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If you’ve heard horror stories about expensive tickets, lack of hotel rooms and incomplete construction projects for the 2006 Winter Olympics in Turin, Italy, don’t believe them.

While some tickets for the events, scheduled for Feb. 10-26, are ridiculously steep (the opening ceremony will set you back 800 euros), many reasonably priced options are available.

If you are looking for luxury digs, you won’t find a hotel in Turin or near the ski venues west of the city. However, if you are happy with simpler accommodations, you can find rooms in the city center, conveniently located near public transportation.

Finally, although construction continues, all the venues, the stadium and major road projects are finished.

Read on: This article will help you survive and thrive in your Olympic experience.

VenuesThe hub for Olympic activity, the Lingotto shopping/entertainment/conference center, is a monstrous former automobile factory housing 85 National Olympic Committees and the international media. Shops and restaurants on lower levels are open to the public. All indoor venues are within easy walking distance.

Nearby, a new sports facility called the Oval, with seating for 8,200 spectators, will host speed-skating events. The Palavela, near the Po River a short distance from Lingotto, has figure skating and short-track speed competitions. Renovation of the building, originally designed to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Italian unification in 1961, resulted in a stadium with a seating capacity of 8,250.

The opening and closing ceremonies are in Turin’s refurbished Community Stadium, now called Stadio Olimpico. Adjacent to the stadium is the Palasport Olimpico (Olympic Sports Palace), home to most of the ice hockey competition, with seating for 12,250 spectators. The second venue for ice hockey is the Torino Esposizioni (Turin Exposition) complex, just north of Lingotto. This arena has space for 6,450 spectators.

One of the largest construction projects was the Olympic Village. About 2,500 athletes with their trainers and managers will live in the former General Market section of the city. The village offers lodging, shopping, relaxation facilities and medical support. A futuristic, 825-foot- long, 215-foot-high overhead pedestrian walkway provides access from the village to Lingotto.

TransportationFor the Olympics, there are three main train stations in Turin. Porta Susa is where you’ll leave for the mountain venues. The more elegant Porta Nuova station will also be used, as will the small station at Lingotto. Each is well located and surrounded by hotels, restaurants and cafes, and buses that will take you anywhere in town.

You’ll want to take advantage of that excellent public transportation system. Buses and trams run around the clock. A single ticket is about 1 euro and can be purchased at newspaper stands or any tobacco shop identified by a large blue “T” on a sign over the door. Daily passes cost 3 euros. Detailed route maps, and connections to the various Olympic sites, are available free at the Gruppo Torinese Trasporti office in either train station.

At a minimum, become familiar with bus numbers 1 and 35, and tram 18. Bus 1 stops next to the Porta Susa and Porta Nuova train stations and passes directly in front of Lingotto. Bus 35 starts its route by Porta Nuova on its way to Lingotto. Tram number 18 runs through Piazza Castello, passing through downtown Turin and stops at Lingotto.

Other useful connections are bus 61 from Piazza Castello to Porta Nuova, and tram 13, bus 55 and bus 56 from Piazza Castello to Porta Susa. Be sure to validate your ticket when you enter the bus or tram or you are liable to pay a fine. Look for the small yellow or white box by the door.

DiningWe all know Italian is the world’s favorite cuisine, and classic fare is available throughout the city, but why not try some local specialties?

A typical piatto Torinese, or Turin meal, might start with grissini breadsticks, ancestor to the tasteless junk in restaurants everywhere else. Up to a yard long and as thick as your finger, these hand-rolled, crunchy delights date to the 1600s. For your appetizer, try Bagna Cauda, fresh, raw vegetables dipped fondue-style in a “hot bath” made with olive oil, garlic, spices and anchovies.

The favorite local first course is agnolotti pasta stuffed with vegetables, cheese or meat. Beef braised in a Barolo wine sauce is an ideal choice for the second course on a cold February night.

For dessert, don’t forget that Turin is the capital of chocolate. If you eat too many chocolate treats during the day, ask for a torta di nocciole (hazelnut cake) instead.

To wash down your meal, try one of the local wines, widely recognized as Italy’s best.

The reds include ruby-colored Grignolino, a zesty, supple wine with a floral scent that is a good match for dishes with cheese sauce or fondue; Dolcetto, which brings out the best in pasta with meat sauce; and the lighter Barbera, refreshingly fruity and a great partner for Bagna Cauda.

The Nebbiolo grape is the base for many of the region’s reds, including Carema, a good match for truffle fondue or roast veal, and Gattinara, Fara, Langhe Nebbiola, Nebbiolo d’Alba, Roero. It is also the source of the garnet-tinged, long-lived and heady wines of Barolo and Barbaresco. Food partners for these latter wines are braised, stewed or roasted red meats, game and aged cheeses.

White wines include Erbaluce, which comes in both dry and sparkling versions; Arneis, which has delicate apricot and green apple tones; and for the adventurous, Timorasso, with its fragrance of almonds and hazelnuts and a seductive touch of honey.

Now, equipped with a basic knowledge of regional cuisine and local wines, try the restaurants below. During the Olympics, the population of Turin will triple, so you’ll need to call ahead for a reservation.

¶ Ristorante del Cambio, Piazza Carignagno 2; telephone 011-546-690. For 250 years, one of Turin’s finest restaurants.

¶ Le Vitel Etonne, Via San Francesco de Paola 4; 011-812- 4621. A great choice for a light lunch and excellent regional wines.

¶ Ristorante da Peppino, Via dei Mercanti 7h; 011-530-570. This local favorite serves fish specialties and has a surprising wine list.

¶ Pizzeria da Gennaro Esposito, Via Passalacqua 1g; 011-535-905. The best pizza in town, hands down.

