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Torino Noir: an unusual visit of Turin about mysteries and murders

Updated: Nov 2, 2021

With the community of the Travel Blogger Italiane, I had the chance to take part in a very special tour of Turin, a city that is only about 60km from the place where I live but that I feel I still don't know enough.

Practical info

The tour organised by Somewhere Tours & Events is called Torino Noir and it is focused on the Quadrilatero area that was founded during the Roman era. The district, in fact, takes his name from the ancient plan of the city. The tour is organised every Friday evening and it lasts 2h30. Tickets are available on their website for a price of 25euro.

Let's start the tour!

The bell tower of Duomo di Torino

One of the things that I appreciated the most is the fact that Torino Noir allowed us to have an exclusive access to certain buildings that are normally closed to the public such as the bell tower of the Duomo di Torino. It is 44m high and we had the chance to reach the summit after 210 steps. The view from the top is definitely worth it: we could admire the majestic Piazza Castello with Palazzo Madama, the Mole Antonelliana with its 168m, San Maurizio Basilica and other emblematic spots of Turin with the amazing Alps in the background!

The bell tower was erected during the second half of the XV century by the will of the bishop Giovanni di Compey. At the beginning of the XVIII century, the famous architect Filippo Juvarra completed the structure that was supposed to end with a dome, but ended up being a brick bell tower with a Baroque bell cell. On our way up, we could admire the interior structure: windows get bigger once closer to the top to give more stability to the tower and they offer perfect portraits of the city from the grids.

The tower hides secrets and mysteries about ancient murders like the one of Garipaldo in 662DC. During the Easter night, he was about to receive his baptism in the Duomo, when his aggressor killed him cutting his head with a sword. There are other similar stories in the ancient book Historia Longobardorum.

Our well-prepared guide Enrico gave us a few more details about Palazzo Madama that now hosts the Civic Museum of Ancient History. People from Turin use to call the police 'La Madama' and there's an interesting story about the origin of the expression: for a certain period, the local police was installed on the first floor of this historical building, one of the Savoy's properties. Another creepy story concerning Palazzo Madama explains the cruel punishments for those who dared committing Royal crimes. The Duchess Cristina of France was in fact assassinated by his servant Gioia that, according to the story, used black magic to commit the crime in the name of Turin's inhabitants that were against her French origins. For these kinds of murders, there was no pity: the murderer was dismembered publicly in Piazza Palazzo di Città by four strong horses. The last time this terrible punishment was inflicted was in 1709 and today, important documents concerning ancient trials and judgements are kept in the Archivio Storico di Torino.

Little stop in Via Cappel Verde

This tiny street in the Quadrilatero area deserves a stop to know the history of Enrichetta Naum. The street is named after a local tavern dating from the XVII century that had a green hat logo on its sign. Between 1800 and 1900, at n.6 of via Cappello Verde used to live Enrichetta Naum, the only woman to practice exorcism in Turin at that time. For some people, this story is simply linked to the fact that her husband used to sell candles to the bishops of the city and that could mislead the common beliefs.

Piazza Palazzo di Città & the Town Hall

The tour continued in Piazza Palazzo di Città which was originally the Roman forum and then the first palace of the city to be built in the Middle Age. We entered the town hall (another exclusive access) to discover the story of this building during the terrible black plague in 1630. Turin had to face one of the worst period in its history under the guide of the young mayor Gian Francesco Belezia that was only 28 at that time.

The details that Enrico was explaining to us sounded like bells in my head: the Manzoni's novel full of details about the plague in Milan, the current situation with the coronavirus and all the sanitary measures.

The local population of 25 000 inhabitants in 1630 was incredibly reduced to about 3 000. Some of them died and others decided to escape from the city and the terrible plague. An interesting fact that we discovered thanks to a short theatre piece is that some nursery rhymes such as 'Giro giro tondo'/ 'Ringa ring roses' were born during this dark period from the fear of the disease. A man wearing the mask that doctors used to have during the plague came out of the bushes to sing this creepy song!

The ancient Medieval building was then rebuild around 1660 in Baroque style with the aim of making Turin shine again. The presence of the torus, the symbol of Turin, also hides an interesting story. Enrico told us that the symbol was actually the fruit of a misunderstanding: before the Romans, the city was populated by a celto-ligurian population, the Taurini. Their name means 'Mountain', but at their arrival, the Romans confused the word with the latin Taurus (toro). Funny, right?!

The Curia Maxima, ancient tribunal and prison

Head to the building called Curia Maxima - in via Corte d'Appello - that now hosts the Reale Mutua insurance company. It was the tribunal of the city until the 90s, before being moved to corso V. Emanuele. Also, until 1870, the Curia Maxima represented the main prison of the city. In fact, it is possible to see the tiny windows of the cells were many prisoners (about 50) were forced to live together.

Here, the serial killer Enrico Ballor, also called “The hammerer”, was tried. His corps is now kept in the Museo Lombroso.

The Arciconfraternita della Misericordia

Another emblematic part of the tour was the entrance to the Archconfraternity of Mercy,

a small chapel that is only open on Sundays mornings for the mess in Latin. It is dedicated to San Giovanni Battista who was beheaded. For this reason, his head can be found in different places inside the building and it represents the symbol of the archconfraternity. Again, creepy fact!

Here, murderers that had been sentenced to death, were accompanied by the friars before the execution. A small glass case in the chapel contains the objects used at that time: the crucifix that the condemned had to look at during the execution, the bag used to beg for alms designated to the members of his family, the glass were he could drink for the last time, the rope used by the hangman and so on. The corps were kept in a hatch right under the chapel until 1777, when the practice became illegal.

Some curious facts are that the night before the execution, the hangman tried the rope putting it around the neck of the condemned to verify its size. Then, he used to beg for pardon because the act that he was about to commit was not depending on his will. Furthermore, the last meal of the murderer was a broth around 11am. Here, the origin of the Piedmontese expression: the broth of 11am (Il brodo delle 11) to indicate a light meal.

To avoid magic rituals or odd consequences, the ropes used to kill the murderer were all burnt.

A creepy plaque in Piazza Castello

Last stop of the tour was in Piazza Castello to discover a plaque in the middle of the square dedicated to Goffredo Varaglia, a Protestant pastor that was burnt to death right there. Could you imagine it considering the modern charm and prestige of Piazza Castello?

This is exactly the reason why I enjoyed the Torino Noir tour so much, because sometimes we tend to think about the past as something which is only on history books. In reality, there are so many signs of what happened a long time ago, we just have to observe the details!

Thanks to the Travel Blogger Italiane community for this special opportunity, to the amazing girls Paola (Pastapizzascones), Krizia (Krizia in Travelland), Fabiana (Travels and other stories) and Sonia (Rinascere Viaggiando). Thanks to our great guide Enrico and to Somewhere Tours & Events for making me discover a dark and creepy side of Turin that I didn't know before!

Per leggere l'articolo in italiano, vi lascio quello dettagliato di Paola!


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