City of Turin - Torinoplus – Historical Notes

Historical Notes

 As all other great European capitals, Torino is a result of the stratification of cultures, people and civilisations. The city is disseminated with testimonials of the past that tell of a history that began over 2000 years ago: the oldest documents mention a small village at the foot of the Alps called Taurasia, a small settlement populated by the “taurine” tribe, descendants of the union of the Gauls and Celtic-Ligures that was destroyed by Hannibal in 218 B.C. It was a military citadel during Roman times and in 28 B.C., under Augustus, it was given the name Augusta Taurinorum. This is a colony whose layout was similar to a checkerboard: roads running parallel and perpendicular. This system will characterise the city’s zoning in centuries to come, when Torino will be under the dominium of the Franks and Lombards, then a bishopric and after that, a city.

In 1280 the House of Savoy conquered Torino. Under their reign, the city experienced one of the most important transformations of its history. In 1563, the Savoy transferred their capital from Chambéry to Torino and called the finest architects of the times: from Ascanio Vitozzi to Amedeo and Carlo di Castellamonte, from Guarino Guarini to Filippo Juvarra. Thanks to their talent and creative genius, the city was transformed into one of the major capitals of the Baroque era. Torino acquired a style, charm and elegance all its own that has been one of its distinctive features for centuries. In this economic centre of production and exchange, the first manufacturing industries were founded as well as the development of the art of chocolate making, the pride and joy of tradition in Torino, Italy and throughout the world. Torino took on an importance from a religious viewpoint as well, in particular from 1578, the year in which the Duke Emanuele Filiberto definitively transferred the Holy Shroud from Chambéry. Tradition would have it that the body of Jesus Christ was wrapped in this shroud. The Torino of the House of Savoy was also a cultural centre filled with activities. The University, founded in 1404, attracted brilliant minds from all over Europe: Erasmus of Rotterdam, one of the geniuses of Renaissance Humanism, graduated from this University. Torino was also beloved by Montesquieu as well as by French politician and intellectual Charles de Brosses, who once defined it as “the loveliest city in Italy and, as far as I’m concerned, of Europe”.

The Savoy reign was interrupted in 1798 when Napoleon’s troops occupied the city and forced Carlo Emanuele IV to abdicate and move to Sardinia. Piemonte became a part France and Torino saw the crumbling of her defence walls, that until then were one of the distinctive traits of her planning structure. The Congress of Vienna returned Torino to the Savoy in 1814. After the concession of the Albertine Statute by King Carlo Alberto it was with the ascent on the throne of  Vittorio Emanuele II, along with the work of Camillo Benso Conte di Cavour, that the city became protagonist of national history, leading the process that will result in the Unification of Italy. In 1861, Torino became the first capital of the Kingdom of Italy. The first Parliament was installed at Palazzo Carignano.

In the years following the Unification, even after the capital’s transfer to Florence, the city defined the industrial component of her identity more and more clearly. This process culminated in 1899 with the founding of FIAT – Fabbrica Italiana Automobili Torino (Italian Automobile Factory Torino) - by the hand of (among others) Senator Giovanni Agnelli, grandfather of ‘Avvocato’ Gianni Agnelli, who took command of the company in 1966 led it to its international apex. This is a success that is shared with another time-honoured make of Torino’s automobile industry: Lancia.

Tarting in the beginning of the 20th century, industrial Torino attracted men and women from the countryside in Piemonte and the rest of Italy looking for employment. With the emergence of the “social issue”, the city was faced with new problems of integration, development and assistance. Torino affirmed its calling as a supportive city thank most of all to works by religious institutions such as the Piccola Casa della Divina Provvidenza (Small Home of Divine Providence), better known as the Cottolengo. Solidarity is an aspect that will mark the entire history of this past century, and is brought forward today by institutions like Gruppo Abele and Sermig.

Torino is also the home to fervent cultural activity. Luigi Einaudi taught here. Antonio Gramsci and Piero Gobetti studied here. At the Liceo Classico (secondary school) d’Azeglio, a generation of students gathered around professor Augusto Monti that were destined to leave an indelible mark on intellectual activity from the 1930’s until our time: these men were writers like Cesare Pavese and Primo Levi, musicologist Massimo Mila and philosopher Norberto Bobbio. Another member of this group was Giulio Einaudi, founder of the publishing house that carries his name: one of the reference points of the Italian anti-fascist culture.

Italian cinema was born and developed here. In 1914 director Giovanni Pastrone filmed “Cabiria”, based on the literary work by Gabriele D’Annunzio: the first full-length film to be distributed worldwide. Important film studios were founded in Torino: Ambrosio, Aquila and Itala Film. The Fert studios – now the location of the technological park Virtual Reality & Multi Media Park – were among the most active and best equipped movie studios, specially at the beginning of the 20th century as well as from 1940 – 55. Radio and television history also dawned in Torino, where “Eiar”, progenitor of the RAI, was based. Such characters as Paulista and the Caballero Misterioso were born here. Who were they? They were some of the television personalities that brought many commercials to life on the successful television programme “Carosello” aired from 1957 – 1977. Their creator? Armando Testa, an historic figure of Italian advertisement. The success of two time-honoured labels are tied to ad campaigns by Testa agency: Martini & Rossi and Lavazza.