I have wanted to go to Torino for years but never made it there. It is one of the cities that came as a wonderful surprise, every day there was like unwrapping a big present.
I stayed at a small hotel in the university district. The receptionist had given me excellent directions over the phone, and the bus let me off a block from the hotel. I liked the street right away - bookstores, restaurants of all kinds, jewelry and artisan booths lining the streets. Torino is famous for coffee and chocolate. The hazelnut flavor, giandujia, was invented here, when there was a shortage of cocoa so someone had the brilliant idea to make a hazelnut paste and mix it with the chocolate they had. Lots of happy hour opportunities, and restaurants and takeaway shops with meal discounts for students with i.d. One place specialized in potatoes in every manifestation imagineable, another was a polenta shop (unfortunately closed while I was there). But my favorite was a little takeaway shop around the corner from my hotel specializing in - wait for it - polpette (meatballs). About a dozen kinds, everything from meats to veggie and cheese, vegan, you name it, and some sweet versions as well. There is a sign on the wall advising people to follow their dream. I thought about the modesty of the dream of a shop selling meatballs, and concluding that she succeeded brilliantly.
The Cinema Museum was a few blocks from my hotel as well, and the famous Egyptian Museum was nearby. A short walk in the other direction and I stumbled upon a huge piazza which was also a transportation hub for taxis, buses, and trams. This street, and several others, is lined with porticoes and colonnades similar to Bologna, punctuated by arches allowing access into side streets. It was a little disorienting to see a tram wind around a corner and disappear into an archway at first.
I paid a visit to the Castello, right in the middle of the city, and to the Roman ruins (not many in Torino) that are visible, including parts of the wall. The cathedral is across the street from the ruins, near the Castello and the Royal Museum. So it is a rather compact city for sightseeing.
My favorite excursion was to La Superga, the royal residence, church and tombs for the royal family. Relying on public transportation, I got to ride the old train up the hill to La Superga, which was the best part of the trip for me. Views from the garden over the city of Torino are stunning. There is a nature preserve on the other side of the residential complex. Some hardy souls hiked up the path instead of taking the train, it took them about an hour. The train itself is refurbished, but the tracks are from the 1800s and the carriage style is of the same period. The grade is rather steep in some places, and the track itself winds along the contour of the mountain.
After a few days in Torino, I went to Verbania, which really only exists in legal documents and on maps. Verbania is on Lago Maggiore, and it is the merging of several communities in the 1930s, the largest are Intra and Pallanza. The train station is between the two towns; I stayed in Intra at the Hotel Intra. Its entrance is through an arcade, so it is set back from the street a bit, and quiet. The bus stop is very close to the hotel, and the ferry port is a short walk away. I decided to visit Verbania because I liked the sound of it, and I wanted a couple of days on Lago Maggiore, before the last two legs of my summer travel.