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There is More to Turin Than the Olympics

The city of Turin is trying to use the worldwide media attention paid to the Olympics, to feature other attractions the region has to offer. The city has organized various tours to promote the history, art and flavor of Turin. VOA's Brian Padden recently went along on one that promised free food.

This is what the Sacra Di San Michele looks like on clear, beautiful day. It does not look like this on a gray winter day in February.

This monastery, which dates back to the 10th century, is located on the top of a mountain overlooking Turin's Susa Valley. The Sacra Di San Michele is the first stop on our tour of some regional attractions not featured in Olympic coverage.

Today it is not just the weather that makes this monastery seem cold and foreboding.

The tombs of monks from centuries past are enclosed in these walls. The original chapel was built into the side of the mountain.

Over the centuries it has greatly expanded and Catholic mass is still celebrated here.

Tour guide Della Porigliatti urges visitors not to focus on the age of the buildings but on the spirit the church evokes.

"I would like you to feel the memory of the prayer here because for more than 1,000 years people come here and pray here and study and ask something to [of] God."

Our next stop, to the delight of the group, is a taste of the region. Cold from our trip to the mountain, samples of local wine and cheese and salami and chocolate, make us happy and warm.

Elena Di Bella, with Turin's Development Office, says these are some of 30 local products it is trying to promote worldwide. "They know especially in Italy, not abroad. Then the Olympic Winter Games is an occasion to let them know abroad."

As the day was ending, we made one last stop at the Castello Di Rivoli Modern Art museum.

The contemporary artwork here, stacks of wood beams, a closet full of suits, rocks lined up in a circle, was not what one would expect in the land of Michelangelo and Leonardo Da Vinci.

Tour guide Secli Rosarianna says many visitors need help to understand why this is art. "This approach is strong. It's a strong impact. Guides will guide your there to understand, to have a different approach to contemporary art."

Visiting a modern art museum or sampling local-made raw meat salami, or learning about the region's rich history, may not be on most Olympic visitors' agendas. But officials here want the world to know there is more to Turin than skiing.