The theme 'Treat yoself' was a big motivation for my trip. It was a 30th Bday treat to me, from me, to celebrate in my own way: by eating lots and lots of delicious foods.
Valentine's Day was my first full day in Turin, Italy, but I was pretty tired. I promised myself a relaxing day where I'd enjoy myself to the fullest. I started with a back massage and wax at a salon recommended by the landlord of the apartment I stayed in. The Italians (and the French too) really do know their stuff when it comes to beauty, and I admire the commitment to quality. Pretty much all of the products, even in discount stores, are high-quality, paraben-free, and natural. I spent hours in one in Lyon, mostly because I couldn't find a decently priced razor and shaving cream/gel anywhere. (I coulda kept it hairy, but for me it's a cleanliness thing. I just don't feel clean with a jungle under my arms.) I was amazed at 1. the lack of women's shaving products and 2. the quality of everything else and the decent prices. If I had brought an extra suitcase I would have stocked up on moisturizer and hair products.
The massage was lovely, and the wax was, as predicted, the most painless wax ever because the Italians know their shit. The day started off perfectly, and afterwards I headed to the Museo Egizio, the Egyptian Museum. It has about 30,000 artifacts, one of the largest collections of Egyptian artifacts in the world. I've always had a fascination with ancient Egypt, and it's the number one place I'd like to visit someday. This museum was interesting as it covered the conception of the museum itself and where the artifacts came from. I often wonder about this in museums. It was a massive collection; when I thought I had seen it all I discovered a huge room of tombs along with the stories of the deceased. Then there was a massive collection of Pharaonic statues. There are also three versions of the Book of the Dead. The place is absolutely huge.
Conveniently, a few doors down is Guido Gobino, a chocolate shop I needed to cross off my list. They're known for their hot chocolate, of course, and there was a long line on Valentine's Day to get your hands on anything. I got the original, even though the Giandujotto, aranciata and dark chocolate versions all sounded amazing. I tried a Giandujotto drop while I was waiting and it was wonderfully velvety and just sweet enough. I love hazelnuts so I was very happy to be in a region that produces the best hazelnuts, which are mostly used for sweets. I found out later that Gobino is renowned for his Giandujotto and has a laboratory dedicated to it. The chocolate hazelnut spread is found in most chocolate shops there, but I think he does the best version of it. Apparently he was granted "ambassador of Turin" status, along with 80 other Piedmont businesses, during the 2006 Olympics in Turin. He's simply one of the best chocolate craftsmen in the world.
The hot chocolate was transcendent; it was rich and thick but not too creamy. I enjoyed it outside under heat lamps while a violinist played nearby. It was a joyful Valentine's Day until one of the many flower salesmen who roam the streets (and come inside restaurants and cafes, too) started bothering me to buy a rose. I don't mind being alone, but I sure as hell am not buying myself a rose. I hate how aggressive these dudes are. He stood there begging me, just me, as everyone else was inside, for about five minutes. I yelled at him to get away so I could continue hearing the beautiful music.
What was there to do after that? The restaurant I wanted to eat at didn't open until 7:30. I took a quick stroll through Eataly and down the block, and a few extra minutes using Eataly's wifi. (Note: I was trying not to use 3G because Verizon had already charged me $25 for using it the first week. So a lot of time was spent hunting down wifi, which wasn't usually hard to find.) I settled on grabbing a cocktail nearby. Which of course meant I settled on sandwiches, as it was aperitivo hour.
It was Caffe San Carlo this time, right down the piazza from Caffe Torino. The service here wasn't as good, but I enjoyed a great Negroni and some small finger foods. I had my dinner destination all planned out with directions already saved in my phone.
But as the story often goes, I got lost on my way and ended up in the shady looking part of town, past the shady McDonald's I saw on the bus ride into town. I remember riding into Torino thinking it looked like downtown Philly or Pittsburgh circa 1988 (yes, haters, I remember the feeling of downtown 'burgh from my stroller. I didn't like it!) I had to turn around and re-evaluate my options. I had already spent about an hour searching for this restaurant that supposedly has some of the best wine in Turin.
My phone was dying from getting lost, so I stopped into an empty wine bar to charge. There was no way I was eating in a wine bar that had a total of two people in it on Valentine's Day. It was a salumeria and wine bar, so I just sat and had some wine while my phone charged. Another couple arrived a few minutes after. Then it came. The smell I'll never forget.
No this isn't another pleasant food story. A salty fart ripped its way through the salumeria, shocking my senses awake. My blame goes to 1 of the 2 people with plates of meat in front of them because, well, meats. They were the only ones eating. It was unbearable. When it didn't fade after a few minutes, I downed my wine, grabbed my phone and got up to pay immediately. I had to reclaim my Valentine's Day before that fart was the last thing I'd remember. (The other day I found some notes I must have written that night that said I had to go "escape the fort." I couldn't remember being stuck in a fort at any point. It took me a few minutes to realize that I was talking about escaping the "fart.")
After I paid I had a pleasant conversation with the waitress in French about how she either wants to live in France again or ideally live in the U.S. I suggested we exchange lives, but that's still TBD.
I attempted to wander a different way in hopes of finding the restaurant. It failed, but I did find some beautiful palace-type buildings which I later found out are museums. When there was no sign of the street I needed to turn down, I headed back to the central piazzas where I knew my way around. A slice of pizza would do. A nice crusty slice of pepperoni pizza was my epic Valentine's meal, ordered and paid for using plain old English, just like at home.