Just walking through the streets of the city, you become part of a journey through time and space and join a game of mirrors, images and videos thanks to the places that evoke the many films shot in Turin from the turn of the 20th century to present day. Twenty multimedia consoles are available to tell stories and describe lives and different historical eras, drawing you into the iconic places of Piedmont’s capital. As the city recounts its film history filled with battles, car chases, assassins and laughter, you will discover a place of a thousand different guises, a contemporary Turin with a naturally cinematic nature.
The obligatory start to any journey through the Seventh Art “made in Turin” is Giovanni Pastrone’s silent masterpiece, Cabiria, which brought prestige to the subalpine film industry just as WWI began to loom on the horizon. It is both a symbolic welcome to arriving tourists and the invitation to take a virtual dive into the heart of a city that has always been forward-looking and capable of profound change. The glass structure of Porta Susa, one of Europe’s most modern railway hubs, has been the proof of this since 2009. In the second half of the 1800s, trains would stop at the ancient station nearby: it features in Mimmo Calopresti’s The Second Time (La Seconda Volta) when Nanni Moretti finally walks away from Valeria Bruni Tedeschi once and for all. During Italy’s Risorgimento, thousands of exiles from Venetian Lombardy poured into the city, crossing the Ticino River and getting to Arona by boat, to join Garibaldi’s dream to unify Italy. The building also appears in the background of Daniele Segre’s Manila paloma biancaand Monicelli’s The Organizer (I Compagni) where it was faithfully reproduced in the former Yugoslavia. More recently, the station was used by Ivano De Matteo for La vita possibile with Margherita Buy and Valeria Golino.
Last but not least, the nearby Piazza XVIII Dicembre, location of the ancient station, evokes two illustrious residents: Edmondo De Amicis and Emilio Salgari who, in a building on the corner with Corso San Martino, wrote much of the book Heart (Cuore) and the exotic adventures of Sandokan.
An eclectic set and one of the most beloved by directors of all eras, Piazza Carlo Alberto is the student hangout in the play by Sandro Camasio and Nino Oxilia, Addio giovinezza! – inspiration for several cinema and TV adaptations – which features the city, its traditions and atmospheres almost as if it is a leading character. The stables (which now house the Biblioteca Nazionale and the new Vivaldi Auditorium) and gardens of Palazzo Carignano opened onto the elegant square until 1859: now firmly established as a pedestrian zone, the square also hosts the imposing façade of the Museo Nazionale del Risorgimento. It is a prestigious setting, clearly recognisable in Corrado Franco’s TV film L’ultima corsa and wreathed in disturbing shades in Dario Argento’s Giallo. It was also particularly suited to the needs of Mario Mattoli’s film La damigella di Bard which was inspired by the melodrama set during the Unification of Italy by Salvator Gotta and presented at the Venice Film Festival in 1936. The piazza was again used as a set in the 1970s by Luigi Comencini for Sunday Woman(La donna della domenica) and Carlo Ausino for Double Game(Torino violenta). It provided the setting for a tracking shot in An Affair of Love (Un amore), Turinese director Gianluca Tavarelli’s debut film, which starred the almost newcomers Fabrizio Gifuni and Lorenza Indovina. Here again in the 1990s, Davide Ferrario (a Turinese by adoption) shot several scenes of We All Fall Down (Tutti giù per terra), based on the book by the Turinese writer Giuseppe Culicchia and starring Valerio Mastrandrea.
Piazza Carlo Alberto was also a familiar place for Friedrich Nietzsche who fell in love with the city, declaring “There is nothing bad to say about Turin: it is a magnificent and unusually benevolent city” and even “Turin is not a place you can give up”. As the commemorative plaque near the corner of the square and Via Carlo Alberto notes, he lived in a room in Via Carlo Alberto 6 for about a year (1888-1889).
