Guarini’s Chapel of the Holy Shroud burned down in 1997, though the relic itself was saved, much to the relief of Shroudies the world over. But fans of Guarini’s graceful version of the baroque still have Palazzo Carignano, home to a branch of the Savoy family, to admire. In the swirling facade, bricks are latticed, scrolled and scooped out of their functional natures. Inside, beyond the pigeon droppings, is the Museo Nazionale del Risorgimento Italiano, which celebrates Turin’s key role in Italy’s struggle for independence.
For a few brief years, before the capital moved south, this was where the Italian parliament met. Restored in 1997, the Sala del Parlamento Subalpino is a splendid oval of red velvet seats, overlooked by a trompe I’oeil dome – a perfect setting for the melodrama of Italian politics. After each performance, deputies would adjourn to Ristorante del Cambio opposite, a stuccoed establishment that is still going strong. Even the waiters have hardly changed since 1860.
A little further down the same street, the Museo Egizio is the surprise trump card in Turin’s sightseeing hand. The Savoys had dabbled in Ancient Egyptian knick-knacks ever since the 16th century, when they acquired the Mensa Isiaca, a bronze tablet with hieroglyphic inscriptions that stirred up the Renaissance appetite for mummy lore (though it was later revealed to be a Roman copy). The fledgling collection
was given a huge boost in 1824 when Carlo Felice bought up the Egyptian hoard of Bernardino Drovetti. a resourceful Piedmontese who had used his position as French consul in Cairo to amass the world’s biggest private collection of Egyptian artefacts. Later Italian expeditions plumped out the museum’s holdings, which today consist of around 30,000 items.
In functional steel cases, mummies lie sliced into suspended sections. In the dusty, reconstructed tomb of Ini – from 2100bc -clay serfs make beer and bread to keep their master going in the afterlife. An upstairs room houses an entire rock-hewn temple, brought here in blocks to save it from the rising waters of the Aswan Dam.The display and the labels – may not be as impressive as those in the Egyptian rooms of the
British Museum or the Louvre, but for sheer completeness, Turin wins hands down.
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