I’ve been in Torino for just over a month now, I only just made it out of the city last weekend. I mean I am starting to have some semblance of a life here so some weekends I do have chores and other things that make for really unexciting blog postings. Next time, I’ll write about my trip to the grocery store. How about that?
The pull of the mountains was too much and I decided that our newest weekend adventure was to trek (okay…get the train) into those not so distant hills and have a mooch around. Yes, those are the words of all great adventurers…have a mooch around. Look it up. It’s history……or something. After looking through the trusty Lonely Planet for towns day trip length away, I chose Aosta. The constantly mispronounced by mumbling English speakers- Ah-osta not Eh-osta. You know us Canadians, getting our ‘ehs’ all up in everyone’s business.
The train ride up is almost worth as much as the town itself, the sun shines off the snow cap as the train winds it’s way around the bases of the mountains. Small villages, single houses and the odd ruined castle perch on the sides of hills. It’s really hard to take it all in and try to have a conversation with your friends at the same time. I’ve realised that this is why I mostly travel solo. Who needs conversation when you have views. Does this make me unsociable? I tried my well practiced hockey watching trick of talking to people while not actually looking at them but my news friends are not as well acquainted with this lack of eye contact as my Island friends as and I think it got awkward.
As far as I am aware there isn’t a direct train from Torino to Aosta so you are required to change in Ivera. The Ivera-Aosta train is waiting on the same platform making the five minutes connection time just enough to catch it. I have no idea about Ivera as a town but the train station was kind of unremarkable. When we reached Aosta we didn’t really have much of a plan of what what we wanted to do or see so we chose just to wander; thankfully there are handy picture signposts pointing out the sights of the town. Before we walked around, we needed lunch. No one likes to sight see when they are hungry, am I right? The trip up until this point had gone without a hitch but because it’s Italy I’m pretty sure it’s mandatory that there IS a hitch in your plan. We’d left Torino later in the afternoon so after a 2 hour train ride we had arrived in Aosta in those magic hours between lunch and dinner where everything is shut. We found one place that was open and was serving food so it was that or nothing. I’m really glad that we chose this place because it really adds to the story. We sat down at the table and the (I’m assuming) owner came over to take our orders. I asked for fizzy water to which I received the reply “We don’t use plastic here. We have real clean water to drink from the tap so I can give you that”. Excuse me?! You don’t use plastic. And you are offering me tap water!! Am I still in Italy or have I been somehow transported back to BC? After he served us our sandwiches, he gave us a sales pitch about his cafe and how they are free-trade and work in cooperation with a charity who grows food on lands taken from the Mafia. It’s a good cause and had our sandwiches not been the most expensive things I have ever eaten I might have been more inclined to peruse his wears. But charging 6 euro for a Piadina (which is basically a tortilla and some cheese in it) seems a little extortionate. I bet the Mafia was behind it.
The town of Aosta has an interesting history. It was a Roman colony during the times of the empire and the layout has a Roman feel to it. Straght roads, flush corners. It was a very important militaristic site because of the location in the Alps. A lot of the Roman buildings can still be seen in the town but they seem blocked from public access. Although that might be because we got to town so late and they had all shut for the day. There is a pretty impressive theatre, ancient walls and gates to the city with a pretty spectacular mountain backdrop.
Another hitch was that we went on the Saturday before Palm Sunday, a day on which people go to church apparently, so a lot of the churches in Aosta were actually being used for services and we didn’t feel right wandering in an taking pictures.
Again this being Italy, it would be right if something completely random didn’t happen so here goes; we were standing on the side of the road trying to make up our mind to wander a bit more or to head back to the train station when an truck pulls up in front of us, the driver gets out, closes the door and begins to walk away. Suddenly the car horn beeps and it won’t stop, we turn expecting to see a child or an angry wife but alas it’s the man’s dog. The dog has jumped up with his paws on the steering wheel to see where his buddy is going and won’t get off. The horn was going off for about 15-20 seconds as the owner decided what to do – continue on or go back and stop the dog. With many towns people and tourists standing around gawping and chuckling about the dog, he decided to go and stop the dog but every time he shut the door the dog would jump back up on the steering wheel. Admitting defeat, he hung his head in shame, got into the car and drove away. Now, I have a feeling that this is one of those moments which is incredibly entertaining for me to remember but you totally had to be there for it to be as funny as it was for me.
I really enjoyed Aosta and I imagine that I would have enjoyed it even more in the daytime when things were open. I think it would be worth another trip up in the summer to see how the other season lives.
Peace K xxx