Created in 1835 on the site of the public park present on the “Bastioni” since the 1600s, Piazza Bodoni has always been a magnet for crime news, romantic gossip, political intrigue and… curious facts! Facts hang in the background of L’eroe della strada (1948) by Carlo Borghesio which tells of the misadventures of the ill-equipped and eternally unemployed Erminio Macario and features music by Nino Rota. A pleasant car-free zone since 2002 which highlights the clean, sober lines of its buildings, the square is dominated by the Conservatorio Giuseppe Verdi, built in 1930 on the site of a covered market, whose entrance successfully stood in for the Police Station in City under Siege (Un uomo, una città), the detective story that Romolo Guerrieri based on the successful novel by Novelli and Marcato. The Conservatorio again appears in Dario Argento’s Four Flies on Grey Velvet (Quattro mosche di velluto grigio) along with other locations in the city, and was used to represent a theatre in Giuliano Montaldo’s The Entrepreneur (L’industriale). It was transformed into the library that Adrien Brody and Emmanuelle Seigner enter in Dario Argento’s Giallo. A chase scene in The Entrepreneur also features the square and the façade of the Conservatorio which overlooks it. Marco Tullio Giordana set a scene from Wild Blood (Sanguepazzo) with Luca Zingaretti and Monica Bellucci here, while there is also a glimpse of it in Massimo Venier’s Il giorno in più with Fabio Volo and Isabella Ragonese. Fausto Brizzi used it as the setting for a Gay Pride march in Men Vs Women (Maschi contro femmine).
Fun fact: the piazza’s residents included the visionary typographer and publisher Giuseppe Pomba who founded U.T.E.T (Unione Tipografico-Editrice Torinese) who lived in an apartment looking onto the square in 1854.
In one of the timeless elegant historical caffès of Turin’s “drawing-room”, Piazza San Carlo, Eleonora Rossi Drago meets Franco Fabrizi in Le amiche by Michelangelo Antonioni. The set returned to the screen, twenty years later, in Romolo Guerrieri’s City Under Seige (Un uomo, una città). It was not very different from how the square – designed in 1637 by Carlo di Castellamonte to link the old city with the new neighbourhoods created by Savoyard urban expansion – had appeared earlier in 1940, in the successful comedy Lo vedi come sei! by Mario Mattoli with Erminio Macario. Although it is today off limits to traffic, vehicles have been the true stars here in more than one scene: from the vintage cars in Gianni Amelio’s The Way We Laughed (Così ridevano), to those parked in Ricky Tognazzi’s Ultras and through to Peter Collinson’s The Italian Job, the police cars racing at top speed in Carlo Ausino’s Double Game(Torino violenta) and the small car carrying Lino Banfi and Jerry Calà in Francesco Massaro’s Al bar dello sport. Piazza San Carlo also provided settings for Caccia al tesoro by Carlo Vanzina and We All Fall Down (Tutti giù per terra) by Davide Ferrario.
The bars nestled along its sober perimeter, studded with porticoes, have welcomed numerous illustrious visitors including Alexandre Dumas senior who, in 1852, tried il bicerin, the classic Turinese hot drink of coffee, cream and chocolate, for the first time. To the South, the only non-porticoed part, stand two 17th century churches that appear twinned, St. Cristina and St. Charles, where Camillo Cavour was baptized on 13 August 1810 in the presence of his godfather, Prince Camillo Borghese and godmother, Princess Paolina Bonaparte, Napoleon’s sister.
Part Palais des Tuileries, part Fontainebleau Palace, Castello del Valentino resembles a little corner of France on the banks of the River Po. It is no coincidence that this Savoy Royal Residence, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, has been filmed many times in all its imposing glory. Nestled in the green of the park of the same name, it was Emanuele Filiberto’s ancient country villa and remodelled by Christine Marie of France, in the second half of the 1600s in a light French manner. In King Vidor’s War and Peace, it stands in for the Russian castle where Tsar Alexander I and Napoleon sign the peace treaty, while for Alan Taylor in The Emperor’s New Clothes (Gli abiti nuovi dell’Imperatore) it served as the Louvre. The stage for sumptuous weddings throughout its history, it served as the background for the troubled love stories in Fausto Brizzi’s Men Vs Women (Maschi contro femmine), for the confessions of an enamoured Piero Chiambretti in Every Dumped Boyfriend Is Lost (Ogni lasciato è perso) and scenes in Dario Migliardi’s Un Aldo qualunque and Dario Argento’s Sleepless (Nonhosonno).
Since 1860 it has housed the Regia Scuola di Applicazione per Ingegneri and is the seat of the Faculty of Architecture and Design for the Polytechnic of Turin. To the left of the inner courtyard is the Botanical Garden established in 1729 by Vittorio Amedeo I. This small marvel conserves medicinal and Alpine plants, centuries-old trees, greenhouses, orangeries and exotic curiosities in addition to the 500,000+ dried examples and 65 volumes of the Iconographia Taurinensis – a painted herbarium of 2,600 colour tables dating to the 1700s and 1800s.
