Sounds of Italy

TURIN, ITALY –  Italy is sensory. It’s a feast for the eyes to take in the ancient architecture in proximity to modern Vespas (Italian motorcycles) buzzing around as a variety of people eat and stroll and talk and eat.

It’s a mass of humanity who range from rag-wrapped Gypsys begging for coins to high-fashioned Italian women, heads held high, necks swathed in scarves and feet balanced upon high-heeled boots that never waver on even the most pitted cobbled street. Equally well-dressed Italian men saunter by with pencil-straight slacks that show a hint of designer socks that go perfectly with tailored jackets and the ubiquitous neck scarves. Italian toddlers navigate downward journeys on stone church steps without tumbling. Weathered older Italian women walk arm and arm, or sit on benches and talk.

And the smells! How I wish I could somehow share those with you, especially here at the Salone del Gusto part of the Terra Madre conference, where there are literally thousands of foods and spices and truffles and potatoes and wines and olive oils and coffees and teas on display. Many are for sale, but most samples are not free, and cost anywhere from 1 to 3 euros. (About $1.30 equals 1 euro.)

And the cheeses! Those aromas range from soft, pale and subtle to hard, ambered and so nose-stingingly sharp and pungent that they have an almost lockerish-roomish scent that causes some people to wrinkle their noses and glance furtively to locate the source of the unfortunate human condition that caused that smell.

Here in Turin (Torino), the home of the 2006 Winter Olympics, this place exudes regional pride about everything from everything from its manufacture of Fiats to claims of being the birthplace of the first hard chocolate, and even grissini, long skinny bread sticks that are perfect with wine.

But this trip has been less about seeing Italy and more about the Terra Madre Slow Food conference that includes the Salone del Gusto for the conference’s first time, which introduced hundreds of food vendors from every corner of the world. And the public is here, too, thousands upon thousands of people here to learn about, buy and eat the food.

I’ve sat in on many interesting workshops, such as yesterday’s that featured a blitz of young Slow Food speakers from the UK who talked about solutions to food waste and ways to bring together foodies and ways to connect farmers with consumers and even a young man who handed out small jars of sour dough starter named “Cleo” to people with the goal of having that one baby startergrow and  spread throughout the world. (I have a jar of Cleo, and I just hope he behaves himself in my suitcase between now and my arrival home.)

As an added treat, son Joe, here with his wife Marie as Slow Food members from the Czech Republic, made a short video for you. It combines the more auditory side of this wonderful Italian trip. The scenes begin in Venice with children feeding pigeons in San Marco Square, and moves onto our gondola ride, where we shared the waterways with residents, like the man in the boat. (You can’t see it but he had a puppy in his lap. Oh boy, do Italians love their dogs! Unlike Rome, where cats are everywhere, in Venice and Turin dogs rule.)

Following the video clip from Venice, you’ll see inside one of Salone del Gusto’s many “street” markets, where a young man with a hand-crank organ produces music much like that an old player-piano. Also at Salon del Gusto, a group of people from an Italian brewery sing a song, which Joe, Marie and I referred to fondly as the “supa dupa” song.

At another booth at Salone del Gusto, a high-energy Italian woman taught speed-pasta-making to a bunch of people who madly attempted to follow her rapid, lyrical instructions to roll, and keep rolling, and turn the dough and keep rolling and rolling and rolling.

One of Joe’s last videos shows a man playing music on wine bottles, an advertisement for a recycled glass company, and later, outside the conference a few miles away, children in a park playing while a Christian group sings near the place where I had one of the best pizzas I’ve ever tasted.

I’m off for another day in Turin, trying to stay focused and not get caught up in the fact my flight’s been canceled because of the East Coast storm. You enjoy the video, and I’ll enjoy another day in Italy.

For more on Doni’s trip to Italy, click to read about the first and second day in Venice and the first day in Turin.


Independent online journalist Doni Chamberlain founded what’s now known as anewscafe.com in 2007 with her son, Joe Domke of the Czech Republic. Prior to 2007 Chamberlain was an award-winning newspaper opinion columnist, feature and food writer recognized by the Associated Press, the California Newspaper Publishers Association and E.W. Scripps. She lives in Redding, CA.

