We spent a good part of our week in Italy looking for the immigrants among the Italians. Today, we went to Turin’s sprawling international market, known as Porto Palazzo, where it was hard to find the Italians among the immigrants.
Porto Palazzo is one of the biggest open-air markets in Europe. There were South Asians selling fresh produce, Chinese selling exotic fruit and vegetables and Africans selling beautifully sewn clothing and fresh spices. The smell of exotic foods and the buzzing of different languages flooded the open-air market.
The market was originally home to migrants from Southern Italy – today, it is crowded with immigrants from Romania, Morocco, Peru and Russia, China, Congo and most recently, Syria. Locals and tourists flock to the market for the diverse and low-cost items ranging from clothing to exotic international foods, toiletries and local produce.
We took a tour with an organization called Migrant Tours. The tour was lead by a Colombian immigrant, Adriana Offrendi, who recently graduated from the University of Turin and volunteers at the Ex MOI, the village that was originally housing for athletes during Italy’s 2006 Olympics, but has since been inhabited by refugees. Offrendi believes that Turin is on course to become a multicultural society, notwithstanding the local population’s skepticism of newly arrived immigrants.
“It’s kind of its [own] world,” Offrendi said. “You can’t lose anything [if] you can open your mind.”
Next, the group headed over to the Arsenal of Peace, a youth missionary service operated by the Sermig Brotherhood of Hope. The compound, which was formerly a factory that produced weapons during World War II, is now a “factory of peace,” said Matteau Cignolo, a monk who served as our guide. Every night the community serves hot meals to over 2,000 people and offers them showers and beds for the night. While the volunteers are Christian, most of the guests are Muslim, Cignolo said.
“This is a Christian house but we are open to everybody,” he said.
While we were at the Arsenal, we met a pair of Mormon missionaries and immediately introduced them to Chavie, covered Mormons for the class. They told her about the Mormon temple that is close to being fully built in Rome to accommodate a growing Mormon population.
Nearly every one of the Daily Dispatches has ended with an account of that day’s dinner so it seems only appropriate to end the final dispatch of our eight-day adventure with an account of dinner. Eating is one of the great pleasures of Italians and, for our group, dinner has served as a way for us to reconnect after long days of touring and reporting. Tonight, our dinner conversation was dominated by the highs and lows, favorite moments, things that surprised us, and everything in between.
We went to il Circolo dei lettori, one of Turin’s finest eateries. The meal began with an assortment of fried vegetables and a potato-onion quiche and ended eight courses later with a creamy custard.
In this class we’ve done writing exercises called Ritual Moments and Teaching Moments. Professor Goldman asked us to come up with our Favorite Moments. They ranged from musical experiences to watching children at prayer to hearing the heartbreak of refugees we met. Many of us related what we saw to our own childhoods and family experiences.
Professor Stille commented, “You learn that we’re only human and that we all put our socks on one at a time.” It was a fitting comment since some of us have had a fascination with Professor Stille’s colorful collection of socks. Cydney even posted them on Instagram, https://www.instagram.com/stillesocks/.
Professor Goldman, who arrived in Rome a day before the rest of the group, said that his favorite moment was when the students arrived. “You took a leap of faith by following me to Italy,” he said. “At that moment, I knew that our adventure together had begun.”