Rivoli (Part 2): The Castle, a surprise gift and the end of 2001 Space Odyssey.

The self-induced pressure lifted as soon as the hotel receptionist told me that Rivoli’s Castle was just beyond where I had already walked last night. All I had to do was return to the town centre and walk up the old cobbled street.

https://www.castellodirivoli.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/02/esterno_1.jpg

 The August morning sun was not as vicious as I feared and although the ascent was hot, I did much of it in the shadows of the medieval buildings. I reached the top of the town in about 17 minutes. The Castello of Rivoli dominates the area and the peak of the town steps was no more than 200 metres, through a tree shaded area, to the entrance arch of the castle. I do like historic architecture, but find it difficult to remember styles dates and facts. The smallish red bricks looked Roman but according to Wikipedia (as you can see, I have not researched in depth) it was probably built after 800 AD. I can only assume they either used old Roman bricks or copied that style. Either way, the smell of history was evident both outside and inside the castle. Interior rough brickwork rose high in the entrance hall while blue and green coloured spot lights picked out atmospheric defects.

In exchange for 8.50 Euros, the woman behind the desk handed over my entrance ticket, ‘un momento’ (hold on) she said while reaching down and handed me a mug –sized box; ‘Un regalo’ (a gift). I was delighted and thanked her. With a grin she told my inner child to open it later. I was so excited that I couldn’t wait and leaning/balancing my stuff on a bend in the bannister, I opened it and found a mug. It’s a wonderful souvenir and a reminder that moments of pleasure can come from small things.

Opting to work my way from the top floor downwards, I took the lift to a very long narrow room under the cantilevered roof. The temporary exhibition was called The City of Broken Windows by Hito Steyerl

Given this is a contemporary art venue, I knew I would be seeing ‘strange’ works and was not disappointed when I entered the room to loud repeating glass smashing noises. The screen by the entrance showed various engineers clad in space suits wielding industrial hammers and hefting them into double glazed panes. It looked like a lot of fun. The 150 metres long wall bore a single line of free form ‘poetry’. Despite the post-apocalyptic tone, I was buoyed by the mixed media of sound, video, word and use of natural light in an impressive setting. Whatever the message was meant to be, I enjoyed it.

https://www.castellodirivoli.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/Screen-Shot-2018-11-23-at-1.54.19-PM-682x1024.png
Rivoli side street by day.

Although the rest of the exhibition was fascinating, there were a couple of horrible exhibits. One was a life size model of a child sitting at a desk facing a bay window and when you walk around to see her face it’s an awful skeletal vision of death. Another gross item, and I’m told that all the school children of Turin remember this one, is a stuffed horse suspended by its belly from the ceiling. What, I asked myself was the point?

As the end of my visit approached, I made my way towards the exit and found myself, as can be seen in the pictures in a scene from 2001 A Space Odyssey.

A room of human size geometrical shapes lead me through to THE MONOLITH. It felt like a nightmare coming to life as it immediately brought to mind a repetitive dream I had as a child whereby I was forced to build a giant object in a small room with no materials or tools and very limited time.

Fortunately the daytime atmosphere in the castle is uplifting and the windows allow in so much natural light that along with the Piemontese Royal interior décor, there is no gloom.

I’m no giant, but this is …

The visit was brief yet worthwhile and I plan to return to see what other modern day artists are up to.

Where movie dreams become reality

Rivoli Part 1: Cobbles, balconies and Aperol Spritz.

Rivoli has intrigued me for over 25 years. Having frequently travelled the westbound road from Torino in North Western Italy to the French border at Montgenèvre, I had always noted the castle on the hill to the left and wondered why nobody had ever suggested a detour there.

I was watching a TV programme about contemporary artist Olafur Eliasson (Miracles of Rare Device https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/m00077pm) and my ears pricked up when they showed a brief interview with Marcella Beccaria, the Chief Curator and Curator of Collections at Castello di Rivoli Museo d’Arte Contemporanea. At once I knew that the castle was not another rural location trying to trap a few tourists, but in fact an internationally known and credible centre of present day art. The lot was cast; I was going there no matter what.

My plane landed in the early August heat. As the passengers walked across the baked 16.30 tarmac, the involuntary inhalation of fuel and tar assaulted my nostrils. I half expected to see some form of vapour but the fumes remained invisible and I stepped with relief through the automatic doors towards the air conditioned indoors and passport control.

