Gap Semester

The Clouds of Turin

A few impressions of Torino from my trusty journal, like scattered clouds dotting the sky. {I’m trying reeeeally hard for that pun…}


…and the window in which I’m currently perched overlooks a small square featuring a statue of some scholarly-looking, downcast Roman. Snippets of conversation in rapid-fire Italian drift upwards on the hot air as passers-by stroll along the wide stone flagstones three stories below. The occasional car putters along through the (relatively wide) intersection behind the weary Roman. Bats chirp, swooping through the evening air as a cool breeze flips the pages of my journal. Across the way, an elderly Italian lady briefly appears on her balcony to water her flower boxes with an old metal watering can. Below her, a hunter-green a Fiat nudges the bumper of the car before as the driver attempts to squeeze into an impossibly minuscule space.

Suddenly, cries of “Ciao, ciao!” fill the air as four bambini clamber onto the base of the statue, jostling shoulder-to-shoulder, oblivious to the stern gaze of its verdigris-covered, larger-than-life occupant. As their mothers chastise them and coax the four miscreants down, their joyous laughter floats up to my little nook. They disperse in pairs, holding hands and dashing on to the next escapade, small faces alight with elvin glee as their mothers cluck after them in chic heels.

Their voices fade into the distance, then are drowned out by a motorcycle zipping by. The scent of diesel mingles with those of cigarette smoke and pizza. A bit past nine, streetlights flicker on as the last of the daylight fades and the evening air finally cools. A shutter slams closed. Church bells toll in the distance, their clamouring announcing the half hour. At the end of a boulevard lined with elaborate stone façades, an anonymous mountain peak is just visible in the distance, a reminder of the natural beauty of this country…

{written sitting in the window of our apartemento overlooking Piazza Giuseppe Mazzini}


 …but this city urges creativity; words ooze from underneath cobblestones, whisper from velvet-cushioned literary caffès, drip from sheets drying on ornate balcony railings, bubble up from yellow pools of light cast by street lamps in the wide piazzas…

{written while sitting at a ristorante in one of the aforementioned piazzas}

writing on the rooftop
writing on the rooftop
 …that mystical pre-dawn time when even the sun has yet to rise, and the few souls conscious share an immediate yet tenuous connection, one easily severed in the full light of day. A sleepy dog watched with a semblance of alertness as I scrambled onto a stucco roof and nestled behind a grimy chimney stack, and is now dozing off, occasionally staring seriously into my eyes whenever we make eye contact. I am faced with the rather bohemian view of red-tiled rooftops below me, bedecked with greenery and weathered wooden shutters. A single sheer yellow curtain hangs lazily out of a window, and a brick bell tower appears less imposing from this angle.
As the morning approaches the more mundane hour of half past six, signs of human activity become more evident: a car motors through a narrow Italian street somewhere below me, then another. A woman in a faded pink dressing gown appears on a second story balcony and pulls a white sheet from the uppermost frame of the door over a wood-and-string contraption angled out over the railing, forming a sort of awning. With the approaching heat deterred to her satisfaction, she shoots me a glance and withdraws within her home. The clattering of pots and pans emanates briefly from behind the white sheet, then all is still once more…

{written on the red-tiled rooftops of Torino}

Bicerin at the Caffè Dei Fratelli Fiorio
Bicerin at the Caffè Dei Fratelli Fiorio

 …the rich red velvet and elegant mahogany legs of the furniture whisper of late-night talk of rebellion under the cover of a cloud of smoke from gas lamps. Rumors of reunification and condemnations of corrupt city-states, hearty Italian voices unusually hushed – ghosts filtering amongst the heavy round marble tables and waiters sporting impossibly crisp white shirts and bicerin as heavy and rich as the drapes…

{written in the Caffè Dei Fratelli Fiorio, one of the famous literary cafés of Turin, where coffee and rebellion were commonly served hot.}

Torino is home to the Muzea Egizia, the largest Egyptian museum in the world outside of Cairo
Torino is home to the Muzea Egizia, the largest Egyptian museum in the world outside of Cairo
I have a feeling I’ll return to Torino some day – but for now, on to la France!



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