Turino – so much bull and so much luck

July, for us, is all about Italy. Our home base is Turino (Turin), a city in the northern part of Italy, on the kneecap of the boot.  Here, we’re close to the Italian Alps, the French and Swiss borders, and connected by train to many places, like Zurich, Rome, Milan, Lake Como, the Cinque Terre and more.

We’ve travelled about 1800km north, leaving behind Spain’s hot and dry Costa del Sol, for what we hoped would be a cooler location. Weirdly, it was 32 degrees in Malaga on the day we left, but 36 degrees at 6pm on our arrival in Turino. Not so tepid, but we’re not sweating the small stuff (haha, see what I did there?).

In one short week, we’ve grown to love Turino.  For us, week numero uno has been about the river otters, and Aperol Spritz, and hot afternoon naps, and the song L’appuntamento, and the fountains.  It’s the tree lined streets, the architecture, the parks, the numerous gelato shops and the cold waters of the Po River as it sweeps majestically through the city.

Turino will also be remembered for its distinct lack of tourists, which after the hot crush of the Costa del Sol, is a delight.

Turino is also a city of legend and superstition, starting with how Turino came to be.

You see, once upon a time, long, long ago, a village on the River Po was besieged by a huge, fire-spitting dragon. The dragon had a penchant for killing the villagers, slaughtering their animals, and burning their houses. Understandably, the villagers were rather unhappy about this state of affairs.

One day, the villagers came up with a plan to be rid of the dragon once and for all. They would send their biggest and fiercest animal to fight the dragon – the horned, red-haired bull, a powerful and brave animal.

However, the villagers knew the mortal bull would be no match for a fire-breathing dragon, so before the battle, they made the bull drink a lot of good wine. After drinking the wine, the bull fought the dragon in an epic battle and eventually, slayed the dragon. But the brave bull was mortally injured in the process, sacrificing his life for the villagers.  

The villagers, eternally grateful, named their village Turino (from the word Taurus – bull) and dedicated their lives forevermore to the bull. Thus is the legend of Turino.

Today, Turino is a city of some 880,000 people, with the bull as its talisman.  The bull is everywhere, on the coat of arms, on the city’s official flag, embedded on light poles, statues, and buildings. 

Very cool sculpture made from pieces of weed. Sorry for the blurry photo – I was being chased out of the university courtyard by a security guard at the time!

However my favourite Turino bull, is the sweet little cast-iron bull found on the city’s green drinking fountains.  I’m in love with them, all 800 (or so)!  They are in the city squares, streets and gardens and other unexpected places. To go up to them and take them by the horns, is a Turino tradition.

The little bull fountains are known locally as ‘Toret’ (Piedmontese for little bull).  For more than 150 years, each little bull has provided a constant stream of ice-cold drinking water from its mouth, while at the base there’s a bowl for the animals.

There’s often a queue of people to drink from the little bull fountains. It’s a cherished tradition, and part of Turino life. Now it’s part of my Italian life. There’s even an app “ILoveToret” where you can find the nearest drinking fountain or even adopt one. Yes, I downloaded the app.

But enough of the little bulls….let’s talk about a much bigger bull, the golden bull of luck.

In the elegant Piazza San Carlo, embedded in the stone footpath in front of the Caffe Torino, is a golden relief sculpture of a bull.  The people of Turino believe the bull will bring good luck. So, it’s a Turino ritual, that whilst passing the Caffe Torino, to turn around on your heel, upon the testicles of the bull.

The constant attention on that anatomical part has resulted in considerable wear and tear, and there’s a smooth shallow bowl worn into the hard granite of the footpath. Granite is one of the world’s hardest rocks, so I ponder on the tens of thousands of Turinese heel turns to create such an indent. 

I too perform the ritual of turning on my heel atop the bull. 

You can never have too much good luck.

What a beautiful, opulent grand caffe, running since 1903. The interior is plush, the light fittings are chandeliers, the waiters wear bow ties, and the bull watches over all things.

Another superstition of good luck relates to Christopher Columbus’ little finger.  There’s a small, bronze relief sculpture of Christopher Columbus under the porticoes of the Piazza Castello, a short walk from the Royal Palace.

In the sculpture, Christopher Columbus is depicted navigating with a world globe, which sits before him. Whilst the rest of the sculpture has the inky-brown patina of age and oxidation, Columbus’ pinkie finger gleams golden bright, the result of the Turinese who rub it, believing it too, will bring them good luck. The constant rubbing over the years, has made Columbus’ finger so thin, it had to be replaced.

I too perform the ritual of rubbing the finger. 

You can never have too much good luck.

The final superstition of good luck happened in Turino, although it’s not an exclusively Turinese superstition. Under the porticoes of the Via Po, Rosco got pooped on by a bird, a rather large pigeon I believe. In many cultures, it is a well-known sign of good luck.

I decline the ritual. I think I have enough good luck now.

Rosco, my proxy, has accepted the good luck on my behalf.

It’s only been a week. I cannot wait to see what else unfolds.

#ILoveItaly #Italy #Turino #Turet #bull #goodluck #July #SlowTravel