Reunited with my luggage, I drove the hire car towards the tangenziale (ring road) and the zone where the sun would eventually be setting.

The first opportunity to tick a longstanding box presented itself in the form of a road sign; ‘Juventus Stadium’. Although I had long since lost interest in the antics of a football club that cheated by doping its players and dodgy financial dealings, I was so enjoying my free time that I knew a detour could be worthwhile. It was entirely on route and as I was only driving 26 Km that evening, I had no obligations to fear being late for. Time, precious time was my own and I was free.

After veering off the main road I followed a winding supermarket style car park track to the stadium and parked in a side road by J Medical, the club’s health centre. The area was easily accessed and the largeness of the low white and wide structure was counterbalanced by the lack of people and traffic around it. Perfection; no cars and no people. I locked the car, ensuring nothing of value was on view, and walked to the stadium entrance. At this point about 20 people reappeared from the main door. Dressed in a variety of soccer jerseys (mainly the 2 big Spanish teams) they spilled onto the concourse having completed the last stadium tour of the day. As the tours were over, I opted to look around the club store instead. I’m not averse to collecting football shirts but €100+ for the 2019-2020 home team shirt with ‘Ronaldo’ across the shoulders caused me to sound my derision aloud with an uncontrolled snort. Rolling my eyes and tutting, I returned to my car.

I arrived at the Hotel Rivoli soon after. The property was easy to find as it is between the motorway and the historic town. It’s a large red brick structure set within an impressive car and coach park. I’ve worked in tourism all my career and do not have a problem with big utilitarian places so long as they function properly. This property was fine. The receptionist knew my name before I told him who I was. This impressed me because it showed he had invested time in looking at the arrivals list. He even spoke to me in English which was not something I particularly wanted (I like to assume a full Italian identity when I’m there) but again this showed he was interested in the guests and keen to communicate. My room was simple but fine. The window offered a long view of the Alps and the Piemontese countryside. Nearer the hotel I could see the gardens were tidy and surprisingly green. To the side, a small water park with its bold red, blue and yellow slides demonstrated that greater Rivoli offers more than just a convenient stop-off place but family activities too.

Armed with a map (Millennials NB, it’s a paper version of Google Maps and paper is what people used to write on before we had screens). I walked out of the hotel’s rear gate and ambled for 2 km to Rivoli’s centre. The route was quiet and safe. I passed playgrounds, a closed-for-summer school and an imposing Jehova’s witness centre. As I approached the central zone I found myself walking past very normal Italian post-war apartment blocks. The street level was occupied by all the usual suspects; bakers, butchers, green grocers and more than enough hairdressers and a barber’s shop. The buildings may have been standard fair, but their balconies intrigued me. Some of the wrought metal looked like 1960’s pin people doing a square dance while others curled where they could in an effort to add baroque to the utilitarian structure.

Much of the town was closed or closing for the mid-summer week and as I arrived in Piazza Martiri Della Libertà, I could see that it was a lively community focal point at any other time during the year but this. Having worked up a thirst, I knew beyond doubt that I had earned a drink. The Caffè Consueto (https://www.facebook.com/pg/Caff%C3%A8-Consueto-1397695793595899/about/?ref=page_internal)

occupies the corner of the square. Its glass front and side allowed internal movements to be seen from the exterior. From across the square I could see pastries, triple layered tramezzini (sandwiches) and an array of coloured bottles upright on the tiered glass shelving. I sat at a small table on the outside without a firm idea of what I wanted until the server suggested an Aperol Spritz. I accepted immediately. Now I know it has become a bit too popular in recent years and does not make the imbiber look particularly sophisticated, but the A.S. is a marvellous aperitivo designed to be taken BEFORE dining. Its flavours blend to stimulate appetite. It is culturally and morally wrong to consume it after dinner. The kind of thing a tourist would do. This rather large drink was certainly ‘pre’, my as yet unplanned dinner and therefore acceptable and besides, the three middle aged women on the next table were sipping Aperol too so I drank mine knowing I didn’t appear to be a foreigner. What did make me look like an out-of-towner however, was the surprise on my face when the waitress brought me a platter of food. I had expected some crisps or bread sticks, but the selection of meats, cheese and pizza brought about a childlike delight. When the €8 bill came, I was just sober enough (I’m not a big drinker) to calculate that I could comfortably and economically live in this bar. I left a €10 note on the table and swanned off feeling magnanimous albeit slightly wobbly.

I was sated and relaxed and ready for my Castle adventure the next day.