When in Turin. . .
TURIN (Torino, in Italian) was the first seat of government of
Unified Italy, and, in spite of the fact that it handed on the
honours first to Florence, and then to Rome, it still feels like a
I took pleasure in its handsome, spacious squares, and broad
thoroughfares lined with arcades as I strolled round the town
before my church meetings.
Eating in an excellent restaurant (the Antica Porta di
Savona, in Piazza Vittorio Emanuele II), asking
directions, and observing passers-by, I was unable to identify
behaviour betraying the character attributed by other Italians to
the city's inhabitants: Torinesi, falsi e cortesi -
"Ceremonious liars". The shop fronts, cafés, and street furniture
are curiously old-fashioned, recalling Britain in the Fifties, and
so might be referred to as evidence for the first part of the
But perhaps it is simply their isolation, almost circled by
mountains, and historically linked most strongly with the Haute
Savoie and the Côte d'Azur, that has led Peninsular Italians to
distrust the Piedmontese.
Certainly, their 19th-century reputation as the "Prussians" of
Italy, a race of efficient warriors, without whom the Risorgimento
would never have got going, let alone succeeded, might have led to
their inspiring fear among the stereotypical, easygoing,
My most extended conversation with locals occurred while
attending the opera at the Teatro Regio. I was seated next
to two well-dressed women of a certain age, who expressed
enthusiastic approval of the singing, costumes, and scenery for
Bellini's I Puritani, "The Puritans". I must admit,
although enchanted by the expert display of coloratura, I was
personally at a loss to understand the Gothic-horror approach to
the English Civil War.
Noisily proffered sweets from my neighbours softened the blow.
"Do you have opera in England?" one of them asked, during an
especially florid passage. Attempting to observe the convention of
not talking during the performance, I murmured an affirmative, and
She continued: "We have a subscription, but we don't like
everything they do. Can you imagine? In The Turk in Italy
they drove a Vespa on stage, and the 'Turk' himself looked like my
The other one joined in: "I went to a show in New York, at the
Metropolitan Opera, and do you know - they were singing in
Unable to freight further murmuring with any response to these
expressions of outrage, I limited myself to bowing slightly, and
raising my eyebrows. Maybe it was beginning to rub off - falso
MY IMMEDIATE predecessor as Chaplain of All Saints', Rome, Canon
Geoffrey Evans, died recently. I often reflect when people comment
on the romance of my title "Archdeacon of Italy and Malta" that
Canon Geoffrey had held an even more suggestive office as
"Archdeacon of the Aegean".
The recent linking of Italy and Malta in news reports of the
tragic deaths of thousands of refugees in their attempt to cross
the narrow seas between North Africa and the European islands has
rather brought my title down to earth.
As I have reported occasionally here before, our Italian
chaplaincies include many people who originally entered Italy
illegally, with stories of migration of biblical proportions. The
diocese in Europe's 2014 Bishops' Advent appeal was dedicated to a
relief project on the island of Lampedusa, and has recently
delivered, in a most timely fashion, nearly €30,000.
Truth to tell, it's not only a life of pasta, chianti, and
opera lirica over here. My guess would be that Canon
Geoffrey's Aegean ministry also had its encounters with hard-nosed
AT A recent dinner to mark the centenary of the refounding of
Bolton School, I sat next to a fellow-former Captain of School,
After a productive business career, David now acts as a coach
and mentor to those who aspire to the same. As Jew and Christian,
we fell to talking about the entry of women into our respective
clerum, and breaking through glass ceilings in general,
whether stained or not.
David repeated the question whether it was necessary for
Anglican women bishops to be married to other clergy. I liked the
neatness of his aphorism: "We'll know we've got equality when the
incompetent women arrive. Roll on incompetence."
All sewn up
BACK from Bolton to Turin and/or Venice. While I ran from the
vaporetto to catch a train for Turin, I felt my trousers
split. O Santo Cielo!
On tour with only one pair of pants, I needed a sarta,
a seamstress. Remember I said Turin was old-fashioned? I found one
directly opposite my hotel, although I'm sure they are located in
She tutted a bit about my taking off the trousers and requiring
instant repair (a curtained cubicle for fittings saving our worst
blushes), but refrained from false courtesy - even double stitching
the seam and doing it for nothing. Grazie mille.
The Ven. Jonathan Boardman is the Archdeacon of Italy and
Malta, and Chaplain of All Saints', Rome.