so close to the front that we were really close to him. They did some clever thing where there were hundreds of little Matts on the screen behind, pre-recorded maybe, I don’t know because they seemed to be doing the same movements. He was wearing a red leather jacket so it looked really cool.
  • We’d gone to the back of the crowd (I really had to wee!) when they played Madness. It was fun back here, everyone was properly dancing and singing it out. Nad and I are too shy to do that, so we just watched.
  • photo 4-2They saved Survival – the theme of the 2012 Games – until close to the end. I remember we were talking about “how many hits can they possible have left.?!”, and then they kicked this in. We had to laugh.
  • I can’t remember what was happening in Muscle Museum, Plug In Baby, Undisclosed Desires or Starlight, but I know I heard them.
  • And I had to have a little Google to work this one out but when they played Guiding Light was when a giant lightbulb came out floating over the top of the audience, strange and cool.

After dancing, singing, stomping our way through the whole thing we hit up Turin’s brilliant bar scene for a truck load of beers and Sambuca. Blurgh.

The Mountains

Best treat I could have right now is about four hours more sleep, two litres of water and a mega carb breakfast. So, Nad got me up, gave me a protein shake and said “we’re on the road” in twenty minutes. We had to negotiate.

mountaineering pt i

We negotiated and left a few hours later. The drive up into the mountains from Aosta was gorgeous. I thought I was going to vomit the whole way but it was still gorgeous. The little town of Cogne is perfect, an absolutely delightful, charming little 097place – another one like Spotorno, that I thought only existed in novels or dreams.
Past Cogne we stopped at a tiny hamlet with a huge car park (!), sorted all our stuff, had a quick but delicious and filling lunch, and started our walk to the mountain refuge where we would be spending the night.
It was really really pretty: the river comes rushing down from the mountains, the tiny meadow flowers are bold bold colours, the pine trees scent the woods. But bloody hell, we’d done five minutes and we were buggered. The climb was constant; the path taking us up through the woods, through the pine trees with their wonderful scent, and their needles making a reliably cushioned footfall. When we got to a break in the woods and crossed the waterfall it was really refreshing and wonderful but after that the walk got steeper, more stone – less dirt, and it started to open out, leaving the tree line behind and putting us in full exposure to the sun. We stopped for a break when we reached some huts and the view was stunning. The river – from the waterfall we’d crossed earlier – was pounding beside us, and now we were high up we had an incredible view over the valley. All around, the colours were spectacular: the shades of the mountains across from us with the sparkle and shimmer of snow and ice, and the different greens of the trees and grasses close by. When we continued walking we were super lucky to come across a moose or elk or something. It was the first wildlife that we saw really up close on this trip and it was totally cool.
After that we climbed, we climbed, we climbed. There was this tiniest bit of downhill but then we crossed the river and had to climb, climb, climb again. This part of the walk was quite challenging because we could see all the switchbacks, but we did also see a lot of wildlife (it was dusky by now), including our first fluffy marmot. When we finally got to the top of this enormous switchback section we treated ourselves to a Big Sit Down with protein bar snacks and good pep talks between the two of us. We were doing well, that’s right. And then when we stood up the mountain refuge was less than 200 steps away. Good stuff.

refugio

Since they had a bar, we had a beer outside and then went in to sort stuff out. The refuge comprised several buildings: 231a main building with the communal dining area and kitchen downstairs, and rooms plus toilets upstairs, another building with the showers and what looked like, dorms or extra rooms, and the bar. It was basic but ideal.
We squeezed in a quick shower and went to the communal bit for dinner. The food was awesome. Nad had minestrone soup (like a whole tureen), pork and then a vanilla pudding. I had tomato spaghetti (makes me so happy), some of Nad’s minestrone, leek quiche with salad and then chocolate pudding. Plus a bottle of local red. We were now dead and bunk beds or not were about to have the best sleep on earth.

mountaineering pt ii

The next day we had a quick breakfast, grabbed our packed lunch bags, tied our laces all tight and went off for a Giant Walk. It turned out to be even more giant than we had anticipated. Ten hours later we got back to that mountain refuge, and we’d had to scale two Alpine mountains (3400m), 200cross snow and ice fields, scramble across boulders, walk through waterfalls, and rock climb across cliff faces where the path had crumbled away. I cannot strongly recommend enough that if you ever come walking here or somewhere similar that you brush up your map reading skills and seek more than one opinion from a local. There were some wonderful views, we saw a lot of wildlife and the packed lunch was yummy, but it was a really difficult day of hard, long walking and we were very glad to get back to the refuge and beers and bunkbeds.

We were stiff and sunburned and tired when we woke up the next day, and we weren’t hugely enthusiastic about the walk back down to the car. Fortunately it was overcast and a bit cooler when we set out and, of course, all downhill so we just cracked on and two hours later I was hugging the car with joy. The clouds had disappeared and the landscape was beautiful. We kept looking up at the mountains and saying “we were up there!”, it was bonkers, and a bit scary.
We found somewhere for a nice pasta lunch in Aosta and then legged it back to Turin to catch our flight.

That’s a lot of things in one weekend isn’t it. Awesome. Treat heaven!

Gallery

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the mountains
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2 Comments »

  • lucyjjames » Blog Archive » Locanda del Pilone said:

    […] snow-laden forest setting, gorgeous warm European flavours. The second was on the coast in Liguria. Fresh seafood by the seaside. Nobu for work, and then here, by accident on a relaxed Sunday […]

  • lucyjjames » Blog Archive » Bergeggi & Spotorno said:

    […] hill with great views over the sea. Funny enough Nad and I stayed at the residence’s hotel last year and had an ace time but we hadn’t realised that we were heading for the exact same place. […]

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