The Piazza Carignano is one of Turin’s most majestic squares and is overlooked by the equally handsome, redbrick and white alabaster palace of the same name. Built between 1679 and 1685 by Baroque maestro Guarino Guarini as one of the royal homes of the ruling Savoy dukes, the Palazzo Carignano gained huge national significance when in 1861 it became the occasional home of Italy’s first king, Vittorio Emanuele II, following the Unification struggles that began in 1848. The palazzo now houses the Museo Nazionale del Risorgimento as well as the elaborate, circular meeting rooms that were briefly the location of Italy’s first united government, which was formed in 1861 and lasted four years.
Palazzo Carignano first became a museum in 1908; it was originally housed in the Mole Antonelliana – now the city’s film museum – but moved to its present site in 1938. After a period of closure for the revamping of the collections, it reopened in 2011 and now showcases the events that brought about the Risorgimento (literally ‘resurgence’ in English), with a series of 30 ornately decorated apartments leading chronologically through the various military and political battles as the country headed towards unification. Displays of uniforms, dramatic equine portraits of war heroes, weapons, flags, maps, and correspondence reveal feats of bravery as visitors discover the disjointed, disillusioned Italy of the 19th century, accompanied by informative multi-lingual films giving the background to each stage of the campaign.
Palazzo Carignano is located at Via Accademia delle Scienze, 5. Admission costs €10 for adults, €8 for seniors, €5 for students, €2.50 for children and is free for those 6 and under. The site is open Tuesday through Sunday from 10am to 6pm, and Tram 13 and 15 can get you there.