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Official Web site: Museo di Pietro Micca
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Pietro Micca was born in Sagliano on March 5, 1677. He was registered in the records as Pierre Micha and baptized as Joannes Petrus Micha.

Little is known about his early life. Coming from a modest family, he married Maria Cattarina Bonino in 1704 and had a son named Giacomo Antonio. Initially working as a mason, he later enlisted in the Piedmontese army. He participated in the defense of the city during the 1706 Siege of Turin, contributing to victory through his heroic sacrifice.

During his service at the Cittadella, Pietro Micca earned the nickname Passpartout, likely due to his ability to navigate tunnels and passageways.

Background

On the night between August 29 and 30, 1706, the French managed to infiltrate an underground tunnel of the Cittadella (Citadel). They entered through the upper capital gallery of the Mezzaluna del Soccorso, a fortification within the Citadel that they had never been able to conquer. Their goal was to reach the lower capital gallery, mine it, demolish it, and create an opening for the French army.

The staircase connecting the two capital galleries was blocked by a closed door. The French began their efforts to break down the door. However, guarding the stairs were Pietro Micca and one of his fellow soldiers.

Monument in front of the Citadel

Legend has it that the two Piedmontese soldiers heard the blows against the door and realized they wouldn’t hold out for long. Moreover, there was no time to call for reinforcements. They decided together to detonate a charge to collapse the staircase and stop the enemy.

The explosive material, taken from a counter-mine gallery, was prepared with a quick fuse that wouldn’t allow them any chance of escape. They had to replace it with a slow-burning fuse to give themselves time to take cover.

The explosion

The task of replacing the fuse was assigned to Pietro Micca’s companion. Due to either dampness or the urgency caused by the approaching French soldiers, he failed to replace the fuse. At this point, it seems that Pietro Micca pushed the soldier aside, exclaiming with the historic phrase: “Gavte da li, ti ‘t’ses pì longh ed na giornà sensa pan! Lassa fè a mì, pensa a salvete!” (Get out of the way; you’re longer than a day without bread! Let me handle it; focus on saving yourself!)

Underground gallery of the Citadel

Pietro Micca placed an extremely short fuse to prevent the French from having time to break down the door and defuse the explosive before detonation. He lit it and rushed toward the stairs to reach the lower capital gallery. Unfortunately, when he reached the bottom of the stairs, the explosion struck him, hurling him 40 paces away. While all the French soldiers died in the blast, Pietro Micca himself did not survive. His remains were buried in a common grave.

A few months later, Pietro Micca’s wife sent a plea to Duke Vittorio Amedeo II, requesting a pension. The sovereign granted him a lifelong provision of two loaves of bread per day.

The legend of Pietro Micca

This story is chronicled in the writings of artillery commander Giuseppe Maria Solaro della Margherita. However, after the war, it was soon forgotten. In 1764, the Englishman Edward Gibbon visited the Cittadella and made a passing mention of Pietro Micca, without further developments.

His heroic figure was finally exalted starting from 1781, thanks to the writings of the counter Felice Durando. The first painting depicting Pietro Micca dates back to 1828, created by Stefano Chiantore.

His myth grew and was sustained throughout the 1800s. He became an exemplar of national unity during all the wars of independence that led to the creation of the Kingdom of Italy.

Pietro Micca
Pietro Micca. Painting by Andrea Gastaldi 1858

The staircase destroyed by Pietro Micca was only rediscovered in 1958, thanks to the persistent and lengthy research of Guido Amoretti, an archaeologist and historian. Subsequently, in 1961, the Museo Pietro Micca e dell’assedio di Torino del 1706 (Pietro Micca Museum and the Siege of Turin in 1706) was inaugurated upon its discovery. Guido Amoretti served as its director and curator for many years after its opening.

Pietro Micca: sacrifice or mistake?

Some idealize this event as the sacrifice of a hero for the homeland. Others, however, raise doubts about the author’s identity or whether it was truly a heroic act or a mistake.

Well, from the documents of that time, we know for certain that it was indeed Pietro Micca who detonated the staircase. Further evidence lies in Vittorio Amedeo II’s willingness to grant his wife’s plea.

We also know that it was not a voluntary sacrifice. He genuinely tried to save himself by descending the stairs. Otherwise, his body would not have been found where it was discovered.

However, it remains a mystery whether Pietro Micca miscalculated the detonation time or whether he genuinely believed he could take cover. His reputation as an agile ferret within the tunnels, his nickname Passpartout, might have led him to overestimate his ability to find safety.

Nevertheless, the heroic gesture of a young man barely 30 years old stands. Despite having a wife and child, he did not retreat in the face of the enemy and danger. In fact, risking his own life, he defended Turin, his homeland, until the end.

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