The Perfect City: how the lockdown made our cities shine.

Between 1480 and 1490 an unknown Italian master made a painting called “the perfect city”, probably by order of the Duke of Urbino (central Italy, in the Marche Region). It shows what the perfect city should look like: symmetric buildings with portals and arcades, straight long streets allowing a gaze towards the infinite and a central square with an astonishing round building. Although the painting might formally depict the beauty of the Italian cities during the Renaissance, as well as a way to convey the political message that accuracy and  good governance could pave the way for a permanent welfare, it also hide sort of an encrypted message for all of us: there are no humans in the painting, as if the perfect city doesn’t need us.

The perfet city (1480 – 1490) – Unknown painter. Galleria Nazionale delle Marche

During the current lockdown most of our cities are empty. All citizens stuck inside their homes, leaving our beautiful streets, squares and palaces alone. It is in this time that we understand how much we miss strolling around in the city centres as if it was something we always took for granted and sometimes even boring.

However if there is a chance to see our cities shining brightly with all their might, it is exactly in this very lockdown time. Being stuck into my flat I couldn’t get to see my own city to check how it looked without humans. Now that some restriction have been lifted and I can go out, I decided that the first good thing to do was a stroll around the old town of my own city, Torino to check if the inner message of the painting was true. It is: with very few humans around the city looks nicer, bolder, brighter and I could even see details I never noticed before.

I like to share with you some pictures I took in these past few days. Fortunately the weather in Italy is very good in these days, the sky is as blue as can be, the sun shines and warms up pleasantly and strolling around is one of those simple pleasures I always underestimated.

The Castle of Valentino

The Castle of Valentino – TorinoPhoto by Matteo Gazzarata

Built in the 1600s, this french looking palace was meant to home the daugther of the King of France, who was forced to marry the Duke of Savoy and move to Torino. She wanted her residence to have a french touch, thus the architect created the pointed roofs that are typical of the french baroque architecture

Piazza Castello and the Royal Palace

The Royal Palace of Torino – Photo by Matteo Gazzarata

When Torino became the Capital of the Duchy, the Dukes of Savoy ordered the construction of a new palace to home themselves and the members of the court. Although it looks pretty simple from the outside, the interiors have been decorated and renovated by every new Duke and Duchess based on their personal taste and the contemporary styles. The palace became “Royal” in 1713, then the Victor Amadeus II became king of Sicily.

The Grand Gallery at the Hunting Lodge of Venaria Reale

The Grand Gallery – Hunting Lodge of Venaria Reale (Torino). Photo by Matteo Gazzarata

Venaria Reale is one of 14 Royal Palaces of Torino, listed by UNESCO within the world heritage. The Grand Gallery is best kept room of the palace which was lef abandoned for centuries after Napoleon gave it to the French Army.

Piazza San Carlo

Piazza San Carlo, Torino. Photo by Gabriele Merlo

What is there to say about the most elegant square of Italy. Its harmony and light is still unrivalled by any other squares in Italy and abroad. Not even the bombing happened during world war II managed to compromise the elegance and beauty of this might esplanade surrounded by two specular buildings conceived to show the royalty of the Savoys.

The Superga Streetcar

The toothed streecar of Superga (Torino) Photo by Matteo Gazzarata

If you plan to visit one of the most iconic Basilica of the Piedmont Region you have to take this little streetcar (which actually is a train pulled by a toothed nechanism), run by the local transport authority, from the station of Sassi. You will climb the hill of Superga in 30 minutes and before reaching the Basilica you will enjoy a pleasant journey in the woods and surprising gazes over the city.

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