So I haven’t been on the internet waves for about three weeks now (sorry for the silence, folks!) A trip to Italy involving a stolen phone and lying hostels which in fact had very fleeting WiFi, meant no blogging during my travels. And now I’m not sure where to start. So I guess the beginning will do.
Before that last minute letter of acceptance onto an English summer camp, I had never heard of Turin, I had never taught classes of hot and bothered children all by myself and I had never stayed with a host family before (ie lived with a group of complete strangers for a week). So my intestines were doing a little dance in my abdomen as I lined up for check-in at Gatwick. What the hell had I signed myself up for?
But when I met the fellow rabble of teachers at the gate, the pink curly ponytail of an energetic Northerner, the feisty sports leggings of a no-nonsense student and the pretty florals of a sweet East-Anglian settled me in immediately. We were travelers, individuals – the weight of ‘teacher’ didn’t feel quite so heavy.
One flight, one bus journey and a pizza later and it was all going swimmingly (the wine may have added to this impression…) Our host families were human beings with real houses (result) and we had a bed to stay in under a stable roof for two weeks. And the pizza? Mamma Mia! What more could we want?
When I was allocated to Turin, I’ll admit I was expecting a run-down rural village in the middle of nowhere. In fact this was my first trip to Italy and I was expecting the burning heat to have eradicated greenery, leaving behind the brown dead plant corpses I’d witnessed in Spain. But Turin – ahem, I of course mean Torino – is a stunning little-known jewel that I fell head-over-heels in love with. Forget the domed orange skyline that leaps to mind, Torino is the real deal. You won’t find tourists here. You’ll find a hazy outline of mountains in the distance, the Alpine sentinels of the city. You’ll find a gorgeously grandiose city centre with a strip of nightlife along the river and you won’t be disappointed when it comes to museums. The Museo Nazionale del Cinema was dressed up to the nines (and I thoroughly recommend watching a film in the four poster bed in the main exhibition room…) There’s a Metro line that doesn’t reach the city centre or the airport and traffic won’t always stop for red lights (in fact it rarely does…) Coffee shops galore, aperitivos galore, markets galore – and the best people. When I got lost on my way to little Gabriele’s party? A kind florist wrote step by step directions for me on a piece of paper – so who needs the Metro anyway? As my ‘host dad’ would say, everything is a fifteen minute walk away (even if it actually turned out to be half an hour). Home of Nutella and Ferrero Rocher, and backdrop for some of the mightiest storms and strongest sun beams, there’s not a single thing to dislike.
So I settled into bed that evening at midnight, after an introductory knees up at a 60th birthday party (not the tame affair to be expected but instead an extravaganza of Spritz, endless Italian deliciousness at the buffet, a live band, dancing and even some old pants auctioned for a fair price – all situated, rather appropriately, in a mental health institution). Everything had beaten expectations so far (I hadn’t missed my flight, no one had murdered me and Torino was a dreamland).
Now all that was left to do was teaching the kids at school… How hard could it be, right?