27 October 2015

2015 ITALY Torino 6 - Touring

We woke refreshed and ready to roll. First things first though. We were hungry. We met L&S in the lobby for a huge breakfast buffet. We ate our fill and then some. Several coffees (caffè in Italian) later we headed to the front desk for our meet up. Chef John had arranged a historic/culinary tour of Torino for 10:00. We were not sure what that was going to be, but we were ready.

Arturo was our guide for a delightful 2-hour walking tour. We learned of Torino's 2,000-year history, Italy's royal Savoy family, and much more. Torino, located along the Po River, became Italy's first capital city in 1861 and is the current capital of the state of Piedmonte.

Today was a pretty drippy day, but fortunately Torino has ten miles of open, arcade "hallways" constructed on the fronts of the buildings. This allows you to walk outside during the rain without the need of umbrellas.

Much of the old city is in Baroque style, very decorated and ornate. It evolved in this direction during Martin Luther's time, when people were turning to the reformed and simpler Protestant religion. In order to lure patrons back to Catholicism, churches were built more elaborately, colorful, fancy woodwork and alters. Much of that architecture still stands today.

But during WWII, 30% of the city was bombed by American troops--the target was industrial areas to halt the production of warfare vehicles and weapons. In the end, Italy was grateful for these actions because it helped to stop the Mussolini and Hitler regimes. But many buildings had to be replaced and were done so in a more modern style.

Two historic churches stand on one end of the Piazza Castello square. Behind them, in a kind of juxtaposition, is a Lictorian tower, also know as the "Finger of Mussolini." That is an Italian architectural style developed during the late Fascist period and inspire by ancient Roman architecture.

It was constructed in 1933, is 19-stories tall (extremely high compared to everything else in the area), was the first building in Italy to be built with a welded steel skeleton, and is stark and modern. This was one of Mussolini's headquarters and he spoke from its balconies. Later this was headquarters to Fiat Motor Company.

We continued browsing this historic square where we saw the side-by-side Savoy Palazzo Reale (palace of the King) with green gate protecting it

and the Palazzo Madama (palace of the Queen) with its imposing towers. Talk about sleeping in separate bedrooms!! In the Madama, the entrance floor was removed and replaced with thick glass to see down into the even older Roman ruins upon which the palace was built. The wide twin staircases were imposing. I can just picture the gowns and military uniforms swooping up and down those steps.

Adjacent to the palace is the private House of Savoy family church, the Church of San Lorenzo. It was built in 1560 and from the outside looks like an ordinary office building. Inside is quite a different story. Very elaborate with eight colors of marble, gold leaf everywhere, many huge and colorful religious paintings and statuary, and windows in a high cupola (some configured as a face to keep the devil out). At another window, the light only shines into the church during the two equinox days. This is classic "baroque" and my description really does not do the place justice. 

A replica of the Shroud of Turin is displayed in a side chapel here. The actual cloth, which is speculated to be the shroud covering Jesus after his crucifixion and on which his face is imprinted, is rarely on display. So this replica, along with other religious artifacts and information, is displayed here for the public to view.

We also saw the Opera House's big artistic metal gates protecting the entrance. Apparently they had to be installed because skate boarders were ruining the façade of the building. Opera season here starts this weekend, so there was a flurry of people about. Aida is first on the ticket.

We also walked past the Italian National Museum of Cinema (wish we could have lingered longer there). Throughout our time in Italy, whenever we told someone we had been in Torino, they asked if we had visited this museum. A definite for next time.

Then we arrived at the fascinating Royal Library. It is now part of the University of Turin. This was a private library owned and used by the royal family. The public was not allowed in as it was not "prudent" for the common man to become educated.

We were only there for a few minutes, but I could feel the knowledge enveloping me. So many ancient books, maps, papers, and artifacts. We even viewed original drawings by Leonardo da Vinci and scripts by Alessandro Manzoni, whose writings led to the development of the modern Italian language. We could not take photos inside, but here is one looking in.

For more info about Turin:

Read the "History of Mussolini in One Hour" on Kindle. Turns out he was mostly a bad guy AND a little bit of a good guy!

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