The 2006 Turino Olympics -Getting There

Ok, in the last riveting missive I told you of my days leading up to my departure for the Olympics. Now for my actual trip to Torino.

I was travelling with my friend Barbara.  She too is in her 30s, no kids and wanting to take advantage of this time here in Italy to soak it all in.  With us, another friend, Mary and her 3 boys.  We took two cars and hopped the ferry from the Golfo Arancio to Livorno.  Now first off I was not aware of our intended arrival city… thinking Genoa was closer, I assumed we would ferry there.  Our plans were being coordinated during the Christmas and New Year's holidays.  Each of us was out of town at some point and the others took over the bookings and plannings.  As Barbara and Mary were driving I figured they would take care of the ferry reservations which require specific info about your car. 

 It appears that the trip to Genoa was much more expensive, so instead of a two hour trip to Torino, we had a 5 hour trip ahead of us… into the Alps… in February.  Sounds, interesting?  So we boarded the ferry on the evening of February 15th.  Had a bite to eat and went to our cabin to sleep.  This ferry was much smaller than the ones I have taken from Olbia, which made for a wild ride.  The seas were very rough, and it was rockin and rollin all night.  Barbara and I got real punchy and were like girls at a sleep over after a while, giggling and crackin jokes.  (which the kids, who were in the next cabin told us in the morning, kept them awake all night).  Mary slept like a baby… but she has three sons, I think it comes with the territory to block out anything and everything that doesn't imply death to catch some sleep.  But I digress…

 In the morning Barbara and I were hurting, tired, nauseous and feeling miserable.  We got off the ferry and started heading from Livorno (just south west of Florence) to Torino (in the north west of Italy).  We started off ok… just a few minor detours when we missed and exit or a turn off. In Italy this can be a test of faith to find your direction and or correct for an error.  Road signs are of course in Italian, and they are pretty vague,and often misleading.  Most major roads (autostrade) have a number assigned, just like home… but A26 may also have an E10 designation which may turn into E14 after a while… very few signs designate N, E, S or W… but rather give city names.  Then there are the ever wonderful circles which have four or five branches and the signs for each city are listed just at the turn off, so you must go around it 6 times to figure out which one you want.  More often you will find that the sign before the circle indicates the city you are looking for, but the signs in the circle don't include that city.  The reason for this is simply to screw with the tourists… I firmly believe this.  I am certain that their are hidden cameras at these circles which record us in our cars, pointing, looking up and down from maps, arguing, circling, circling and cursing our heads off, which are then played for the populous on a prime time tv show for all the Italians to laugh at the stupid Americans!! I am sure it is true.  Anyway… the other problem is that when you make a wrong turn, you may have to drive on an autostrade for miles and miles to find an exit, and then you must pray that it has another on entrance back to the autostrade or you will end up driving around the back roads until you find your way back on… here you will probably encounter more circles as well.  If you are not on the autostrade and need to turn around after realizing you took the wrong branch of a circle you will need ot drive for miles and miles to find a place to turn around.  The roads are narrow and windy so you can't just do a quick u-turn without risking your life, many of the places on the side of the road look big enough to turn in, but most of them are mud!! and we all know how well I have learned to stay out of the FANGO.

 After having to turn around and around and taking the wrong arm of the circle a few times, we figured out how to get to the town we were staying in.  But our directions were a bit cryptic, so we called the inn and got directions… and drove a bit, and called and got directions, and drove a bit, and called and got directions…. for over an hour, to find a place within 5 miles of where we were.  This town is a little itsy, bitsy, teeny, weeny place, up a very steep hill, that has some of the most amazingly narrow switchbacks I have ever seen.  Finally we found the place, the owner was out front waiting for us.  I am sure he recognized us from the streaming video taken of us at the circles hours earlier – I am sure of it!!!!! We proceed down the narrowest, steepest mud drive way, between 3 old houses from the 1500's, pulling in the side mirrors not to aid them in their crumbling by scraping them along the outer walls.  We got out of the car – 7 hours after arriving in Livorno (remember this should have been a 5 hour drive), and stretched, turned to take in the most spectacular snow capped mountain view. 

It was gorgeous, peaceful and picturesque.  We were cramped, tired and pleasantly happy to sit and take it in for a few minutes.  We then opted for a quick power nap, which lasted 2.5 hours!!! Then headed into town, down the crazy mountain to the only resturant in town for a bite at the Pomodoro.  Great food, wonderful people and a great ending to our insane day.