A short flight took me from Rome to Torino (Turin is the English name, but seldom used), where I am greeted by Eliana of USAC Torino. It was particularly unique to see Eliana because I met and interviewed her back in October in Reno at a USAC fair on the University of Nevada campus. She came from Italy to visit the USAC central office on the Nevada campus, and I was making a short video about the USAC fair for the university’s Integrated Marketing office which I worked for at the time (watch it here). After the interview I told Eliana I may be seeing her again in Italy if USAC hired me for this crazy job they proposed to me. Little did I expect such an unbelievable job to come to fruition, and behold, I meet Eliana again, this time her picking me up from the Torino airport.
I was housed with a student, James from Reno, whose apartment had an extra room. James was also my guide for the week, making sure I got on the right bus or metro, taking me to the good restaurants, and holding my bags while at the same time modeling for me as I tried to create Hollywood like shots using my low budget, two-legged fluid head tripod trick (watch my teaser trailer featuring this clip). A really laid back guy, we got along well and I felt like I had lived with him all semester.
Resident Director Dr. Aylssa Nota heads up the Torino USAC staff, assisted in the office by Eliana, Daniele and Simona. All having studied abroad in the past, they really work hard to create the best possible study abroad experience and education for the students. They set up cultural field trips, find great professors, and are well connected to many businesses offering internships. During my time with them I joined a field trip to a family vineyard in an area with zero tourism. We had lunch at the vineyard, and toured the facility which was tucked in lush rolling hills. As in all locations I’ve visited so far on this trip, the students commonly refer to the staff as family, with the directors like father or mother figures and the younger staff like brothers or sisters. Proud of their program and location, the staff packed my schedule full for 6 days, one day exceeding the 12 hour mark. But that 12 hour day included a great lunch and dinner with very enjoyable company, and a walking tour of Torino’s sights. The line between work and pleasure is often blurry.
While my enchanted single week in Viterbo gave me few reminders of its connection to the real world, Torino brought me back to reality. It’s a modern city of 900,000 in the city proper, with concrete, asphalt, traffic, hurried people and plenty of ugly apartment buildings built in the 60’s and 70’s. I also found I wasn’t walking in a designer clothing advertisement anymore, people dressed more relaxed…but still nicer than in Reno. But, sticking to downtown, and the Po river areas, the city is great. Plazas dot the downtown area. In the center of each plaza is a fountain and/or metal statues of epic, naked battle scenes. The Italians enjoy the plazas for evening socializing. Huge squares stretch on with endless outdoor tables for dinning at the many bordering restaurants. Trails wind along the Po river, filled with people riding bikes, running, and walking along the green banks. Occasionally large open grass areas spread out next to the river, where people picnic and BBQ.
One hour from skiing, the Alps line Torino’s northern horizon like a shark’s jaw, distant jagged peaks stretching for miles and miles. Two hours south is the coast. City bragging points include hosting the 2006 Winter Olympics, and being the first capitol of Italy’s unification in 1861. Torino was kind of a Detroit of Europe after WWII, home to Fiat, and to the famous car designer, Tom Tjaarda (designer of the Pantera, among other cars). I mention Tom because he works with USAC, teaching occasionally, and offering internships for USAC students in his design company. He will be featured in the upcoming video. Unlike Detroit (I assume, having never visited Detroit), Torino is full of rich history, abounding architecture and beautiful landscapes. Like Viterbo, Torino is not a tourist destination, so if you visit, you’ll know you’re really experiencing Italy.