One of the things I love about living in Torino is that it is filled with so much history and elegance. Everywhere you go it’s all around you and that’s because the House of Savoy LOVED to show off. You know the House of Savoy right? No? Well, here’s a quick history lesson:
The House of Savoy ruled this area and as they acquired more territories they controlled more of the Italian peninsula. This is the family that would ultimately rule Italy until WWII. (Torino was Italy first capital until 1865 which then was moved to Florence and then Rome.)
The Savoys were a powerful bunch and they weren’t afraid to let anyone know. I mean, do you really need so many palaces and castles in such close proximities? Apparently they did. Lucky for us, these magnificently beautiful buildings are available for public viewing and gives us a sneak peak as to what life must have been like for the Savoy family.
When visitors come to the city, I try my best to give them a brief history as we stroll the streets and enjoy the Savoy’s Torino. So if you’re even in town, these are my MUST SEE for a royal experience.
1- Piazza Castello– I like to call this Command Center. You’ve got the Royal Palace (Palazzo Reale), the Royal Library, and Armoury. Here you’ll also find Palazzo Madama. This gorgeous building has many layers and fortunately for us, can still be seen. Part of Palazzo Madama’s foundation is built upon Roman ruins. In it’s history, it has been a fortress, castle, guest house, royal residence for two Duchesses, museum, location for the first Senate and now (again) a museum. It’s been said that here at Palazzo Madama that the birth of the Kingdom of Italy was declared.
2- Palazzo Carignano- I am in love with Palazzo Carignano. It’s beautiful Baroque style is unique. The designer was inspired by drawings of the Louvre. Not only was this palace the location for the first Italian Parliament it is the birthplace of Italy’s first king: Vittorio Emanuele II.
3-Superga– It’s 1706 and the French-Spanish army is closing in on the Piemonte and Austrian troops. Duke Vittorio Amedeo II and Prince Eugenio of Savoia-Soisson climb up to the mountain top to get a better look at the enemy’s approach. At the top of this mountain was a small church with a wooden statue of the Virgin Mary. They prayed to Mary and asked for help. Help them win this battle and in return they’d build the biggest church in her honor.
They won the battle and in 1717, the first stone was laid down. The Basilica of Superga is one of Torino’s most cherished landmarks. Not only is this a house of worship, it’s ANOTHER royal residence. Obviously if the Savoy’s have to make the trek up the mountain, they would most definitely need a place to stay. If that wasn’t enough, the church also has a mausoleum. To reach the Basilica, you take a quaint trolley car up the mountain. Have a look around, tour the tombs and royal residences. Make sure you climb the stairs to the top of the dome for a great view!
Don’t forget to have a walk around the grounds and when you reach the back, have a moment of silence. On May 4, 1949, an airplane carrying the Grande Torino football (soccer) team crashed into the convent located at the back of the church. Every one was killed and it devastated the city. There’s a memorial at the site and is a must see.
4- Fiorio– Caffe’ Fiorio has been in operation at it’s location on Via Po since 1780. It’s one of the oldest caffe’s in the city and plays an important part of Torino’s and Italy’s history. The photo below is of the Cavour room. Camille Benso Conte di Cavour would meet with other well known politicians and discuss strategy. He was the key player in Italy’s unification. I really love the decor of Fiorio. Red velvet lines the cushy seats, the floors are old and creaks with each step. It’s the perfect place if you want to feel fancy.
5-Pepino-You know this post would include gelato! Pepino is one of the first gelaterie I tried when I moved here in 2009. Their flagship store is located in the beautiful Piazza Carignano. Since 1884, Pepino has been serving it’s signature gelato not only to the people of Torino but also the Royals. Oh yes.. they love them some Pepino. So much so that they have been awarded 4 Coats of Arms making them.. the “Supplier of the Royal House”! In 1939 they created the famous “Pinguino” aka.. chocolate covered gelato on a stick in 5 different flavors! Pepino gelato is renowned and can be found in several caffe’s around town as well as some grocery stores. If you get the chance.. go for the Mint Pinguino!
My fellow #BlogPiemonte blogger Lucia wrote a fantastic post over at Turin Epicurean Capital about Pepino’s pinguino gelato. Click here to read all about it!
So there you have it! A day of royal sightseeing and gelato eating. The Savoys were a flashy bunch of folks but I like to believe that maybe they were just like us normal folks. They liked to party, dance and eat. You want proof? Ha.. I got it!
Here’s a clip of Emanuele Filberto di Savoia- Prince of Venice and Piemonte on Ballando con le Stelle (Dancing with the Stars). He is the only male-line grandson of Umberto II who was the last Kind of Italy. So while he is technically a Prince, his title isn’t officially recognized in Italy because the monarchy was abolished in 1946 and Italy then became a Republic.
Our theme for August was Royalty in Piemonte and as always, you can following along on Twitter using the hashtag #BlogPiemonte. Check out my fellow bloggers and what they have to say about Royalty in Piemonte. We’ll be posting throughout the month of August so come back to see the updated links!
TurinMamma- Ice cream: the ultimate status symbol
Once Upon a Time in Italy- Turin Legends: Royal Alchemy
The Entire Pizza- The Royal Enologist of Barolo
Uncorkventional- 50 Shades of Royalty