Sunday, 14 September 2014

Turin Valentino Park Running Route

Click here for route map
Length 7.7 km (4.8 miles), terrain: small hills, 45m gain

If you're wondering where all the runners are in Turin, here's the story: they're all in Parco del Valentino. This shady riverside park just south of the town center is full of trails and provides a great running area.
In Parco del Valentino
The park has lots of variety, and has some car-free tracks, as well as some other almost-car-free tracks. And, as it's situated on the River Po, you can combine it with a further run along the river trail (such as the other Turin route, the River Run).

Parco del Valentino isn't terribly big, but there are all kinds of interesting things there: Valentino Palace, a botanical garden, a recreated medieval town (complete with castle), cafés, playgrounds and sports fields, a fine-arts museum, and lots of other fountains, gardens, and nice spots for folks to hang out in. And lots of people do that on nice afternoons and evenings.
Piazza Castello, with view of Palazzo Madama
Like the Turin River Run, this route starts at Piazza Castello, the square in front of Palazzo Reale (the royal palace, from back when Italy still had kings).

When standing on the plaza, facing ornate Palazzo Madama at the Garibaldi statue, turn to your right and run straight down that street heading southwest, Via Roma, the one with the arcades leading off to a church tower a few block away. So off we go, heading down Via Roma.
Via Roma
Via Roma is Turin's main expensive shopping street, full of designer shops, and full of shoppers. So it's best to run on the strip of sidewalk outside the arcades, along the street, and you'll avoid the crowds.

In three blocks you'll come to Piazza San Carlo, Turin's most elegant square, with twin baroque churches and more arcades.
Piazza San Carlo
Run straight through the plaza to the churches. At the end of the piazza, turn left onto Via Giolitti to run eastwards.

After four blocks, cross diagonally to right and run through Piazalle Fusi which is a strange, empty, open space with air-vents going way down into unseen depths. The plaza was conceived to be a skateboard park, and you'll find skaters on the other side.
Skaters at Piazalle Fusi
Exiting the plaza at the southern corner, turn left onto Via Cavour, heading east again, towards the river. There's a nice little park to the right side, Giardino Balbo, and it's nicest to run down the park path here. This lively park has a playground and is full of parents and their kids. 
Giordano Balbo
At the end of the park, Cavour continues into another little (equally lively) park, Giordino Cavour. These parks were made possible after the old town defenses were torn down and room was created for the town's wider boulevards and parks.

At the end of Giordino Cavour park, turn right and run to the end of the block -- where the old church is -- and then turn left onto Via dei Mille, where you can run the last three blocks to the river.
The Murazzi from above
Cross the busy riverside street, Corso Cairoli, at the Garibaldi statue on the bluff above the river. Below you is the riverside quay formerly used by local fishermen, the Murazzi. Now it's the home of a stretch of beach bars and activities set up every summer.

Now, turn right, following the river southwards. The pedestrian trail goes down a bit first, then back up to the street level at the next bridge, Ponte Umberto I.

Just ahead of you, you'll see Parco del Valentino, at the monumental arch in the road.
At the rowing club
Running southwards, stay along the trails near the river. After a couple of riverside cafés and the rowing club, the trail merges into a paved street without cars, Viali Virgilio. Follow this street westwards and you'll suddenly discover where the other Turin runners were hiding: this is the place. Every runner in town seems to be here, running behind Castello del Valentino. The back side of the palace is a brick facade looming above the road on the right. The palace was owned by the Dukes of Savoy, and is now used by the Polytechnic University.
Behind the palace on car-free Viale Virgilio
This pedestrian road then goes by (or through) a replica medieval town, built for an expo that happened more than 100 years ago. I went through it and looked at all the buildings, because I like history, but you might as well slow to a walk in there.
Entrance to the medieval town
Past the medieval village, you come back into the main park, with a nice view of the river along the tree-covered shore.
The river trail
When you reach the end of the park, you'll run under the next bridge, where you'll see a section of a submarine on the right (put there as a war memorial for Italian sailors). This is the half-way mark of the run.

NOTE: If you want to add distance, just continue southwards on the riverfront path, and you'll go through a few more parks.

Now running north, back in Parco del Valentino, either follow the same way back (that's the quietest, greenest, pleasantest way), or follow the almost-car-free road, Viale Boiardo, that branches off to the left to see the other side of the park. If you take Viale Boiardo, you'll run a bit uphill past a big fountain, go past a formal garden on the right and then -- at the top of the hill - go past athletic fields and a giant noisy playground and café.
In the gardens in Parco del Valentino
Now run past the fine arts gallery and past the front side of Valentino Palace and its botanical garden.

