A journey of transformation that began some years ago and which can still be noticed today, as explained by Francesca Camporeale from Visit Torino (www.visittorino.it). Visit Torino is an organization that sets up unique and custom-made trips to Torino and the Piedmont region in Italy. “The opening of the new museo del cinema (Film Museum) at the Mole Antonelliana (created in 2000) was the first important sign of the wish to clean up the image of a symbol of Torino that had become somewhat tarnished in years gone by,” explains Camporeale.
“François Confine, Swiss architect, was responsible for the project. The Olympics, of course, did the rest. Today, tourists interested in culture can visit Torino’s Residences of the Royal House of Savoy, the arcades of its historical centre, its museums (some internationally renowned), its art galleries and its famous cafés. The city was rediscovered first by its own inhabitants, who now view their Torino as tourists do. They go for their passeggiata on Sundays stopping for lunch in the countless bars and restaurants terraces – where they can enjoy an excellent meal – and visiting museums where they can admire traditional handicrafts.”
Via Pietro Micca, Torino - Photography by Luigi Bertello
But it has not always been this way.
Established in 300 B.C. by the Taurini, an ancient Gallo-Ligurian people, what would little by little become Torino later grew, in 28 B.C., into a Roman colony named Julia Augusta Taurinorum. Romans developed the rectangular structural foundation still in use today as the city’s road system and built impressive monuments that still stand, such as Porta Palatina and Porta Decumana that was incorporated in the Palazzo Madama in the Middle Ages.
The Medieval period was not particularly glorious for Torino. With the collapse of the Western Roman Empire the city slipped under the control of the Ostrogoths, the Lombards and the Francs (773 A.D.). In 941, the Marquisate of Torino was officially established and passed on in 1046 to Oddone di Savoia, through marriage. To the detriment of Chambery (France), Torino was chosen to be the capital of the Duchy of Savoy in 1559. Thereafter the city went on to play a minor role in the future politics of Europe.
In 1706, the city came under attack by the Franco-Spanish troops during the Spanish succession war. Fortunately it survived unharmed. The Duchy of Savoy later turned it into the Kingdom of Sardinia, with the annexation of the Mediterranean island.
Following the Napoleonic parenthesis at the beginning of the 19th century, the Congress of Vienna and the Restoration named Torino capital of the region, which then extended to Liguria.
After the Wars of Independence, Torino was chosen to become the first capital (1861-1865) of the newly formed Italian state. After handing down its sceptre, first to Florence, then to Rome, Torino moved from being a city founded on politics to a centre that spearheaded the Italian industrial revolution.
From then on, every kind of company erected its headquarters in the city: engineering industries, factories dedicated to the military armament, textile mills, and a garment commerce so important that it transformed Torino into Italy’s first fashion city.
The beginning of the 20th century coincides with the creation of the Fiat and Lancia, two major automotive companies. Having blossomed into the country’s primary industrial urban centre, Torino was frequently exposed to Allied bombings during World War II.
“AFTER THE END OF THE WAR, THE CITY ACTIVELY PARTICIPATED
TO ITALY’S“ECONOMIC MIRACLE”, AND ITS POPULATION SURGED
OUT OF PROPORTION, ATTAINING 1.2 MILLION INHABITANTS IN 1974.”
After the end of the war, the city actively participated to Italy’s “economic miracle”, and its population surged out of proportion, attaining 1.2 million inhabitants in 1974. The main protagonists of this development were Fiat and other automotive companies, which attracted workers from every part of the country. For decades the “City of the Fiat” was limited to nothing more than a grey industrial city, which totally excluded it from touristic circuits.
It was only by the 1980s that the city swung into action with initial propositions to convert Torino into something else: Fiat’s repositioning was greatly responsible for this shift of perspective in the urban lifestyle.
A transitional period was initiated with the planning of the Lingotto district, which from an abandoned factory was converted into an exhibition centre and a multifunctional building, by Genoan architect Renzo Piano. This encouraged major alterations in other parts of the city with the recuperation of abandoned industrial and railway lots.
The year of 1988 introduced Fair events that would alter forever Torino’s landscape by turning it into the apex of popular events, such as The Book Fair and the Salone del Gusto (The Ark of Taste), dedicated to excellence in food and organized by the Slow Food movement.
“IT WAS ONLY BY THE 1980S THAT THE CITY SWUNG INTO
ACTION WITH INITIAL PROPOSITIONS TO CONVERT TORINO INTO
SOMETHING ELSE: FIAT’S REPOSITIONING WAS GREATLY RESPONSIBLE FOR
THIS SHIFT OF PERSPECTIVE IN THE URBAN LIFESTYLE.”
Under the major landmark building, the Mole Antonelliana, new museums began to appear such as the Reggia di Venaria Reale, which reopened its doors to the public in 2007, after 10 years of renovations, and the Museo Egizio (The Egyptian Museum), an historical institution in the city that is considered second in importance to the actual Museum of Cairo.
Palazzo Reale, Turin - Photography by Luigi Bertello
Torino has progressed into a touristic city that is not ready to slow down anytime soon. Though the economic situation of the country is quite unstable, statistics indicate that there has been a rise of 6.7 per cent of hotel reservations between June and September 2015, compared to the previous year. Moreover, the Lonely Planet listed Torino and the Piedmont region in sixth position of must see European destinations in 2015.
More promotional work surely needs to be done when you consider Torino is only at the twelfth position on the list of most visited Italian cities by tourists. Nevertheless the path taken is the right one. The inhabitants of the city are now used to noticing men and women wandering about with maps and cameras in their hands. A reality that would not have been possible just a few years ago.