The world is watching Turin, Italy, because of the Winter Olympics. But city officials are taking advantage of the worldwide attention to spotlight the history, art and flavor of Turin. VOA's Steve Schy took a cultural tour of the Susa Valley, organized for journalists, and filed this report.
Tour guide Barbara Papuzzi describes the three points of interest we would visit.
"A tour in the Val di Susa Valley, first to the romantic abbey, called Sacra Di San Michele, a tour there. And then to Pinerolo, which is the main town in the Val di Susa [for] lunch with the typical products of the Province of Turin. And then, Castello Di Rivoli, which is an ancient royal castle, and now it is a worldwide-known museum of contemporary art," she said.
As we drove up into the mountains, the snow began to fall, adding a sense of stillness as we approached the Sacra Di San Michele. The monastery, which dates back to the 10th century, is located on the top of a mountain overlooking Turin's Susa Valley.
The original chapel was built into the side of the mountain, but has undergone numerous expansions over the years. As we march up the steep final approach, we see the ruins of the original small church, which was damaged by fire hundreds of years ago. Sacra Di San Michela guide Della Porigliatti explains the church was named for the Archangel Michael.
"The name of Sacra means, 'consecrated directly by God, by the Angels,' so Sacra Di San Michele," she added.
We climb another steep stairway, known as the Stairway of the Dead, named for monks from centuries past entombed in the walls.
When we reach the current church, a Catholic mass, led by guitars, is being celebrated.
Our next stop is Pinerolo, where we are invited to 'taste the passion' of the typical products of Turin. We dig into a delicious sampling of wines, cheeses, breads, salamis and chocolates, which are among some 30 food products Turin's Development Office is promoting worldwide.
Well fed and happy, we travel to the final stop on the tour, the Castello Di Rivoli, a former royal castle that now serves as a contemporary art museum. The artwork here, including stacks of dirty clothes, and a blade cutting through doors, may not appeal to everyone's taste. But art is subjective, and beauty is in the eye of the beholder.
Most people may think of Turin as the home of this year's Winter Olympics, or an industrial city that is the home of automaker Fiat. But the people who live here want you to know that there is so much more.