Venaria Reale/Mole Antonelliana – Piedmont, Italy
April 28, 2009
Tired feet and hunger pangs. That’s what we get for trying to squeeze every last cent from our Piedmont/Torino card. This two-day pass gives us free access to almost all museums in Piedmont, so we devote this day to pure unadulterated sight-seeing. In the morning, we immerse ourselves in the history and lifestyle of the Savoy kings based on what can be gleaned from the Venaria Reale, one of their castles on the outskirts of Torino.
Affectionately called Little Versailles by the locals, the castle is surrounded by well-manicured lawns and symmetrically placed shrubbery that would please even the most obsessive compulsive.
Towards the mid-afternoon, we drive back to Torino and join a long queue of high school students waiting to get into the Mole Antonelliana, said to be the tallest museum in the world. Strangely, it reminds me of a shorter squatter version of the Empire State Building. Originally conceived as a synagogue in the late 1800’s, today it houses the Museo Nazionale del Cinema (National Museum of Cinema) which is really more a theme park than a museum. In the huge auditorium, red velvet recliners are spread out in front of two large screens playing black and white silent films from when Torino was the Hollywood of Italy. Movie buffs can revel in five floors of assorted film memorabilia from all eras, from Rodolfo Valentino posters to a life-size wookie. Those with more ambitious aspirations can step into stage set booths and see themselves on TV biking up the sky with ET or thrust into the Matrix lobby scene with Keanu and Carrie Ann. Be careful. The latter set also broadcasts your antics to a large screen outside for all to see.
So, what did we have for lunch during this jam-packed day? Half a grilled vegetable sandwich at the Venaria Reale cafeteria. We’re looking forward to dinner at Combal Zero.
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