Turin (Torino), Italy
The city stands at the confluence of the Dora Riparia and the Po rivers in northwest Italy and is the crossroads of many important transalpine routes from France and Switzerland. It is the capital of the Piedmont region and the second largest industrial city in Italy (after Milan).
The city takes its name from the Taurini tribe, which inhabited the region during the first century and made the original settlement their capital. In the early fifth century, the town converted to Christianity and became a bishopric. One hundred years later, Turin was a Lombard duchy before becoming subject to Frankish rule. From the beginning of the eleventh century, Turin was connected to the house of Savoy, a dynasty that was to rule not only Piedmont and Savoy but also, from 1720, Sardinia. The power of the Savoys grew until in the eighteenth century. Turin reached its zenith during the reign of Charles Emmanuel II, when the court there emulated that of Louis XIV’s Versailles in grandeur and influence. It was during this period that many of the most celebrated examples of Baroque architecture in the city were built.
The French invaded Turin in 1798, expelling Charles Emmanuel II, and after the fall of Napoléon the city endured occupation by Austria and Russia, before the restoration of rule by the House of Savoy in 1814. The new ruler Vittorio Emanuele I, was a supporter of the Risorgimento—the movement for the unification of Italy—and made his capital a political base for this struggle. After the success of the Franco-Piedmontese allied campaigns against the Austrians, Vittorio Emanuele II was proclaimed King of Italy. Turin became the seat of the Italian government and the new country’s capital from 1861–65. The House of Savoy remained in power until the proclamation of the Italian Republic in 1946. Turin was the birthplace of Italian cinema, with Pietro Fosco shooting his silent film ‘Cabiria’ on the banks of the Po in 1914. Turin was heavily bombed throughout World War II.
In the post-war years the city has become a major industrial centre and the focus for the Italian Trade Union movement. Turin’s giants of industry, Olivetti, Fiat (founded by the powerful Agnelli family) and Lancia, have given rise to manufacturing industries such as tyre-making and coachbuilding (most famously Pinin Farina) and the city is renowned for its electromechanical expertise—the Politecnico at Turin University produces most of the motor industry’s engineers. Other important industries include the manufacture of rubber, plastics, chemicals, chocolate, fortified wines and paper. As well as being a notable junction for road and rail, Turin also has an international airport.
Places of Interest
The fifteenth century Duomo di San Giovanni houses the famous Turin shroud in which, according to some, Christ’s body was wrapped after the crucifixion. The Baroque Palazzo Carignano served as the first national parliament from 1861–64, it now contains the Museo Nazionale del Risorgimento Italiano, notable for its historic documents and political memorabilia of Italy in the nineteenth century. The Palazzo dell’Accademia delle Scienze houses an Egyptian museum with one of the world’s finest collections of ancient Egyptian art. The armoury of the Palazzo Reale contains one of the best collections of medieval and renaissance arms and armour.