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Photos by Lucia Ranieri

Piazza Vittorio Veneto, commonly referred to as Piazza Vittorio by the people of Turin, opens onto the Po River at the end of Via Po.

Since ancient times, this area has been crucial for the city’s defense. The presence of the river and the hill provides natural protection for Turin.

During Roman times, the location was further fortified with a city gate called Porta Pretoria.

Construction

In 1663, Carlo Emanuele II ordered Amedeo di Castellamonte to construct the city’s expansion. The goal was to provide access to the Po River starting from the Royal Palace. Castellamonte designed the construction of Via Po, which terminated in a large square. It opens toward the river with semi-circular buildings. The project also included building the first stone bridge across the river.

Piazza Vittorio
Piazza Vittorio

A notable feature of the square is its lack of flatness. There is a 7.19-meter difference in elevation between Via Po (the highest point) and the bridge entrance (the lowest point). This slope is well-suited for gatherings and parades, ensuring good visibility for the public and a more dramatic effect. For this reason, it was used as a parade ground for a long time.

In 1807, during French rule, the current bridge over the river was constructed. Seven years later, King Vittorio Emanuele I returned to Turin by crossing the bridge and square. To commemorate this event, both were named after the Savoy monarch. The occasion was further celebrated with the construction of the Church of Gran Madre, adding an elegant and charming touch to the entire area.

Expansion of Piazza Vittorio Veneto

Upon regaining control of his territories, the king tasked architect Giuseppe Frizzi with modifying the square. Frizzi designed straighter lines, giving it the typical rectangular shape.

He skillfully connected the previous circular-shaped palaces, which can still be seen today where the square meets Via Po, with the straight portico of the square.

Piazza Vittorio

In a clever move, he also concealed the square’s slope. He introduced entrances from two longer sides, allowing him to construct buildings and porticos in different blocks. This strategy enabled varying building heights. Walking under the arcades toward the Po, you’ll notice that the walkway level is slightly higher toward the river than that of the square.

In 1920, the square was named after Vittorio Veneto to commemorate the end of World War I and Italy’s victory in that battle. The bridge, however, remains dedicated to Vittorio Emanuele I.

For Turin residents, little has changed, they continue to call it Piazza Vittorio, even though many believe it still represents Vittorio Emanuele I.

Piazza Vittorio today

Piazza Vittorio Veneto today is largely pedestrianized. It offers a truly fascinating view. Sloping down towards the river, with the church of Gran Madre di Dio and the Monte dei Cappuccini in the background, it boasts a breathtaking panorama.

Piazza Vittorio

In recent years, trendy bars and restaurants have turned it into one of the main spots for the traditional aperitivo, which has now evolved into an apericena (a combination of aperitivo and dinner).

The square is still used for city events and celebrations, such as Carnival parades or fireworks during the patron saint’s festivities.

Fan fact

Piazza Vittorio Veneto is often referred to as the largest square in Europe, but this isn’t entirely accurate. Firstly, the largest square in Turin is actually Piazza della Repubblica (51,300 square meters compared to Piazza Vittorio’s 39,960 square meters). So, if it’s not the largest in Turin, it can’t be the largest in Europe. However, Piazza Vittorio holds the title of the largest porticoed square in Europe.

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