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Piazza Carlo Felice is one of the busiest squares in Turin. It is located in front of Porta Nuova railway station and connects Corso Vittorio Emanuele II with Via Roma.

Construction

Piazza Carlo Felice, located at the junction of Via Roma and Corso Vittorio Emanuele II in Turin, has a rich history. Originally, in 1802, the Napoleonic government decided to demolish the city walls and the ancient Porta Nova, built in 1620 for the arrival of Duke Vittorio Amedeo I and his wife Maria Cristina of France.

The goal was to create grand tree-lined avenues to enhance the city’s aesthetics and traffic flow. During this period, the Viale dei Platani (now Corso Vittorio Emanuele II) was also established between 1814 and 1817.

Piazza Carlo Felice
Piazza Carlo Felice in 1867. Below, the station construction site

The initial design for the square dates back to 1822, conceived by Lorenzo Lombardi. Originally named Piazza del R” (King’s Square), the project included a portico with two smaller squares (Paleocapa and Lagrange) and continued porticoes leading to Piazza San Carlo.

Between 1844 and 1845, the first railway station was built directly facing Piazza Carlo Felice. This marked the beginning of the development of Porta Nuova Station, completed in 1868. The square’s final layout was designed by architect Carlo Promis in 1855.

In 1873, a statue dedicated to Massimo d’Azeglio, a Turinese politician and writer, was erected in the square. Later, in 1936, it was relocated to the corner of Corso Vittorio Emanuele II and Corso Massimo d’Azeglio, within Parco del Valentino.

Piazza Carlo Felice and the Sambyu garden

A few years later, in 1858, the first garden of Piazza Carlo Felice was created, surrounded by an iron gate with a central fountain. The fountain was inaugurated the following year, and in 1860, architect Jean-Pierre Barillet-Deschamps approved a project to remodel the garden, giving it its current form.

Piazza Carlo Felice
The Sambyu garden

In 1926, the garden was dedicated to Ernesto Balbo Bertone di Sambuy, an Italian senator, superintendent of public works in Turin, and mayor from 1883 to 1886. Within the garden, there is a statue commemorating Senator Ernesto Sambuy and another monument dedicated to Edmondo De Amicis, the renowned author of the book “Cuore” (Heart). The statue, promoted in 1923, is called the Seminatrice delle buone parole (Sower of Good Words) and is symbolically placed in front of a bas-relief depicting children.

The Sambuy Garden also once housed a large thermometer over three meters tall. Unfortunately, its fate remains unknown after its removal during World War II, perhaps forgotten in a warehouse, disassembled, or destroyed.

The Sambuy Gardens thermometer

Around the mid-20th century, the garden also featured a grand floral clock, a gift from the city of Geneva. The floral clock’s underground mechanism allowed its hands to indicate the time using flowers. However, it was removed in the early 2000s during the construction of the metro station.

Lastly, a Caucasian Walnut tree, approximately 27 meters tall, is cataloged as a monumental tree within the garden .

Side squares

While walking along the arcades towards Via Roma, about halfway through, two side squares open up. The one on the right is dedicated to the mathematician Luigi Lagrange, one of the greatest scientists of the Risorgimento. In the center, the statue dedicated to him portrays him next to a pile of books. The sculpture was created by Giovanni Albertoni and inaugurated in 1867.

Monument to Pietro Paleocapa
Monument to Luigi Lagrange

The one on the left, instead, is dedicated to Pietro Paleocapa, a minister of the Kingdom of Sardinia, who promoted road and railway development. He completed the railway tunnel of the Fréjus and collaborated in the construction of the Suez Canal. In the center of the square stands the statue dedicated to him, a work by Odoardo Tabacchi.

Piazza Carlo Felice in recent years

For a long time, Piazza Carlo Felice was an elegant city square that welcomed those arriving in Turin by train. Luxury hotels still line its arcades, such as the Hotel Roma, where on August 27, 1950, in room 346, Cesare Pavese ended his life with a lethal dose of barbiturates.

There are also many historic cafes and chocolate shops, like Caffè Talmone or Giordano, which have been joined by more modern and commercial establishments in recent years.

Piazza Carlo Felice
Advertising postcard of the Hotel Roma

Unfortunately, the proximity to the train station and the presence of ill-intentioned individuals who loiter in the Sambuy gardens have turned the square into a place where Turinese pass by quickly without lingering. The closure of many establishments has contributed to the gradual decline of the entire square, which is slowly becoming somewhat run-down.

Despite the opening of the metro station, the redevelopment of Porta Nuova railway station, and a partial refurbishment of the gardens, the elegance and architectural beauty are sadly overshadowed by a tense atmosphere that visitors sense with apprehension, preventing them from fully enjoying one of the city’s most beautiful squares.

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