After that, the street merges back into Viali Virgilio near the river, where you entered the park.
Palazzo Valentino from the front
So now run back the way you came, except instead of following Via Roma for the last few blocks, try a quieter street: two blocks before Via Roma, turn right onto Via Carlo Alberto. This is a quiet pedestrian street that also takes you through a further nice square, Piazza Carlo Alberto, flanked by twin palaces.

The street ends by running into Via Po, where you turn left and run back into Piazza Castello in just a few steps.

Sunday, 7 September 2014

Turin River Po Running Route

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Length 8.4 km (5.2 miles), terrain: flat

For more running routes, see Route List

If you fly into Turin (Torino in Italian), you realize how close it is to the Alps, with its suburbs crawling up to the first alpine foothills. The River Po, which flows through the city, begins its life a short distance away, tumbling down the alpine valleys as milky glacier water. But Turin itself is fairly flat and is open to the plains south of town, and the Po meanders peacefully through the city between green banks.
The River Po along the route
Although known as the industrial home of the Italian car industry (the suburb of Mirafiore is basically a Fiat town), Turin's old town remains intact, with dozens of baroque churches and little lanes and the castle area, with the main shopping streets radiating out from there, their arched arcades shading the sidewalks.

But other than the Giardini Reali (royal gardens, behind the palace) there isn't much green-space in the old town, so the riverfront trails provide some of the best running routes in town.

This route takes you from the heart of the Turin old town and then out along a stretch of the river towards the north. We'll start in Piazza Castello, at the royal palace and Palazzo Madama. This was the home of Italy's last kings. The kings of Savoy became the kings of Italy when the country was reunited in the nineteenth century, and Turin was the capital city for some time. But the last king, Umberto II, was tied too closely to the fate of Mussolini, and the country became a republic in 1946.
In front of the Palazzo Madama
Stand there in Piazza Castello, at the statue of Garibaldi and its little fountains. The flamboyant Palazzo Madama (ladies' palace) behind the statue, was the royal guest-house. If you look closely, you can see the four round, brick towers that remain of the old Roman western gate. The palace was added on to the towers. The royal palace is off to your left, behind the fence with the mounted-rider statues. Its part of the Polo Reale museum complex now.

Run around the right side of Palazzo Madama, heading east, and leave the square along Via Po. You are heading southeast, and there are arcades along both sides of the street. It's best to avoid the pedestrians by running outside the arcades, on sidewalk next to street.
Via Po arcades
After six blocks on Via Po, the street opens into Piazza Vittorio Veneto, lined with quite a few restaurants and bars, a favorite place for Turin nightowls. Keep running straight towards the river ahead, at about the 1-kilometer mark.
Piazza Veneto, heading towards the river
Cross Ponte Vittorio Emanuele I bridge, running towards the domed church on the other side. This side of town rises up the slopes of a ridge of hills, and is full of villas, but isn't very friendly for running.
Cross Ponte Vittorio Emanuele I bridge, then turn left!

To the right of the bridge, you'll see the Murazzi quays, formally used by the town's fishermen, but now also used for nightlife. In the summer, beach bars, a theater stage, volleyball courts and other activities are set up along the quays.

Now turn left and take the trail along the east side of the river, passing the little dam with its whitewater. Keep to the left side as a dirt path branches from the main path to follow the water.

Now you just run along the river for 3 more bridges, through a narrow riverside park.
Along the river trail
The paths come back together again after first bridge. The trail is quiet, as no street runs directly parallel to it. Most of it is shady, too, which is great, and you'll share it with quite a few other runners, bikers, dog-walkers and other pedestrians.

You soon pass a playground area, with a view above of the nice villas on the hillsides above.

The second bridge, at the 3.3-km mark, is a little pedestrian bridge, and nice spot to look at the river itself.

Cross the third bridge, Ponte Sassi, at the 4.4-km mark. As you cross the bridge, you can see the Alps off to the right side.

NOTE: you could continue running along the east bank for kilometers, if you want to add more distance.
Way back along Lungo Po Antonelli
After crossing the bridge, turn left and run homewards along the pedestrian trial through the narrow riverside green-strip.

There is a street next to the trail along this side, Lungo Po Antonelli, but it's fairly quiet.

At the second (pedestrian) bridge, you'll run by a lively neighborhood park with a loud, noisy playground.
Football-playing kids at the loud playground
Continue running westwards until you reach Corso Regina Margherita a tree-lined boulevard going off to the right diagonally, at the next bridge.

This is my least favorite section of the run. Corso Regina Margherita is not very scenic and it's a bit loud, but it's lined by two rows of trees.

When you cross Via Montebello, look to the left to see one of Turin's landmarks: the "Mole", with its huge spire. The building now houses the National Cinema Museum, and the closer you get, the more amazing it seems: the tower is like a series of Greek temples built one on top of the other going into the heavens. Definitely come back here later for a close look.
Running past the "Mole"
Two blocks later, at Via Carlo Denina, turn left to run into the Giardini Reali royal gardens. This is one of the nicest spots in town: green lawns and trees, with people relaxing on benches and mothers taking their kids to the playground.
In the Giardini Reali
Run along Viale dei Partigiani through the arched gates in the old defensive walls behind the palace, and in just 100 meters, you'll come out into Piazza Castello again, at the back side of Palazzo Madama.