Borgo Po, a neighbourhood of washerwomen, fishermen and boatmen until the early 1800s, appears to cluster around the severe Neoclassical church built to celebrate the return of the Savoy dynasty to Piedmont after the Napoleonic period. An area with strong filmic appeal, it has appeared as glimpses and locations in many films, in The Italian Job (the 1969 film recently elected 36 of the 100 best British films of the 20thcentury by the British Film Institute) the three Mini Minors barrel down the church stairs, cutting past a wedding procession. The staircase was once again featured by Paolo Franchi in Fallen Heroes (Nessuna qualità agli eroi). Picturesque Piazza Vittorio Veneto appears, wide and open, across from the Vittorio Emanuele I Bridge (the oldest brick bridge in the city) and the Murazzi – the two quays that run along the River Po, flanked by evocative Napoleonic-era warehouses. The door and entrance hall at number 24 feature in Franchi’s Fallen Heroes and Dario Argento’s Giallo who also shot several scenes of Sleepless (Nonhosonno) in a pub on the same square. Two ‘traffic’ scenes in Giuliano Montaldo’s The Entrepreneur (L’industriale) were shot in the square and on the Vittorio Emanuele Bridge while Roberto Faenza also set a night-time car chase here in The Days of Abandonment (I giorni dell’abbandono).
Fun fact? The continuity of the porticoes and the uniformity of the buildings facing the square hide the difference in height of some ten metres between the end part of Via Po and the river!
Designed by Filippo Juvarra in 1729 as a grand antechamber for the nobles and delegations visiting Palazzo Reale, the octagonal Piazza della Repubblica – known as Porta Palazzo by residents of Turin – carefully preserves its original “spirit of the people”. Behind the new Mercato Centrale which displays ancient underground ice-houses amidst a structure of raised walkways and parades of gastronomic glories, are the sprawling streets and alleys of the Balòn neighbourhood which lends its name to both the Saturday flea market and the chic version on the second Sunday of the month. Immortalized by Luigi Comencini in Sunday Woman (La donna della Domenica, 1975) it does not differ greatly in appearance from 1928 when it featured in Ferdinando Cerchio’s Ritorno a se stesso. Part casbah, part Latin Quarter, the area pulses with restaurants and bars, one of which was the setting for a long sequence in Men Vs Women (Maschi contro femmine). Piazza della Repubblica, the stage for Europe’s biggest open market, is buzzing and animated by a varied crowd in the opening scenes of Al bar dello sport, and seen at night in The Days of Abandonment (I giorni dell’abbandono), Everybody’s Fine (Stanno tutti bene) and Trevico Torino viaggio nel Fiat-Nam, directed respectively by Francesco Massaro, Roberto Faenza, Giuseppe Tornatore and Ettore Scola. Porta Palazzo also charmed Lina Wertmüller who filmed the passionate Mariangela Melato there for The Seduction of Mimi (Mimì metallurgico ferito nell’onore). Various scenes of Ivano De Matteo’s La vita possibile with Margherita Buy and Valeria Golino were shot in the market of Porta Palazzo. Even Vittorio De Seta shot his Lettere dal Sahara here in 2003. In 2002, the Sicilian actors and directors Spiro Scimone and Francesco Sframeli shot part of their film Due amici here as did Lucio Pellegrini (from Asti) for Tandem with the comedy duo, Luca & Paolo.
By the 1500s the entire area was already an industrial hub powered by windmills and the streams that still flow beneath the stone paving. A plaque near the corner with Corso Giulio Cesare commemorates Francesco Cirio, the “king of tomatoes”, who started out by selling bottled vegetables in Porta Palazzo in the 1800s, later establishing his first conserve business which transferred to Southern Italy after Unification.
Looking at the area that opens behind the twin churches of Piazza San Carlo, one immediately thinks of Dario Argento. The director, who has called Turin “the place that best suits my nightmares”, transformed Piazza CLN and the Rationalist architecture of this part of via Roma into the iconic set for Deep Red (Profondo rosso). The key external location for the film (without the Blue Bar inspired by Edward Hopper’s painting Nighthawks which was built as a set) is identical in real life, with the fountains of the Rivers Dora and Po. Near the latter, on a deserted and disturbing night, Gabriele Lavia and David Hemmings witness the murder of the psychic Helga Ullmann. The building where the main character Marc and Helga both live is also in Piazza CLN, although the front door is actually a side entrance to the Church of St. Charles. In some shots, the sign for “Hotel Nazionale” can be seen, a sadly infamous hotel that is closed today: it was used by the SS during WWII as their headquarters and for the interrogations of political prisoners held in Turin’s former prison “Le Nuove”. Piazza CLN has also been a setting for comedies: the scene of an accident in Massimo Cappelli’s Prima di lunedì and several sequences featuring Luca Bizzarri, Paolo Kessisoglu and Luciana Littizzetto in Tandem by Lucio Pellegrini.
Via Roma, the central artery of Turin that crosses the square, is recognisable in Fausto Brizzi’s Women Vs Men (Femmine contro maschi) where Emilio Solfrizzi loses his memory after hitting his head on a column. Now a pedestrian zone in part, via Roma was previously well-used by cars in many films, including Double Game (Torino violenta) by Carlo Ausino and Cattivi pensieri, Ugo Tognazzi’s “commedia all’italiana”.
The elegant square where Nanni Moretti talks with the former terrorist played by Valeria Bruni Tedeschi in Mimmo Calopresti’s The Second Time (La seconda volta) was considered off-limits in the 1800s. A cold neighbourhood of ill repute, little more than uncultivated open ground, it was designated the encampment area for the French troops allied to the Piedmont army in 1859 during the Second War of Independence. For some time known as the “forest” square because of the straw, coal and wood market, it took its present shape by the end of the 1800s and was gentrified by the addition of airy treelined spaces and elegant rows of buildings, many Art Deco in design, that spread along the diagonal axis of via Pietro Micca. On the corner with via Pietro Micca, Torre Solferino (the third post-war, large-scale construction project in the historical centre) houses the shop where Monica Vitti and Enzo Jannacci buy a long-desired fridge in Mario Monicelli’s episode in The Couples (Le Coppie); the square is also clearly seen in Dario Argento’s The Cat o’ Nine Tails (Il gatto a nove code). Two gay friends (Trintignant and Reggiani) are reconciled in Luigi Comenicini’s Sunday Woman (La donna della Domenica) on the corner of Piazza Solferino and Via Cernaia.
Vito Di Gesù’s tailoring shop, whose clients included Orson Welles, Gianluigi Marianini and Gian Maria Volontè, could once be found at 1, Via Cernaia.
Porta Nuova, the terminus of the Turin-Genoa line which opened in 1853, is Turin’s main train station and has played itself with no transformation nor adaptation in films set in the most varied of situations and historical eras. A landing stage for the dreams and hopes of those immigrating from Southern Italy during the economic boom in Gianni Amelio’s The Way We Laughed (Così ridevano), it is practically identical in Francesco Maselli’s Il Sospetto, a socio-political thriller set in the 1930s starring Gian Maria Volonté. In two very dissimilar films, Trevico Torino viaggio nella Fiat-Nam by Ettore Scola and Tony: Another Double Game (Tony, l’altra faccia della Torino violenta) by Carlo Ausino, the station displays its hidden underbelly, the little world of lowlifes and prostitutes who thronged the waiting room during the 1970s; in Carlo Lizzani’s Torino Nera, Bud Spencer’s main character says goodbye to his family members behind a gate on Via Sacchi while he is being transferred onto a police van. Dario Argento naturally did not refrain from channelling the dark, somewhat mysterious side of Porta Nuova in The Cat o’ Nine Tails (Il gatto a nove code) where he sets the intricate murder of Dr. Calabresi and used the location again for Sleepless (Nonhosonno). Ricky Tognazzi instead concentrated on the violence of rival football fans in Ultras using it for aggressive clashes between supporters of the Roma and Juventus teams. Marco Tullio Giordana shot a scene from The Best of Youth (La meglio gioventù) in the station. Dario Migliardi used it for a scene in Un Aldo qualunque, made in 2002 with the upcoming, young actors Fabio De Luigi, Giuseppe Battiston and Neri Marcorè, and a cameo from Omar Pedrini, guitar player of the group Timoria who wrote the soundtrack. Luciano Emmer crossed through here to shoot A Long, Long, Long Night of Love (Una lunga lunga lunga notte d’amore) as did Gianluca Tavarelli for This is Not Paradise (Qui non è il Paradiso).
The third largest station in Italy, Porta Nuova was never inaugurated. Completed in 1868 when Turin was no longer the capital of Italy, it was thought inappropriate to celebrate a construction designed to honour a reign that so quickly vanished.
Now emptied of cars and public transport, the ancient via dei Conciatori began to regain its charm several years ago. It offers a feast of luxury shopping while somehow also evoking the style, reserve and etiquette of Turin in earlier times. In Marco Ponti’s Santa Maradona, via Lagrange is blocked by a ramp that the main characters use to escape after a burglary during one of the film’s defining high-speed chases down the city’s roads and squares. The outline of Grand Hotel Principi di Piemonte looms over via Lagrange, an establishment that once hosted Frank Sinatra and Ava Gardner in May 1953. It has appeared on the big screen in at least three phases of its existence: in 1941, in Piero Ballerini’s melodrama La fuggitiva; in 1977, in Carlo Ausino’s crime story Double Game (Torino violenta), and in 1976, in in Ugo Tognazzi’s comedy Cattivi pensieri.
The name of the road commemorates Luigi Lagrange, one of 18th century Europe’s most influential astronomers and mathematicians, who was born in 1796 in the building at number 25. Near the corner with via Cavour, and the building where the future statesman, Camillo Benso was born, was the residence of the famed Virginia Oldoina, better known as the Countess of Castiglione, considered the most beautiful woman in Europe in her time.
Via Lagrange continues on as Via Accademia delle Scienze where Margherita Buy surprises her husband (Luca Zingaretti) with his lover in Roberto Faenza’s Days of Abandonment (I giorni dell’abbandono), based on the novel by Elena Ferrante.
The most elegant and compact square in central Turin can be seen in endless films. Guarino Guarini’s curved Palazzo Carignano, a most significant example of Italian Baroque, serves as a Carabinieri barracks in Tom Tykwer’s Heaven. Until 1831, home to the Carignano family, a cadet-branch of the Savoys which provided heirs for its descendance, the building was used for a romantic assignation in Lorenzo Vignolo’s Workers. President Claudio Bisio’s bedroom in Riccardo Milani’s Benvenuto Presidente! was shot in the Palazzo’s Royal Apartments which also feature in Paolo Sorrentino’s Il divo. On the opposite side of the square, the Teatro Carignano provided the stage for the rousing performance in Ferdinando Maria Poggioli’s Addio giovinezza!, where the main character becomes aware of Clara Calamai’s charms. Thirty-five years later, it was the setting for the séance in Deep Red (Profondo rosso) where Calamai again plays a key role. Dario Argento saw the gold and crimson theatre as an object of pure desire and used it, albeit only the exteriors, in Giallo.
Originally the chamber of the “Trincotto Rosso”, the stage saw the debut of Vittorio Alfieri’s Antonio e Cleopatra in 1775. Michele Novaro, composer of the music to Italy’s national anthem, worked at the Teatro Regio and the Teatro Carignano in the mid 19th century as second tenor and choir master.
Piazza della Consolata is a natural set, recognisable in Marco Tullio Giordana’s The Best of Youth (La meglio gioventù) as the setting for a conversation between Nicola Lo Cascio and Adriana Asti outside a cafè richly decorated with marble and wooden interiors. Senta Berger, the teacher in Luigi Filippo D’Amico’s Amore e Ginnastica, based on a novel by De Amicis, lived in the building at number 17. The Church of our Lady of Consolation, the patron saint and symbol of the city, is informally known as “la Consolata” to residents of Turin. Expanded in the 18th century by Filippo Juvarra, who also created the theatrical main altar, it houses the remains of St. Giuseppe Cafasso, one of the city’s “Social Saints” and the world’s largest collection of ex-voto votive offerings. The bell tower, which can be visited in small groups, dominates the little piazza of the same name, sandwiched between the buildings that recall a Turin of the past. Surrounded by interweaving streets in the Quadrilatero Romano neighbourhood, the medieval core of the city, which retraces the boundaries of the original Roman castrum, offers a gallery of picturesque views that have been shot from every possible angle. Dario Argento set a scene of a someone being tailed on foot in Galleria Umberto I, a French style shopping arcade from the end of the 1800s, in Four Flies on Grey Velvet (Quattro mosche di velluto grigio). A set also used by Ettore Scola in Trevico-Torino: Viaggio nel Fiat-Nam and by Gianni Amelio in The Way We Laughed (Così ridevano).
Casa del Pingone at street number 13 was once the residence of Emanuele Filiberto Pingone, author of the first history of Turin in 1577, and, now restored, conserves part of a 16th century window and the only medieval tower left in the city.
The symbol of the city, the Mole Antonelliana, daring construction built shortly after the Unification of Italy by Alessandro Antonelli to be a Synagogue, was never actually used as a place of worship. Following the various phases of its construction, it was for a long while the tallest brick structure of its time, at 167.35 m. Today the Museo Nazionale del Cinema, it is now a temple to the Seventh Art and to the cinematography pioneered by Turin in Italy in the early 1900s. A world, suspended between reality and imagination, that beguiles Giorgio Pasotti, the Museum watchman and tenant in Davide Ferrario’s After Midnight (Dopo Mezzanotte), who spends long nights watching silent films and filming with a vintage 8mm camera. The Museo Nazionale del Cinema plays itself in Women vs Men (Femmine contro maschi) by Fausto Brizzi where it features as the setting for the decisive encounter between Emilio Solfrizzi and Luciana Littizzetto and in La verità, vi spiego, sull’amore by Max Croci with Ambra Angiolini, based on Enrica Tesio’s book. The Mole serves as a hiding place for Lino Banfi in Francesco Massaro’s Al bar dello sport and for the central character, a prisoner, of Peter Greenaway’s The Tulse Luper Suitcases (Le valigie di Tulse Luper), obliged to become an elevator operator, he observes the behaviour of people in Italy during the Fascist regime. The Mole provided a natural set for Piero Chiambretti’s Ogni lasciato è perso and can be seen in many frames of Peter Collinson’s The Italian Job, Carlo Ausino’s La villa delle anime maledette and Giuseppe Tornatore’s Everyone is Fine (Stanno tutti bene).It is one of the metaphysical places Nietzsche loves in Jean Rouch’s documentary Engima. The inspector in Dario Argento’s thriller, Giallo, blocks the taxi following him on via Montebello by Cinema Massimo.
For those with no fear of heights, the elevator ride to the top terrace is highly recommended for a view of the city crowned by mountains, a natural set that is entirely real.
n Paolo Sorrentino’s multi-award-winning Il divo, which examines the life and career of Giulio Andreotti, Turin, Italy’s first capital, is the incarnation of the excesses and hidden machinations of Roman politics. The settings for the intrigues of one of the most powerful politicians in 20th century Italy cluster in this area: particularly relevant are Palazzo Reale overlooking Piazza Castello where via Garibaldi begins, and the aristocratic Palazzo Saluzzo Paesana, at 1 via della Consolata, the largest private residence in Turin, designed by Plantery in the 1700s for the enormous cost of 300,000 lire. A family of immigrants recently arrived from the South head for the Palazzo in Gianni Amelio’s The Way we Laughed (Così ridevano).
Via Garibaldi, central axis of the ancient Roman urban layout, and now the second longest pedestrian street in Europe, also features in many other films: in Carlo Ausino’s Tony: Another Double Game (Tony, l’altra faccia della Torino violenta) where its presence preserves the memory of a famous club now long gone. The chessboard of streets that interweave along the backbone of the Quadrilatero Romano, from Piazza Castello to Piazza Statuto, is a mass of medieval alleys, boutiques, churches and elegant residences. The Church degli Antichi Chiostri (at number 25) has a very original Cappella della Pia Congregazione dei Banchieri e dei Mercanti di Torino. The parallel thoroughfare, Via del Carmine, is seen several times in Marco Ponti’s Roundtrip (A/R Andata e ritorno) while Palazzo Scaglia di Verrua in via Stampatori, one of Turin’s few private Renaissance buildings, has a courtyard that offers respite to the main characters in Marco Tullio Giordana’s The Best of Youth (La meglio gioventù) during fighting between students and police in the square.
On the corner with Via Milano is the police station where the young Nicola Di Bari asks the police for help in Carlo Lizzani’s Torino nera. The restaurant where Eleonora Rossi Drago dines with friends after the fashion show in Michelangelo’s Antonioni’s Le amiche is in via Conte Verde, near the Municipal Council. The imposing Palatine Gates near the Duomo, the main entrance to the Roman castrum (fort) in the first century AD, feature in the background when Ennio Fantastichini meets some old friends in Marco Campogiani’s police comedy La cosa giusta.
The location of the Forum in Roman times and for municipal offices since the 1400s, Piazza Palazzo di Città was known as “delle Erbe” until 1828: its lively produce market witnessed the first appearance of the potato in the city in 1803, distrusted and described as the “devil’s root”, it was considered poisonous and the cause of a range of illnesses. To win public trust, Virginio, a member of the Royal Agrarian Society and a lawyer, began distributing potatoes free while teaching housewives how to cook them.
While Turin has often been used for Rome, mostly due to the aristocratic severity of some of its interiors, many exteriors have passed for Milan. In Marco Bellocchio’s Vincere!, the road leading from Piazza Castello to the Municipal Office of Turin becomes the Milanese street where the Fascist parade marches for Mussolini. Several years earlier, the same street inspired Carlo Lizzani’s TV miniseries Le Cinque Giornate di Milano where it provided the setting for the artists entrance of La Scala, during the upheavals of 1848. Shot in full Seventies thriller style, via Palazzo di Città is the location for the murder of a prostitute in Vittorio Salerno’s cynical and gritty Savage Three (Fango Bollente).
In real life, at number 19, four beds and an abundance of good will marked the start of the charitable infirmary established by Giusppe Cottolengo in 1828 and destined to become the Piccola Casa della Divina Provvidenza, better known as “il Cottolengo” which continues its mission today occupying a vast area near Corso Regina Margherita.
Piazza Palazzo di Città is also clearly seen in Davide Ferrario’s After Midnight (Dopo mezzanotte) and Carlo Lizzani’s Torino nera, draped in the artistic light decorations that celebrate Turin’s Christmas festivities. Historical fiction focusses on a very young Napoleon as he heads towards Porta Palazzo down via delle Tre Galline, in Alan Taylor’s The Emperor’s New Clothes (I vestiti nuovi dell’imperatore) while via Bellezia becomes Reggiani’s house in Luigi Comencini’s Sunday Woman (La donna della Domenica).
In one of the most dramatic scenes of Saverio Costanzo’s The Solitude of Prime Numbers (La solitudine dei numeri primi) Mattia leaves his little sister on a bench in the Parco del Valentino, designed by the architect of Paris’ Bois de Boulogne. The Borgo Medievale in the background appears in films from every era, including Marco Tullio Giordana’s The Best of Youth (La meglio gioventù) and Piero Chiambretti’s Ogni lasciato è perso. The Borgo complex is actually a faithful reproduction of a 15th century village created for the 1884 Esposizione Generale Italiana by Alfredo D’Andrade, inspired by the Castles of Piedmont and Val d’Aosta. Loggias and porticoes line the streets of Trento where Mussolini and Ida Irene Dalser first meet In Marco Bellocchio’s Vincere!. there is a lunch party in La villa delle anime maledette by Carlo Ausino in a restaurant (now closed) on the riverbank. Near Ponte Isabella is the headquarters of the Associazione Marinai d’Italia which served as the restaurant managed by Michel Piccoli in Libero Burro by Sergio Castellitto and the nightclub for the bachelor party in Anche se è amore non si vede by Ficarra and Picone.
The largest, and most envied, park in Europe in late 1800s, it was considered “a place for socially useful leisure” and served as an open-air gym. The eligible bachelors of Turinese high society would practice gymnastics and fencing in Villa dei Glicini and the art of rowing in one of the many clubs who created the bedrock for later Italy canoeing glory… while the first bathing stations and swimming courses were held on the banks of the river. The latter sport was evoked in Ferdinando Maria Poggioli’s Addio giovinezza! when the main characters take an impromptu healthy dip in the river.
A military billet and stables from the 1600s to the 1800s in the “command zone” of Baroque Turin, near the Regia Accademia Militare, the Cavallerizza is one of the most evocative corners of the city centre albeit still awaiting its long-promised renovation. A UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1997, its geometric style of courtyards and austere red brick buildings, now time worn and abandoned, evokes an extremely credible Sarajevo after the destruction caused by civil war in Sergio Castellitto’s Twice born (Venuto al mondo) based on the novel by Margaret Mazzantini. Castellitto also used a warehouse in the complex for the cleaning company’s office in his directorial debut Libero Burro, where he acts alongside Penelope Cruz. Some frames of the Cavallerizza can also be seen in La vita possibile by Ivano De Matteo and Due amici by Francesco Sframeli and Spiro Scimone. The ancient charm of its thousand hidden corners and its architecture unchanged by time, have been helpful to many period films and TV dramas. Amongst the many shot in the arc of a year, Maurizio’s Zaccaro’s Cuore (for Mediaset) reinvented the atmosphere and settings of Turin during the time of De Amicis. In contrast, Giuliano Montaldo highlighted an unexpectedly post-modern dimension in The Entrepreneur (L’industriale) using the area for the nightclub visited by Carolina Crescentini under her jealous husband’s watchful gaze.
The thirty rooms of the Museo Nazionale del Risorgimento Italiano on the piano nobile, which reopened in 2011 after 5 years of restructuring work, can be accessed from the inner courtyard of the residence of the Princely family of Savoy Carignano. It takes the visitor on a journey through the history of Piedmont from 1706 to the Unification of Italy and offers a view of the Subalpine Parliamentary chamber, frescoed by Gonin, which has been preserved unchanged from the last session in 1860. The Museum shares the inner courtyard with the Palazzo Carignano that stands opposite, transformed, at least for the purposes of film, into one of the fortresses of Roman power, the Quirinal Palace, where the timid librarian Claudio Bisio discovers he is an impromptu Head of State, in Riccardo Milani’s Benvenuto Presidente!, a comedy of misunderstandings that also features the Reggia di Venaria, Palazzo Civico and Palazzo Reale. Mario Martone’s use of the Museo del Risorgimento and Palazzo Carignano was more patriotic, his We Believed (Noi credevamo), inspired by Anna Banti’s novel, intertwines the political disappointments of three young men enthused by the ideals of Mazzini. Palazzo Carignano can also be seen in the spectacular action sequence starring the Mini Minors of Peter Collinson’s Italian Job. The steps of Turin’s staircases were encased in wooden planks padded with thick jute for protection while shooting. The production chose Turin because it was at the time (1969) one of the few European cities to have a computerized traffic control centre, a determining factor in orchestrating the incredible snarl-up that allows the freewheeling vehicles to carry out the heist of a lifetime. Numerous stuntmen were involved in the action scenes, some of whom were later hired by FIAT as test drivers. A pharmacy in Piazza Carignano, near the Palazzo, is robbed by drug addicts in Mauro Macario’s Perché si uccidono? while Françoise Fabian lives above the famous restaurant beloved by Cavour in Romolo Guerrieri’s City under Siege (Un uomo, una città).
A stellar cast is led by Ralph Fiennes in The King's Man, prequel and third instalment in the saga directed by Matthew Vaughn. World War I and key events in 20th century history provide the backdrop for the thriller which describes the origins of the first spy agency in history, secretly engaged in defending humanity. Turin was chosen for its compact architecture and style and is immortalised in stunning frames of Lungo Po Diaz, between Corso Cairoli and Piazza Vittorio Veneto. Other locations, in the centre of Turin and the sumptuous Palazzo Reale, the Reggia and the historical centre of Venaria and the castle of Racconigi, evoke the great events that marked Europe in the early 1900s. The embankment of Lungo Po Diaz above the Murrazzi del Po can be seen in Paolo Franchi’s Dove non ho mai abitato and Dino Risi’s Scent of a Woman (Profumo di Donna), based on Giovanni Arpino’s novel Il buio e il miele. The latter, starring Vittorio Gassman, offers a glimpse of the Vittorio Emanuele I Bridge where, several years earlier, Peter Collinson created the setting for an improbable water crossing by the Mini Minors in The Italian Job. Not far off, Nanni Moretti stares at the river from the unmistakeable Murazzi in Mimmo Calopresti’s The Second Time (La seconda volta).
The River Po and its surroundings offer a popular, charming set for productions, as they always have. Turin was a pioneer of the Seventh Art in Italy and by 1920 there were already some two dozen film production companies, plus soundstages and equipment warehouses, on the city banks of the Po and the nearby River Dora, creating its reputation as “Hollywood on the Po”.