Strolling the Porticos
Panorama: The Arcades
The most striking architectural detail about Torino is the city's miles of covered arcades, which were built so the Torinesi could conduct their business protected from the region's cold, chilly precipitation. You can walk from one end of Torino's center to the other without ever being exposed to the sky. And you're walking in style the whole way.
Under the wide, pedestrian-friendly porticos are chic clothing stores, impossibly cozy coffee bars, chocolate shops, ice cream parlors and gourmet bread and pastry stores. Even McDonald's is there. An afternoon stroll under the porticos is a city pastime.
Torino's architecture is a blend, but it works well together. There's the Baroque part of town with the fabulous Palazzo Reale, which was built in the mid-1600s and served as the Savoy family home until the mid-19th century.
Then there's the city's magnificent Baroque Piazza San Carlo, which authorities recently decided should no longer serve as the city's parking lot. It's now thankfully pedestrian-only.
The Baroque part of town butts up against boxy Via Roma, which was built in the 1930s during Italy's Fascist period. But surprisingly, it's a transition that's easy on the eyes.
The symbol of the city is the fantastic, towering Mole Antonelliana, the big spire that looms over town and graces every photo of the Torino cityscape. The Mole, as it's called, was built in 1863-69 and was the tallest building in Europe at the time.
Now, it's the home of an interactive museum on the history of the movies, which has to be the city's most interesting museum. There's also an Empire State Building-like viewing terrace near the top of the spire. When we went, it was smoggy, so unfortunately, we couldn't really see much. It looked like it would be beautiful if the weather was clear.
During World War II, Allied bombings destroyed vast areas of Torino, but mostly outside the city center.
My father, Luigi, was jailed near Torino during the war after he got caught by Mussolini's Fascists somewhere up in the mountains operating a radio transmitter for the Partisans fighting the regime. Family lore has it that my mother would ride her bicycle through dangerous territory around the city to go visit her young lover in prison. My maternal grandparents hid out in air shelters night after night during the bombings.
As I walked through town, I wished that I knew where my mother's family was living at the time, which route my mother would take on her bike, and where my young parents might have gone to kiss in the dark.
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