At the time of press for this edition of our newsletter, the World Cup will be in the Round of 16. Quite appropriately, this Small World stop takes us to Turin, Italy, home to two professional soccer clubs, Torino F.C. and Juventus F.C. And while Brazil is a long flight from Italy, the two countries share a love for football (soccer) and are also the two most heralded countries in World Cup titles. Brazil has five to date, and Italy has four, with the last one coming in 2006.
International football at the club level is a true melting pot of cultures. Just because a team resides in Italy does not mean that its squad is entirely composed of Italians; more often than not, natives are actually in the minority. This is the case with Juventus, the older and more established of the two clubs in Turin. The six Italian players on that team have all been chosen to represent their country this June at the World Cup – and hopefully into July.
Juventus is the third oldest club in the country, founded in 1897, and it has consistently been one of the best in the top division of the sport, Serie A. Juventus has only played in a lower division once. Juventus has the most championships won in Serie A, 30, and the most consecutive, 5, in the 1930s. Although not as internationally heralded as some of the clubs in England such as Manchester United or Liverpool, Juventus is no slouch when it comes to recognition from fans of the sport. Torino F.C. is about a decade younger, and still successful, having won 7 titles, but is often considered more of a local club whereas Juventus has national acclaim.
Still partial to American football and want us to take a break from talking about the international version? Well, never fear, there is more to Turin than just soccer. In fact, in that same year Italy last won the World Cup, Turin also hosted the 2006 Winter Olympics. The city beat out Sion, Switzerland to earn the bid, and put on what was considered to be a very successful series of events. The country spent nearly 2 billion euros in the process, building 65 new facilities for sporting events, housing and the like. Italy finished 9th in the medal count, with Germany finishing first and the U.S. coming in second.
Enough about sports? Okay, fine. Turin has some serious history. This isn’t a suburb built in the 1990s to accommodate the urban sprawl of neighboring towns; its history goes back to the time before we needed “A.D.” added after the year. The Taurini were an early Alpine people that settled the area in ancient times. The etymology suggests a link to water or mountains, and the affiliation with Taurus (or bull) is typically believed to be of the folk variety. However, there is some debate among scholars on the historical interpretation of the name. This is based on a conflicting reading of Proto-Celtic or Proto-Indo-European accounts; but either way, Turin’s history is truly for the ages.
Now how about those “A.D.” years? The Shroud of Turin is believed by many to be a piece of linen that covered Jesus of Nazareth after his crucifixion. There are markings consistent with that of someone who could have been crucified, but there are conflicting scientific reports that date the shroud to medieval times. Either way, it is a pretty remarkable piece of history.
But enough with the history lesson, what’s happening there now? How about chocolate. Considered by many to be the chocolate capital of Italy, Turin is also home to Nutella, everyone’s favorite hazelnut-chocolate spread. I mean, have you ever even had another hazelnut-chocolate spread? The city even boasts a 10-day chocolate festival named, CiocciaTo. The annual event takes place in late November to early December, so maybe a quick trip over will solve those Christmas gift issues we always have.
Turin is frequently considered to be on the cutting edge of culture and arts in Europe, and that is in no small part due to their lengthy history. They don’t rest on their laurels, however. Turin strives to be a cultural center of Europe, as its 40 museums show us, as well as its 2008 designation as the first World Design Capital – an award symbolizing commitment to economic, social and cultural progress.