History of Turin in short
Turin is a vibrant city located in the northwest of Italy, along the Po river and surrounded by the Alps.
It’s the capital of the Piedmont region, with a population of about 900,000 in the city, or around 1.5 millionincluding the outlying areas.
Torino, as it’s known in Italian, was the first capital of Italy. As with the other great European capitals, Turin isa result of the stratification of cultures, communities, and civilisations – translated today in its numerous art galleries, restaurants, churches, palaces, opera houses, piazzas, parks, gardens, theatres, libraries, museums, and more.
Turin is well-known for being at the intersection of Reinassence, Baroque, Rococo, Neo-classical, and Art Nouveau architecture. The city is often called «the cradle of Italian liberty», having been the birthplace and home of notable individuals, such as Count Cavour, who played key roles in the Risorgimento (or Resurgence) – the ideological and literary movement that helped arouse the national consciousness of the Italian people and led to the unification of Italy.
Today, the historical centre of Turin – namely the Residences of the Royal House of Savoy – is a part of the World Heritage List.
In the centre of Piedmont, the Taurini – an ancient Celto-Ligurian Alpine people – had occupied the uppervalley of the Po River. However, in 218 BC, they suffered an attack by Hannibal, who was allied with theirlong-standing enemies, the Insubres. After a three-day siege, Taurasia, the Taurini chief, was captured by Hannibal's forces – and it’s believed that a Roman colony was established at the time under the name of Julia Augusta Taurinorum (modern Turin).
At the time, Turin had about 5,000 inhabitants, all living inside the high city walls. After the Roman Empire crumbled in the Middle Ages, Turin was overrun by Lombards, Franks, and Goths until it began to be absorbed into the powerful House of Savoy. By the time it was annexed to the Duchy of Savoy at the end of the 13th century, the city had around 20,000 inhabitants.
Emmanuel Philibert, nicknamed of Testa 'd Fer (or Iron Head), made Turin the capital of the Duchy of Savoy in 1563.
In the first half of the 17th century, the same period that Palazzo Reale (the Royal Palace of Turin) was beingbuilt, Piazza Reale and Via Nuova were added, together with the first enlargement of the city walls. Today, Piazza Reale is known as Piazza San Carlo and Via Nuova has become Via Roma.
In the second half of that century, the arcaded Via Po was built based on the grid street plan – connectingPiazza Castello to the bridge crossing the Po river.
During the Battle of Turin in 1706, the French besieged the city for 117 days without conquering it. By the Treaty of Utrecht, the Duke of Savoy acquired Sicily, which he soon traded for Sardinia and was proclaimedking – naming Turin the capital of his kingdom. In this era, the architect,Filippo Juvarra, was commissionedto conduct a major redesign of the city.
Like the rest of Piedmont, Turin was annexed by the French Empire in 1802, and until the fall of Napoleon in 1814, the Kingdom of Piedmont-Sardinia was restored with Turin as its capital. In the following decades, the Kingdom of Piedmont-Sardinia led the struggle towards the unification of Italy. From 1861 to 1865, Turin was the capital of the united Kingdom of Italy – and some of the city’s most iconic landmarks, such as the Mole Antonelliana, the Egyptian Museum, the Gran Madre di Dio church, and Piazza Vittorio Veneto werebuilt during this period.
The late 19th century was a period of rapid industrialization in Turin, especially in the automotive sector. Fiat was established in 1899, followed by Lancia in 1906. The Universal Exposition held in 1902 is oftenregarded as the pinnacle of Art Nouveau design, and the city hosted the same event once more in 1911. By this time, Turin had grown to 430,000 inhabitants.
Post-World War I, harsh conditions brought about a wave of strikes and protests by workers, who occupiedthe Lingotto Fiat factory. The Fascist regime put an end to the social unrest, including banning trade unionsand jailing socialist leaders, most notably Antonio Gramsci. On the other hand, Benito Mussolini largelysubsidised the automotive industry to provide vehicles to the army.
During World War II, Turin was a target of Allied strategic bombing and suffered significant damage by the air raids in its industrial areas as well as in the city centre.
The Allied’s campaign in Italy started from the south and slowly moved northwards, leaving the northernregions occupied by Germans and collaborationist forces for several years. Turin was not captured by the Allies until the end of 1945 – and by the time the vanguard of the armoured reconnaissance units of Brazilian Expeditionary Forces reached the city, it was already freed by the Italian Partisans that had begunrevolting against the Germans on 25 April 1945. Days later, troops from the US Army came to substitute the Brazilians.
In the post-war years, Turin was rapidly rebuilt – with the city’s automotive industry playing a pivotal role in the Italian economic miracle of the 1950s and 1960s. Hundreds of thousands of immigrants flocked to the city, particularly from the rural southern regions of Italy – resulting in Turin being called «the third southernItalian city after Naples and Palermo».
The population reached 1 million in 1960 and peaked at almost 1.2 million in 1971. This exceptional growthearned the city the nickname Automobile Capital of Italy and the Detroit of Italy (Turin has been ‘twinned’ with Detroit since 1998).
In the 1970s and 1980s, the oil and automotive industry crisis severely hit the city, and its population beganto sharply decline. This has only begun to reverse itself in recent years, as the population grew from 865,000 to slightly over 900,000 by the end of the 20th century – a number that remains to this day.
Turin is twinned with the following cities: