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Piazza Carlo Emanuele II, located near Via Po, is dedicated to the eponymous Duke of Savoy, known as ‘Il Carlino’ due to his graceful movements and effeminate demeanor. The square is more commonly known by the popular name Piazza Carlina.

The square was created in 1673 during the city’s second expansion toward the Po River, under the reign of Carlo Emanuele II. Maria Giovanna Battista, the duke’s wife, entrusted the project to Amedeo di Castellamonte. Initially designed as an octagonal square near Via Po, it was later modified into a square shape measuring 120 meters on each side, positioned slightly inward from Via Po.

Carlo Emanuele II’s intention was for the new square to become a focal point for the society of the emerging neighborhood. However, it soon transformed into a humble wine market. Despite its name, other goods such as hay, timber, and coal were also sold there.

Piazza Carlo Emanuele II
Piazza Carlo Emanuele II

During the Napoleonic rule, the square was renamed Place de la Liberté and became the designated location for capital executions using the guillotine. Over the course of fourteen years of French domination (1800–1814), 423 executions took place in this square. Among them, the execution of Bela Caplera is particularly notable.

After the Restoration in 1814, the square reverted to its old name and its previous role as a market. However, it continued to be used for some time as a place of execution by hanging for enemies of the state.

Starting from the 1960s, the square gradually lost its market character. By the early 2000s, only a few stalls remained in one corner of the square.

Monuments and palaces of Piazza Carlina

In the center of the square, a large statue of Giovanni Duprè was erected in 1872 in memory of Camillo Benso di Cavour. The monument depicts Count Cavour holding a plaque inscribed with the famous phrase “Libera Chiesa in libero Stato” (Free Church in a Free State).

On the southern side stands the small Church of Santa Croce, designed by Filippo Juvarra in 1718. Today, the church is dedicated to Orthodox worship.

The monument to Cavour

At civic number 15, you’ll find the former Albergo di Virtù, an educational and welfare institution for the instruction of impoverished youth, active until the mid-19th century. Notably, from 1919 to 1921, it was inhabited by Antonio Gramsci.

Finally, the Palazzo del Collegio delle Provincie, commissioned by Vittorio Amedeo II in 1739, stands out. Designed in Baroque style by Bernardo Vittone, it served its purpose until 1814. During the Restoration, it became the barracks for the Royal Carabinieri. In 1893, it was dedicated to Chiaffredo Bergia, a brigadier who distinguished himself in the fight against brigandage. Today, it houses the Carabinieri command for the Piedmont region .