Just a quick note to let you know that we've arrived safely in Torino. All is good and we're getting settled in, but haven't got Internet access yet (apart from when we drag the laptop over to Piazza Solferino, like we have now), which is why the blogging has been pretty light.
The nice men from FastWeb should be coming to run fibre-optic cable into the apartment on Tuesday though, so fingers crossed I'll be able to get access to my email then! (It should all be sat on my backup mail server waiting for the main one to come back online...).
If you need to contact me urgently then my mobile is the best option, or email me at adrianm at mcqn.com.
Well, actually the next stop will be Birchington in Kent.
And the one after will be Chambery in France.
But after that it's all about Torino!
That's right, when you read this (the wonders of delayed posting, I'm sat eating my breakfast at the moment, with a lot of rubbish and recycling to dispose of and yet more packing still to finish) we'll be en route to Italy.
Down to Rebecca's parents' place for tonight, then onto the 8.15am ferry tomorrow. Then lots of driving down to south-east France for an overnight in Chambery before the final leg over the Alps and down to Turin on Wednesday.
The simple ideas are often the best.
Even just as a spectator it was a great evening. Hopefully it's a regular occurrence at La Drogheria (I'm sure we'll be back on a future Monday night to see if it happens every week).
On the same day that we witnessed the launch of the Fiat 500 we also went for a look round a few apartments.
We saw two on the first day, and a couple more over the following days, but it was soon obvious that the first apartment we saw was the one we wanted to live in. Yesterday morning, after lots of trips to the cashpoint to withdraw the money for the deposit and the agent's fee; our first brush with Italian officialdom to get our Codice Fiscali (a bit like a National Insurance number, and actually a pretty painless undertaking); and lots of flicking through the huge Italian-English dictionary to decipher the contract... we signed the lease.
Although it's only a one bedroom place, it's bigger than most of the others that we looked at and there's a double sofa-bed in the lounge so that wiill serve more than adequately as a guest room. There's the almost-obligatory balcony leading off from the main living area, and even better, there's a big terrace out to the back.
As you can see from the photos it's in a lovely old apartment block and has gorgeous parquet floors. What you can't see in the photos are the fantastic frescoes painted on the ceiling of the lounge and bedroom. They're a bit old and faded now, but add that stereotypical old-world feel to the place. I'll take some photos when we move in.
The area also seems really cool. There's a cafe-bar opposite, a pub downstairs, little shops selling milk and cheese or hundreds of types of pasta within a few metres, and it's right in the centre of town. The main station is a couple of minutes walk away; it's about quarter of an hour's walk to the river; and the rest of the city-centre is within easy walking distance.
There's even an underground parking garage below the apartment block, but I'll actually be keeping the Integrale in a bank! Our landlord used to work at a bank about five minutes walk from our front door, so we're renting a space in their secure car park.
Like Rebecca, I can't wait to move in so we can explore properly.
By chance, the first day of our flat-hunting trip to Turin coincided with Fiat officially launching the new 500 . The new car's badging has reverted to "500" rather than "cinquecento", presumably so that they can gloss over the boxy 90s incarnation and maximaise the nostalgia-effect for the retro-looking new model
I've never been to the launch of a new car before, although I expect that most other car launches aren't quite like this one. The entire town was in party mood for the "Festa da Cinquecento", the Festival of the 500. That wasn't the official name (all the signs I saw said "500 meets 500"), but summed up how the locals were celebrating the birth of this baby Fiat.
There are bits of new 500 dotted around the window displays of lots of the shops in the city - a steering wheel here; a dashboard or light cluster there - and the main piazzas in the city were host to a range of events throughout the day. At lunchtime the kids were taking part in races almost reminiscent of "It's a Knockout" or dancing in front of the stand for the local radio station; and by night there were huge video displays up showing the main event down by the river.
Piazza Vittorio Venuto leads down to the River Po, and there (along with the river bank) was where the main action was. The piazza, bridge and all along the river were packed with people - it really felt as though everyone in the city had come out to mark the occasion.
There were also hundreds of old Fiat 500s, from all over the place, parked up everywhere. The photo on the left is just a few that were in Piazza Vittorio Venuto. I'd never realised there was such variety in 500s - ordinary ones; sporty Abarth ones; camper models; cars with ski-racks on the back; even 4x4 versions which were veering towards seeming Bigfoot-style.
It all seemed a bit strange at first - there was all this celebration about the original 500 and festival atmosphere, but it was as if someone had forgotten that there was a new model to promote. All day we'd been finding new events or pockets of old 500s, but there was hardly a picture of the new one, never mind an actual car.
As it was nearing midnight, there was a huge firework display over the river, and I think that they had one of the new cars suspended suspended from wires over the water when the fireworks went off. I'm not sure, because we weren't in a position where we could see one of the screens, and there were too many people crowded round the river to get a look at the action.
It felt a bit of an anti-climax, so we started heading back to the hotel, calling into Piazza Castello on the way to see if the rumours of free Spumanti at midnight were true. We didn't find any wine, but did arrive just in time for the sirens and police escort as a convoy of new 500s snaked its way through the city to the sound of much cheering and horn-beeping.