Friday, 22 February 2013

Four Nights in Turin

As regular readers of this blog will know, last weekend I embarked on a short weekend break to Turin, with the intention of trying to end my eight year wait to witness a Granata victory. However, as this trip was my first ever 'solo' holiday, it was also an opportunity to explore a city that could one day be my home.

Despite living in the centre of England - twenty minutes away from one of the biggest airports in the country - it is impossible to fly direct to Turin from Birmingham Airport, and therefore my day started extremely early in the morning as I had to fly first to Frankfurt, and then on to Turin.

In spite of my lack of sleep, I dropped my bags off at the excellent 'Hotel Diplomatic' (a hotel I can thoroughly recommend for anyone planning a visit) near to Porta Susa train station and went off in order to purchase my ticket for the match on Sunday.

In the evening, I met up for a couple of beers with Steve Rose, again someone who regular readers of the blog will recognise for his excellent 'Maratona and Elsewhere' column. Our conversation was an almost surreal experience, as two English men stood at a bar in the centre of Turin, but had numerous conversations about Torino - including whether Danilo D'Ambrosio's suspension could effect Alessio Cerci's effectiveness against Atalanta (I don't want to give any spoilers away at this early stage, but it didn't).

The locals also seemed to be bemused by this, and we were twice interrupted by two somewhat inebriated gentlemen who looked to be delighted to have the opportunity to speak English with genuine English people. After I was beginning to feel the effects of the two beers (I told myself this was due to the lack of food and sleep, because the alternative is that I am the biggest lightweight in the world) so I said my goodbyes to Steve, and that we would meet up again at the Maratona on Sunday afternoon.

On Friday morning I made another trip to the Stadio Olimpico in order to visit the Museo Dello Sport, that I believe was only opened in November. The entry price of €14 granted me entry to the museum - that had exhibits from all across the Italian sporting scene - and also allowed me to tour the stadium. I have been on a number of stadium tours before (most notably at the San Siro), but this tour was made to feel much more personal as it was just myself and the tour guide. 

Therefore whilst the tour was much shorter than others I have been on, it meant that only the essential areas of the stadium were covered (at the Eintracht Frankfurt stadium tour, we were forced into seeing the car parks of both the players and the officials for some strange reason). When walking round the stadium, the tour guide (I unfortunately never found out her name) mentioned that she had taken another English Torino fan around the Olimpico a few of weeks ago. As fate would have it, just before leaving the stadium I bumped into that fan - Christopher Peet, a retired Granata fan from Stafford who travelled over from England for every Torino home game.

Tour Guide, Christopher, and Myself.
In the evening I visited the Gigi Meroni monument on Corso Re Umberto, and whilst I had seen it from a distance on past visits to the city, this was the first chance I had an opportunity to see it up close and pay my respects. For those that don't know, Meroni was a skillful winger who was tragically killed in a road accident in 1967 by Attilio Romero, a man who later became Torino president in the year 2000. Meroni was only 24 years old.

On Saturday I made another visit to the Basilica of Superga, a location most famous for being where the plane carrying the illustrious 'Il Grande Torino' team crashed in 1949. Although I have visited Superga before, it really is a 'must-do' for any Torino fan in order to really comprehend the emotional impact of this tragedy.
Despite originally intending to visit the 'Mole Antonelliana' in the afternoon, the one hour queue meant that this was postponed until later in the evening. After entering a lift that resembles the one from the film 'Charlie and the Chocolate Factory' the city of Turin looks truly remarkable from 548 feet, and the first word that came out my mouth when I exited the lifted was 'wow', because the view is truly breathtaking - especially at night.

Sunday was a day of mixed emotions for me, because whilst I was excited about attending the Torino-Atalanta match, I was also a little sad that this would be my last full day in the city. I arrived at the stadium early in order to visit the merchandise stands, and after purchasing my Maratona scarf, and consuming a Salsiccia (I'm still not 100% percent certain what this is, but I believe it is some type of sausage) I entered the stadium about an hour before kick off.

Whilst I have twice attended Torino matches at the Stadio Olimpico, this was my debut in the Curva Maratona - and despite initially having reservations regarding the type of view I could expect, the atmosphere (and view) was even better than I had hoped. It also enabled my to join in with one of the most famous traditions at Italian stadia, where the announcer shouts out the first name of the each player in the starting line up, and in unison, the fans shout his surname. Whilst this has been attempted to be replicated in English stadiums, it doesn't really work - so therefore even before the match had started, it was great to partake in this tradition.

 The match itself wasn't a classic - and in all honesty this was probably a good thing - because at times it was difficult to simultaneously watch what the ultras at the front of the stand were doing (one of whom looked suspiciously like Vincenzo Iaquinta) and also keep an eye on what was happening on the pitch. Therefore had it have been an entertaining end-to-end encounter, it would have been even more impossible. Thanks to Steve's translations, I attempted to join in with the singing as much as possible, although to be honest, I usually just started singing any song that included the words 'Gobbi'  'Merda' and 'Vaffanculo', not only because I knew what they meant, but also because they were also quite fun to shout at the top of my voice.

On the pitch, Torino finally got a deserved breakthrough just before half time, as Alessio Cerci magnificently finished off a clinical counter attack. Despite continuing to dominate, fifteen minutes before full time, Atalanta equalised through German Denis' penalty. Although at the time I was convinced that Jean-Francois Gillet had not made contact with Marko Livaja, replays would later show that the Croatian striker had been touched, and that the referee had made the correct decision.

In the dying moments, when I had almost given up hope of ending my trip by witnessing a Torino victory - Matteo Darmian delivered a cross from the right hand side, Jonathas went for the ball and got absolutely nowhere near it, but it fell to fellow substitute Valter Birsa who calmly volleyed into the net. Like everyone else around me, I went ballistic, and started hugging people who two hours previously had been total strangers - but at that moment in time, it seemed to be the only way to react.

So finally I was able to see Torino actually win a match, and also end any lingering doubts that there may have been that I was actually jinxing my adopted team. I was also able to witness another tradition of the Italian game, as the players gathered together and saluted the fans who had supported them for the ninety minutes.

So there you have it, a rather long winded account of my four night trip to Turin, and one that I will certainly be repeating in the future. I'd like to take this opportunity to thank everybody who I encountered on my trip (there are far too many to name) and who helped make it such a memorable trip. 

Forza Vecchio Cuore Granata!

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