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Official Web site: Museo Nazionale del Risorgimento
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The National Museum of the Italian Risorgimento in Turin is the largest and oldest exhibition of our nation’s history. It is the only officially recognized “national” museum of the Risorgimento, thanks to the royal decree of December 8, 1901. The current exhibition space in Palazzo Carignano is majestic and rich in history, making it a fitting home for such an important collection.

The museum houses artifacts and memorabilia from the period of national unification, spanning from the Siege of Turin in 1706 to the beginning of World War I. Founded in 1878 as a national memorial to commemorate the death of Italy’s first king, Vittorio Emanuele II (who was born in Palazzo Carignano), the museum initially had temporary and provisional locations. In 1884, it was set up at the Italian General Exhibition, and four years later, it was moved to the Turin Civic Museum. Only in 1908 did it finally secure its permanent home within the Mole Antonelliana.

Inauguration of the 2011 Risorgimento Museum. In the centre, the President of the Republic Giorgio Napolitano

In 1930, it was temporarily relocated to the Parco del Valentino, specifically at the Palazzo del Giornale. Finally, in 1938, it obtained its current location at Palazzo Carignano.

The museum underwent expansions and updates on several occasions, always coinciding with significant historical dates for Italy. The first occurred in 1848 during the centenary of the First War of Independence. This was followed by a revision in 1961, celebrating the 100th Anniversary of Italian Unity. After the Turin Olympics, the museum was closed for restoration and reinstallation of the exhibition. It reopened on March 18, 2011, during the celebrations for Italy’s 150 years of Unity, in the presence of President Giorgio Napolitano.

The first exhibitions

  • 1884 Exhibition: This extensive exhibition began with the movements of 1820-21 and concluded with the capture of Porta Pia. Two main interpretations were provided. The first viewed the Italian Risorgimento as a more popular national process rather than just the intention of the House of Savoy to unify the peninsula. The second interpretation proposed that the processes of nationality were a revolutionary event of European dimensions stemming from the Napoleonic period.
The diplomatica of Cavour
  • 1889 Exhibition: In 1889, the museum was temporarily relocated within the civic museum. The role of Piedmont gained more prominence in this exhibition compared to what was shown in 1884. Additionally, the museum was accompanied by a large library containing a comprehensive collection of Risorgimento documents from all over Italy, along with foreign publications.
  • 1908 Exhibition: In 1908, the museum obtained its first permanent location at the Mole Antonelliana. It featured 1274 exhibited pieces, primarily in the central hall. The exhibition not only celebrated patriotic glories but also served an educational and historical purpose.
Cavour’s uniform at the Paris Congress
  • 1938 Exhibition: In 1938, the museum was definitively moved to Palazzo Carignano and inaugurated on September 8th in the presence of King Vittorio Emanuele III. This exhibition broke ties with Europe, replaced by a strictly local view of the Risorgimento that celebrated Italy’s greatness, aligning with the fascist ideology of the period. The exhibition aimed to connect the splendors of Rome with the Italian Risorgimento, eventually leading to fascism. The origins of the Risorgimento were traced back to the siege of Turin in 1706. However, the exhibition’s installation was interrupted due to World War II bombings in Turin, causing damage to the museum. During the resistance, the museum’s halls hosted clandestine meetings of partisans and served as a depot for weapons and anti-fascist propaganda.

Contemporary exhibitions

  • 1948 Exhibition: After World War II, the museum partially reopened in commemoration of the centenary of the First War of Independence. In this exhibition, the origins of the Italian Risorgimento were once again traced back to the movements of 1820-21, culminating with the capture of Rome. Additionally, some rooms were dedicated to the Liberation and were set up by the Historical Institute of the Resistance in Piedmont.
Museum of the Risorgimento
Bullet from Garibaldi’s wound in Aspromonte (29 August 1862)
  • 1961 Exhibition: For the celebrations of the centenary of Italian unification in 1961, a new display was organized, featuring 1800 artifacts distributed across 32 rooms. The aim was to engage as many visitors as possible, emphasizing the process of national unity in an accessible manner, even for those less familiar with the topic. The overarching theme of the entire exhibition focused on the dissemination of Napoleonic ideas in Italy, which influenced patriotic movements.
  • 1965 Exhibition: Much of the material presented during the 1961 installation came from private collections. Consequently, the pieces were returned to approximately 350 different owners, and the museum lost much of its national character. The exhibition was then revised with a distinctly Savoyard perspective, suggesting the House of Savoy as the primary driving force behind the Risorgimento movement.
Museum of the Risorgimento
Illuminated text of the Albertine Statute
  • 2011 Exhibition: Since 2011, the Museo del Risorgimento has expanded to 30 rooms, including the Chamber of Deputies. The exhibition takes visitors on a historical journey, exploring how Italy was unified from the French Revolution to the beginning of World War I. It addresses economic, political, and cultural transformations in an educational display that continues to attract a wide audience- Quite a captivating exploration of Italy’s past!

Museum of the Risorgimento: the collection

The collection exhibited at the Museo del Risorgimento includes artifacts of various types: weapons, uniforms, documents, manuscripts, and more. Many of these items hold significant historical and symbolic value. Among the notable pieces, we remember the carriage donated to Garibaldi by Vittorio Emanuele II in 1875, Carlo Alberto’s pipe, the text of the Statuto Albertino, the sheet music for the Canto degli Italiani composed by Michele Novaro, General Amedeo d’Aosta’s uniform, the field tent used by Carlo Alberto during the 1848-1849 campaign, and the bullet extracted from Garibaldi’s wound in Aspromonte.

Museum of the Risorgimento
Field tent used by Carlo Alberto during the 1848-1849 campaign

The field tent used by Carlo Alberto during the 1848-1849 campaign is particularly noteworthy. Additionally, the Chamber of Deputies deserves special mention. It was active from 1848 until 1860 and is a national monument since 1898. The furnishings remain original from that era, and a tricolor cockade is placed at the seats of the most important parliamentarians, including Cavour, Garibaldi, Gioberti, and others.

The Chamber of Deputies stands as a unique and original example worldwide of parliamentary chambers established after the revolutions of 18481. Quite a fascinating glimpse into Italy’s historical past!