Meanwhile, if you get tired of pasta meals, don’t worry. Because of its history of immigrants, Turin has a variety of international dining options.

¶ Chinese/Thai: Mr. Hu, Via dei Mercanti 16; 011-537-171. With a menu as vast as China itself, many consider this Turin’s best Asian restaurant.

¶ Greek: Angolo Greco, Corso Vittorio Emmanuele II 40; 011-888-855. A family restaurant that has served excellent food for 20 years.

¶ Mexican: Las Rosas Taqueria, Via Bellezia 15/f; 011-521- 3907. A variety of tequila-based drinks and draft beer is matched with excellent burritos and fajitas.

¶ Bars and cafes: A lively tradition here is the aperitif. Some 220 years ago, the bartender at a liquor distillery mixed white wine with a secret recipe of herbs and spices. Vermouth was born. Years of experimentation to produce the perfect mix spawned businesses throughout the city. One of them (Martini and Rossi) invented what we know as the martini, arguably the world’s most famous mixed drink.

Today, visiting a modern bar, a historic cafe, or a typical pub is a social event. Starting at 6 p.m., drinks are served with light appetizers to help customers unwind from the day’s activities. Following are some of the best choices.

¶ Bar 21, Piazza Vittorio Veneto 21.

¶ Nuev Caval ’d Brons, Piazza San Carlo 155.

¶ Caffe Torino, Piazza San Carlo 204.

¶ Cantina Barbaroux, Via Barbaroux 13/f.

¶ Al Bicerin, Piazza della Consolata.

¶ The 1870 Huntsman Pub, Corso Vittorio Emanuele II 43d.

Jim Sajo is a freelance writer living in northern Italy. His book, “Torino 2006, A Local’s Guide to the Winter Olympics,” is available at www.overlookedbooks.com.

Know and Go ...• For Olympic updates and to buy tickets online, go to www.torino2006.org. Other ticket distributors include www.theonlineticketshop.com, a British agency, and www.razorgator.com. But their tickets are generally more expensive because of mark-up fees.

• For help in finding rooms, try Ludus Tours at www.ludustours.com or call (+39) 011- 839-1602. The tourism office, www.turismotorino.org, will provide names of two- and three-star hotels that have vacancies.

• For Turin visitor information, including updates on transportation, weather and travel hints, see the tourist office’s Web site or www.visitturin2006.com.

• For information on Olympic venues and towns in the Alps, see www.montagnedoc.it. (There is an English button on the left side.)

• For general Italy information:, visit the Italian Government Tourist Board, at www.italiantourism.com.

Three can’t-miss deals:

ChocoPass: This brilliant concept allows for 10 chocolate-based desserts in 24 hours, 15 in 48 hours or 23 in five days at participating shops and cafes. Price: 10 euros for the 24-hour pass, 15 euros for the 48-hour pass or 20 euros for five days.Turin Card: Provides admission to more than 130 museums, castles and royal residences. It’s 15 euros for the 48-hour pass and 157 euros for the 72-hour pass.The Mole Antonelliana: Take a 276-foot elevator for a spectacular view of Turin and visit the enjoyable Museo Nazionale del Cinema — all for just 8 euros.— Jim Sajo, and wire services

Turin’s Top 10 locations

Turin bursts with historic palaces, modern museums and active piazzas. Here are the best.

1. Museo Egizio(Egyptian Museum), Via Accademia delle Scienze 6. www.museoegizio.org. Home to the largest and most impressive collection of ancient artifacts outside of Cairo.

2. Museo Nazionale del Cinema(National Cinema Museum), Via Montebello 20; www.museo nazionaledelcinema.org. Inside the unique space of the most identifiable building in Turin, the Mole Antonelliana, the cinema museum wanders across four levels combining history with technology in a fascinating interactive display.

3. Piazza Castello.Once called the “cradle of Italian unity,” the Piazza Castello is the most important square in the city. It sits at the intersection of three main avenues and is enclosed by imposing fortresses and palaces. Olympic medal ceremonies will be held here each evening.

4. Palazzo Madama.Center stage in Piazza Castello, this splendid structure recounts Turin’s 2,000-year history.

5. Palazzo Reale.In the northwest corner of Piazza Castello, the stunning Royal Palace was built in 1646 by order of Lady Cristina, wife of King Vittorio Amadeo I.

6. Castello Valentino.The most impressive building in Valentino Park was a gift from King Carlo Emanuele I to his wife. She immediately made it her residence and court. Today, the castle houses Turin’s prestigious architecture school.

7. Piazza San Carlo.Turin’s charming and picturesque Piazza San Carlo is the halfway point on Via Roma and the focus of the city’s shopping, coffee and daily passegiata (take a walk) culture.

8. Piazza Vittorio Veneto.Arcades around the perimeter, an unobstructed approach to the river and a magnificent view of the Gran Madre di Dio church make Piazza Vittorio Veneto an ideal location to sit and enjoy your favorite beverage.

9. Il Quadrilatero.West of Piazza Castello is the quadrilatero romano, or Roman Quarter. Part of Turin’s original settlement, it is a maze of narrow cobblestone streets. Ten years ago, it had fallen into decay, but today unusual shops, cutting- edge galleries, concept bars and new restaurants draw a youthful, exuberant crowd.

10. Luci d’Artista.Each year, a group of artists, backed by platoons of technicians and construction crews, build an outdoor museum of light. The ultramodern exhibit along Via Roma, dazzling Piazza Carignano or near the imposing façade of Palazzo Madama, is comprised of 60 miles of electrical cable and more than 700,000 light bulbs.


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