We have just returned from another adventure filled with many "firsts". We traveled by train from San Remo to Torino by way of Cuneo following the same path as we did by car the previous week. This time John was able to see all of the magnificent views. Honestly we were a bit nervous.....we really weren't exactly sure that we were on the right train. We bought first class tickets but couldn't find the first class cars....so we made ourselves comfortable in second class. As usual our ears were open and listening to the many conversations around us....qui....blah,blah blah.....qua....blah etc. We watched....we listened....and both words seemed to be used quite frequently. And so, as usual we looked in our well worn Italian/English dictionary.....alora! They both mean ...here....umm. Very interesting.. we were determined to get to the bottom of this conundrum. We spent the weekend with two lovely families, old, dear friends from my childhood...exchange students from my teen years. They are both soulmates actually, you know those very special friends, the kind of friends who after many years of separation, begin conversations as if you had just spoken yesterday. Both families wrapped their arms around us. How incredibly lucky we felt. Torino is a beautiful city with very historic, Baroque buildings as well as buildings built many centuries earlier....the original Roman gates. We toured the Veneria Reale, one of the thirteen palaces built by the Savoy kings. This one was a palace outside of Torino used for hunting and enjoying the country life. It was astounding to see the beauty of the construction, the rooms, the various apartments for visitors and royal family, all filled with important works of art but no furniture. There were several multi media performances showing the various characters and life at court. The formal gardens covered about 20 acres and at one time included a man made lake with an island and smaller palace dedicated to Diana. We had a completely different experience the following day when we visited Canelli, a small town south of Asti. My friend, Carla's father was born here in the early 1900s. Carla and Alberrto had arranged for us to visit a small, organic vineyard to meet some of their friends. This vineyard had been in their family since the 1700s. Three generations lived in a large cascina or farmhouse perched on a hillside overlooking the family vineyard. Papa and Mama in their 80s, still active participants in the making of wine. They had just finished havesting all of the grapes. Everyone pitched in to help, along with 14 Bulgarian harvesters. This family makes three different kinds of wines, Barbera which is a wonderful red table wine, Moscato which is a sweet, bubbly after dinner wine and a blend of whites(i can't remember the name). The next generation is taking on the work now, a daughter and son both in their 40s. They travel all over Europe and the US selling their wines. They just won a prestigious Italian Slow Food award for their Moscato. The family works side by side to produce the wine, get the children to school, cook, take care of the land, bottle and sell the wine etc. We had a lovely time touring the vineyard and wine making rooms, lingering over a delightful lunch all afternoon and of course tasting their wines.
Carla and Alberto passed us on to the next family and the adventure continued. Fabrizio and his lovely family live on the very same street where he lived a a boy. It runs parallel to the Po River and is quite close to the centro citta....center of the city. He is a wealth of historical and factual information about art, artists, important battles, ruling families, and an amazing sense of the flow of time over many centuries. He has a wonderful sense of humor and adventure. After all, here is a man who as a boy spent an entire summer living with my family.....6 wild children and 2 busy parents. And he lived to tell about it... Here is also a couple who spent their honeymoon driving from California to Massachusetts. Both daughters speak several languages fluently and have lived in various countries. We had lovely and relaxed conversations and deliciously simple meals around their kitchen table. They were all consumate and gentle teachers....helping us with several phrases and finally solving the mystery of qui and ......qua. When we asked the difference, they looked at each other in surprise and said....no difference at all.