Friday, February 17
Back into Turin, and time for some hockey and a little culture. The Swiss stunned the Czechs yesterday behind the goaltending of David Aebischer (the NHL's Colorado Avalanche 'keeper), and the Canadians, Finns, and surprise contenders Slovakia are the only undefeated teams remaining. With Team USA eking out a tie with Latvia in the opening game, and Russia suffering a loss to Slovakia, it's a wide-open race for the hardware.
The U.S. is still hanging on at the top of the medals table, with gold from Seth Wescott in Snowboard Cross, a new sport to the Olympics born out of the X-Games generation. In the Women's edizione, Lindsey Jacobellis made a much-criticized decision to go for a method grab over the last jump, caught an edge, and fell; she gave up the gold to Switzerland's Tanja Frieden. Monday-morning snowboard coaches (read: uninformed members of the mainstream press) have called this mistake "hot-dogging" and showing off, further setting back snowboarding's credibility in the Games. Maybe it was better when it wasn't an Olympic sport.
Heavy snow and wind in Sestriere and San Sicario cancelled training runs and postponed the Women's DH portion of the Combined, set to run Saturday, February 18, shortly following the Men's Super-G. Twenty-year-old Resi Stiegler leads the U.S. ladies, sitting in ninth going into the DH Saturday, 1.53 seconds back from Austrian Marlies Schild. Lindsey Kildow hooked a tip on a gate and had another brutal fall on the icy Sestriere slalom course and will have to sit out the DH.
Meanwhile in the city, I feel like I have finally dialed in the public transportation system. I got hold of a map that feels like the Holy Grail; all of the bus and tram lines clearly detailed... I guess it would be too much for the Tourism Office to have one of these available. So we had a full cultural day today, crisscrossing all over the city from market to museum and back.
One of the coolest museums I have ever been inside has to be the Museo Nazionale del Cinema, housed inside the Mole Antonelliana, Turin's signature building. With dozens of themed "screening rooms," the museum presents a history of filmmaking and a comprehensive look at the elements that go into a film in one incredible space. In the center of the great hall, an unreal glass elevator climbs impossibly though the ceiling to a viewing platform atop the 548-foot-tall Mole. Inside, modern Italian lounge chairs point viewers at two massive screens running a continuous loop of film clips. Today's montage was the automobile, and it had shots from almost every car chase imaginable. We grabbed a quick lunch for five Euros in the café in the basement, a very chic place that also has interactive screens in the tables. The Mole is not to be missed.
After lunch, another trip to the marketplace was hatched, but this time we decided to go to the Borga Dora, or antique row. Normally held on the second Saturday of the month, vendors have all of their wares on show for the duration of the Games, including vintage clothing, used books, and classic posters alongside furniture and everything else you could imagine. You could fill your house with a day's findings, if only you had a house in Italy. This funky neighborhood was a pleasant surprise, an oasis of quiet browsing only a few blocks from the bustling Porta Palazzo market.
We jumped back on the tram (or streetcar) and headed down to the Lingotto, formerly the Fiat manufacturing plant, but now housing a shopping mall, the swishy Meridian hotel, and the Pinacoteca Giovanni e Marella Agnelli. This small but rich collection of paintings sits atop the factory, overlooking the city and the rooftop test track seen briefly in a getaway scene from Michael Caine's 1969 heist flick, The Italian Job. A recent exhibit of Canaletto's amazing Venetian landscapes and a half-dozen Matisse paintings were highlights. We walked back along the Po, through one of the city's larger parks, rowers gliding past silently in the sun.
To top off a virtually ideal cultural day, we drove south shortly after rush hour towards the wine region of Asti. In search of another Slow Food experience, we sought out the Osteria delle Diavolo, a tiny eatery tucked into a sleepy neighborhood of Asti. Again, the food was outrageous, impeccably prepared and simple yet extraordinary as only Piedmontese cuisine can deliver. We feasted on vitello tonatto, tenderloin of coniglio (rabbit), an amazing rosemary ravioli, and beef in Barolo sauce. Accompanied by a 2003 Barbera d'Asti, it was as perfect a meal as I have ever had. If eating was an Olympic sport, I feel confident we would have been on the podium. When you see that sticker of the Slow Food snail on the door of a restaurant, don't think about it, just see if you can get a table.