Saturday, 30 August 2014

Gothenburg River Running Route

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Length 4 km (2.5 miles), terrain: flat

Pictures courtesy of the creative folks at Flickr Creative Commons. Thanks! 

For more running routes, see Route List 

Gullberg Quay Paradise
By Swedish singer, Håkan Hellström
Meet me where the boats roll out
Later today
Among rusty bikes
Rubber tires and factory fronts
Crushed glass and sewer pipes
For all of my life, all of my life
It feels like I am at home in
Gullberg Quay paradise

Gothenburg (Swedish: Göteborg), is a harbor town, with a long riverfront full of docks, ferries and loads of ships. Here's a simple little route that heads up the river from the town center for a bit of maritime flair.
Sunken dream along Gullberg Quay, photo by Goflorp
It will go by Gullbergskayen, a long stretch of old boats which Gothenburg romantics have decided to rescue from their deserved fates at the local scrapyards. The whole riverfront is lined with boat projects in every state of completion from "breathtaking makeover" to "cheap/ugly fix-up" to "half-finished and then ran out of time/money/interest" to even "there's no way on earth that this floating wreck will ever sail again". A few never even survived the long wait for their restoration, and they sunk right there at the quay, becoming one with the river bottom. If you like boats, this is the place to be.

We'll start at the same place as we did in the loop around the city center, at Lilla Bommen ("little toll-gate") harbor. This is a little marina next to the opera house. There are also ferries leaving from here.  
Lilla Bommen harbor, with the Viking and the lipstick, photo by Guillaume Baviere
NOTE: The Lilla Bommen ferries for Älvsnabben travel along the river and are a nice way to see town from the water, if you're interested in a cheap hour of sight-seeing.

Start the run at the east side of the little marina, and turn north, with the water to your left side. We'll now just follow the water all the way to the turn-around point, then head back home again.

In just a minute, you'll reach the north edge of the harbor, where you turn left to continue following the water. This is the side where the ferries land. You're running towards a beautiful white windjammer, the "Viking", more than 100 years old and the biggest one built in Scandinavia.  
The Viking, photo by Andreina Schoeberlein
ANOTHER NOTE: Speaking of maritime flair, the Viking is a hotel, and staying there is a great experience: I know because that's where I stayed the last time I was in Gothenburg, hence this route.

Now, turn right at the Viking and start running directly along the Göta Älv River. You'll immediately come to a red-and-white high-rise at the water's edge, shaped like a giant lipstick. This modern monstrosity dominates the whole scene. It does have a very cool tower on top, though.

You'll also run under a big, unattractive harbor bridge and come to the next stretch of re-developed riverfront. This part has new office buildings, but unfortunately, they put their parking lots right along the river instead of adding anything more human-friendly to make it more scenic.
The river from above, the lipstick in lower left corner, photo by Henrik Berggren
There are normally visiting yachts and other ships tied up along this stretch of quay, then another hotel ship, this one is a fake steamer (which never sailed anywhere) with an Ibis Styles hotel in it.

The street Gullbergs Strandgata runs parallel to the river trail. And across the river are more docks, shipyards, quays and warehouses.

After one kilometer you'll come to the Fartygsföreningen Gullbergskayen boat club, where all the interesting ship-restoration projects are tied to the seawall (or lie sunken before it), bobbing in the waves in their various states of nautical decay. There is a gate there to block cars, but pedestrians are quite welcome.
At Gullbergskay, photo by Martin Andersson
The ships are tied-up one- or two-rows deep along the quay, and on the land-side you'll run by a few sheds and containers for tools and spare parts. Depending on the time of day, you'll probably find a few guys hanging around, working on their ships or using them as a floating coffee/beer terrace.
A work in project: could take a few lifetimes, photo by Fredrik Olsson
The quay, also known as the "Quay of Dreams", is one big demonstration of naive love for these aging waterborne orphans, and they're fascinating to look at (OK, I'm a sailor, so I have a soft spot for junky old boats). You'll find fishing boats, barges, towboats, old ferries, sailing ships, rusty coastal freighters, navy patrol boats, about anything that ever floated.
Heaped-up chain along the quay, photo by Irene Kårlin
You'll also run by old ships' motors being engulfed in weeds, and other totally unidentifiable nautical leftovers. Across the river are more docks and cranes and passing harbor boats.
Ship details, photo by Daniel Ek
After 2 kilometers, at the north end of the boat club, turn around and head back to Lilla Bommen again, and you'll get to see it all again from the other direction!