A Guided Walk around Turino Part 1

In March of 2023, I was offered the opportunity to do a tour of the Northern Italian town of Turino. I was keeping company with some skiers in a ‘Club Med’ in Pragelato, a site not far from the French border with Italy. As a retired skier who always wanted to visit Turino, I accepted the chance and was almost the first on the bus the next day as we made the 60 minute trip to the centre of Turin. Our guide had decided to use Via Roma as the backbone of our tour and our bus let our group off on the edge of Piazza Carlo Felice, just over the road from Stazione di Porta Niuova.

Our first major destination was Piazza San Carlo. The continuation of Via Roma into this important piazza is in between the backs of two churches that are the famous ‘doorway to this piazza. In the image below, the male statue on the left represents ‘Il Po’, the local Po River’ and on the right is the female statue of ‘La Dora’, representing the local Dora River. This small piazza is called Piazza CLN.

Moving in between the two churches takes the visitor into the huge square that is Piazza San Carlo. It is dominated at the southern end by the two churches shown below; on the left is the Church of Santa Cristina started in 1639 and on the other side is San Carlo which had been started 20 years earlier. Santa Cristina didn’t receive its beautiful façade until 1715.

The Piazza San Carlo is one of the major squares in Turin and was developed during the 16/17th centuries. It is apparently the home of the city’s most expensive boutiques. It houses election rallies, concerts and sports events. It is dominated in the centre by a large equestrian statue built in 1838. It represents Emmanuel Philbert, a 16th century ancestor of the King of Savoy who was famous for his military prowess. On the right as you walk through the Piazza is a baroque style building fronted with long colonnades called Palazzo Carignano which houses the Museum of the Risorgimento, dedicated to the history of reunification of Italy. It was placed on the UNESCO World Heritage list in 1997 along with 13 other residences of the house of Savoy.

Along this side of the piazza there are a number of other museums from that dedicated to the Risorimento.. One of these is the Egyptian Museum and a number of our group decided to spend the rest of the morning exploring this museum rather than continue our exploration of Turin.

In the photo to the left below can be seen our group entering into one of the inner courtyards of Palazzo Carignano. There was another huge equestrian statue plus attendant figures that sat in the centre of this courtyard.

Given that we had an hour’s drive to Turin and time was passing, it was definitely coffee time. Our guide had booked us into one of the fancier restaurants in the area, not out in the sun of the piazza but in a café whose tables also spread out into a glass roofed area almost completed taken up with shrubbery. It was called Galleria Subalpina and it was well worth the visit. From our indoor café we didn’t return to Piazza San Carlo but made our way through further arcades and found ourselves in Piazza Castello, the most important square in Turin.

I didn’t realise that I was in a large square at first as there was a large complex of buildings taking up a significant section of the Piazza. These buildings made up the Palazzo Madama (‘Madama’ in Italian translates as ‘queens’). It is another World Heritage building, one of the 13 mentioned earlier with Palazzo Carignano and was the site of the first senate of the Kingdom of Italy when Turin became the first capital of Italy.

The other amazing detail about this complex conglomeration of buildings in the centre of Piazza Castello is that the site was occupied in the first century by a Roman Gate and the two towers of today’s building (although restored) were part of the nucleus of the old Roman gate and surrounding fortifications. The image on the left above gives an idea of what the building looked like in the 13th century. In the middle-ages various buildings were added on for the use of local royalty. In the 18th century a baroque palace in white stone was intended to be attached to the older building but this work was stopped in 1721 with only the front section completed. Palazzo Madama appears to be a building where much of Turin’s last 2000 years of history coalesce.

The image of Piazza Castello below is the one that greeted us as we walked around Palazzo Madama to take in the rest of the Piazza. The dome to the left belongs to the Royal Church of San Lorenzo. The Piazza ends where the impressive fence cuts across the Piazza and marks off the start of Piazza Reale (‘Royal’). This is the square in front of the Royal Palace of Turin built in the 16th century and is the historic palace of the House of Savoy. After World War 2, the palace became the property of the state and was converted to a museum. Like so many of the other wonderful buildings in Turin, it is on the World Heritage list.

The large statue to the right in the image above stands in front of Palazzo Madama and was a monument to Sardinian troops and was erected for the visit to Milan of the Austrian Emperor Franz Joseph, 15 January 1857. The image on the left below is of the ‘dome’ of the Royal Church of San Lorenzo and the equestrian horse stands on one of the pylons holding up the gates to the Palace at the entrance to Royal Piazza.

There was no time in our walk around Turin for a visit to the museum in the Royal Palace but we were able to walk through a large internal courtyard on the ground floor of the building which led us out the other side of the Palace into the large palace gardens.

A Guided Walk around Turino…Part 2

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