Day 12 of our pilgrimage was a rest day in Torino, the capital of Piedmont. I know – we are off track. But for good reason! Weather: clear, low 90s.
A good night’s rest changes almost everything. After yesterday’s grueling route, we felt utterly refreshed enjoying capucchinos and Italian pastries on the street. We’ve been gorging on Italian culinary delights all day. Crispy mushroom arancini, almond granita, fresh yellow melon, enormous olives and local cheeses…
It’s also been fun to wander Turin’s fashionable streets, where Mont Blanc pens sell for €750, coats are modestly priced at €3000, and men’s watches go upwards of €8000.
Turin is, after all, ranked as Italy’s third wealthiest city (after Milan and Rome). Between 1861-1865, this capital of Piedmont was also the capital of Italy.
Although the streets we travelled are for the rich and famous, Mom and I are thrilled that most of the products WE need – namely food – are half the price they’d be in Switzerland.
A Torino Farmers Market
Mom’s eyes lit up when Dad took us to an outdoor farmer’s market. She LOVES fresh food. At Torino’s market, stalls after stalls are piled high with cheeses, olives, meats, succulent summer fruits.
Vendors charm, peel, slice, and hold out generous slices to try. In a market where so many sell the same product, personality is everything. It’s a lively, gorgeous smorgasbord of colors and aromas, and well worth checking out.
Taking in Torino’s Magnificent Churches
In our family, you don’t pass up opportunities to stop inside a new church and light a candle. We’ve seen our first padded pew kneelers of the pilgrimage. (By and large, most churches in Europe don’t pad their kneelers.) Turin must indeed be a fabulously wealthy city.
We visited three gorgeous churches before accidentally coming across Torino’s Cathedral. The 15th century cathedral is dedicated to St. John the Baptist. Inside the Chapel of the Holy Shroud is the legendary Shroud of Turin.
The Catholic Church, scientists, and people of faith can’t decide as to whether the burial shroud contains the actual image of Jesus Christ, or a man who was crucified centuries later. Some even question whether it is a burial shroud. State of the art testing is inconclusive.
The shroud itself is rarely available for public viewing. Regardless, for obvious reasons, this is Torino’s best-attended church. It is also the ONLY church we’ve been to that has video displays.
What Does Faith Look Like to a Via Francigena Pilgrim?
The fact that so many from around the world flock to a chapel, for a shroud they aren’t allowed to see – and which may or may not be genuine – makes me reflect on the nature of faith.
It also makes me contemplate what it means to be a proper pilgrim.
As a child, I used to think pilgrims prayed constantly. When they gathered together conversations would probably focus on the concept of eternity. People would probably gush over who their favorite saint was and sing hymns.
And yet, regardless of what church lodging we’ve slept at, beyond asking for our Pilgrim Passport, NOT ONE SINGLE PERSON has tried to assess just how good a pilgrim we are:
- Do you have your baptismal certificate with you?
- When was your last Confession?
- What are the seven deadly sins, and how many have you committed in the past six months?
- Can you recite the Apostles Creed?
Instead – if there’s even a person there – the first thing church hosts do is show you a bed, the kitchen, and the toilets. If they see you again, the first question they ask is if you slept well. There’s something incredibly noble and generous about the very act of hospitality and recognizing another human’s dignity and basic needs.
For that, I will always be grateful.
As for our fellow pilgrims: this journey has been a joy-filled, human experience. People are curious about EACH OTHER. No one is quoting favorite scripture passages or saying 6-minute prayers before breakfast. If there’s singing or music, chances are it’s a pop song. We want to know where others are from, what their back story is, the places they’ve traveled, and their motivations for doing this walk.
A Nap and a New Plan
One of the day’s great luxuries is that we all snuck in a nap. Afterwards, we met up to discuss where and how to get back on the Via Francigena trail. Ultimately, we have decided to skip ahead to Vercelli, Italy’s rice fields (and the de facto rice capital of Europe).
Unfortunately, the Trenitalia app for ticket reservations is not working on any of our phones. We walked to the train station and purchased four tickets for the 7:42 a.m. train tomorrow to Vercelli. From there, we’ll walk to Robbio.
Love for Torino
It was a truly lovely and very welcome rest day. I really enjoyed Torino. Not only is it a very walkable city, there’s gorgeous architecture every time you turn your head. Rome is wonderful, but it is super saturated with tourists. Head for this lesser known, but equally as beautiful city, and you’ll be treated supremely well…and with far fewer crowds.
We are refreshed, and looking forward to picking up the trail again tomorrow.
Train ticket to Vercelli: €7.25 ($7.71)
Breakfast (cappuccino and pastry): €4.50 ($4.79)
Sicilian lunch: €7 ($7.45)
Donor Kebab: €6 ($6.38)
Hotel room: €82 ($87.23)