Doni Chamberlain
Independent online journalist Doni Chamberlain founded what’s now known as anewscafe.com in 2007 with her son, Joe Domke of the Czech Republic. Chamberlain is an award-winning newspaper opinion columnist, feature and food writer recognized by the Associated Press, the California Newspaper Publishers Association and E.W. Scripps. She lives in Redding, California.
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13 Responses

  1. Avatar Judy Smith says:

    THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU!!!! Pure pleasurable magic. And being able to share this experience with Joe and Marie–priceless.

  2. Avatar Judy salter says:

    I am drooling! So happy for you.

  3. Avatar ` says:

    I'm crying . . . I WANNA BEthere!!! Crying . . . . ? Maybe more like whining!!

    BTW . . . that guy on the wine bottles was really fun to listen to . , , , and really good!!!

  4. Avatar All Knowing says:

    Thank you for three minutes of vacation! That was fun.

  5. Avatar Chris B. says:

    What a charming video – more, please?

  6. Avatar Carrie says:

    What a joy, and a delight to see and hear! Thank you so much for sharing!

  7. Avatar sharon chesnut says:

    thanks for the articles, Doni – you are the perfect person to be there and taking it all in. I know we "readers" will benefit for a long time to come. I'm sure you are thinking of a couple of cooking classes? have a great time for all of us – Sharon

  8. Avatar Joanne Lobeski Snyde says:

    That was so much fun!

    I enjoyed your description of the smells. Markets around here don't smell. lol

    All Knowing has it right; "a small vacation." Thank you.

  9. Avatar Canda says:

    What a fabulous video! That was so much fun. I hope it's not the only gondola ride I ever take, but if it is, I enjoyed it. Thanks, Joe!

  10. I'm delighted you liked the videos and photos, credit goes to Joe. (He so prefers to remain behind the scenes.)

    I've got a situation here that will ultimately be yet another one of Doni's travel tales, namely, that I've missed not just one flight (because flights canceled due to East Coast weather), but I missed my rescheduled flight this morning, too, because, although my flight was confirmed, my ticket number was somehow missing, and I was refused a seat on the plane from Turin to Frankfurt (and then Frankfurt to S.F., and S.F. to Redding.)

    Pretty stressfull, starting with sleeping in the Turin airport last night (remember I'm 8 hours ahead of you as I write this) and was facing yet another night in the airport tonight.

    So I booked a single-bed room nearby and took a shower and nap and now feel I can function again. I'll be heading out in a few minutes to return to the airport for my new boarding passes for tomorrow (yes, Halloween – I miss seeing little Austin in his costume!).

    Please keep your fingers crossed that I can board that flight OK. The storms have caused a backed-up system and overflowing flights where some U.S. people are stranded in Italy far from home for who knows how long.

    (I realize that sounds like a nice problem to have, but eventually the dream of staying longer in Italy clashes with the reality of the cost and life demands back in the states.

    I met an Ohio Slow Food delegate yesterday who's not able to return home for five days, and she had not banked on this additional financial burden. Every added day is extra, unexpected expenses for food, taxis, Voda phone credit and lodging.

    Plus, for me, there's the logistical fact that I have to prepare my house for its debut on Saturday's AAUW Home Tour. (Extra thanks to sister Shelly and friend Canda for working on my house while I'm gone, and to Adam and Troy for taking away construction stuff to get the yard in shape. You have all so earned some Turino chocolate! Grazie! )

    p.s. watch for Adam Mankoski's story about this years AAUW Home Tour.

    OK, off to run my Turin errands. I will be in touch as Internet and time allows. xod

  11. Avatar `AJ says:

    WHAT A MESS!!! I guess Sandy's mother never taught her manners. Of course, when you look at the devastation from the storm, it makes things like cancelled plane schedules kinda slip a rung or two down the survival ladder. Just put stuff on the credit card and make like Scarlet and "think about it tomorrow!!" LOL!!! I know, I know . . it does catch up with you eventually, but that doesn't mean yo have think about it while in Italy.

    Just get home when you can and put a call out for your friends to come and help. . .

    Travel safe!!

  12. Avatar LeeLee says:

    I feel as if it was "I" that accompanied you on this trip. Thank You and safe travels!