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Scaccabarozzi house, also known as the “Fetta di Polenta,” is a historic building located at the corner of Corso San Maurizio and Via Giulia di Barolo. Built by Alessandro Antonelli, it has a very unique structure that has made it famous worldwide and is still studied in architecture courses today.

Antonelli, as an architect, contributed to the construction of the Vanchiglia district (nicknamed “moschino” at the time due to the numerous insects), which was commissioned by the Marquises of Barolo around 1840. He was rewarded with a small piece of land for his work.

It seems that Antonelli tried to buy adjacent lands to expand the area, but without success. After the failed attempt, it is not known whether out of a bet or a challenge, he decided to build on the small area available to him.

The challenge of Scaccabarozzi house

Antonelli designed a trapezoidal-shaped building, with sides measuring 16m on Via Giulia di Barolo, just over 4m on Corso San Maurizio, and a mere 54cm on the opposite side!

He dedicated the building to his wife, Francesca Scaccabarozzi, after whom it is named. However, it is much better known by its nickname Fetta di Polenta due to its unique shape and yellow ocher color.

Constructed entirely of stone and brick, the building consists of 9 floors, two underground and seven above ground. However, it was erected in different periods.

Scaccabarozzi House
Scaccabarozzi House

In the first phase, two underground floors and four above were built, ending with a cornice that is still visible today. Later, two more floors were added, and finally, the last one in 1881. The floors have varying heights depending on the construction phase.

In the narrowest part, space was created for the chimney flue and pipes. Moreover, all the floors are connected by a staircase. However, the staircase is quite narrow and does not allow for the passage of bulky loads, such as furniture. To solve this problem, Antonelli installed a pulley system on the roof (still visible from Via Giulia di Barolo). The loads, once hoisted, were then introduced inside through the large windows.

Extreme solidity

The construction was so bold and innovative that everyone expected it to collapse at any moment. To prove its stability, Antonelli himself lived there with his wife for a period.

Contrary to popular belief, the building proved to be extremely solid and sturdy. Unlike the surrounding buildings, it suffered no damage from the explosion of the Borgo Dora powder magazine in 1852. It also survived the earthquake of 1887 that damaged many structures in the district. Lastly, it withstood the bombings of World War II. The foundations, made up of two underground floors, indeed provide unexpected solidity.

The building also features eight balconies and a walkway on the top floor. Originally, one apartment per floor was planned. This remained the case until 1979 when the interior structure was partially revised by the architect Renzo Mongiardino. Among other things, he also created a Turkish bath on the second underground floor.

Recent renovations

The entire building underwent renovations and restorations in 1982, and again in 2007 and 2008, to be converted into an exhibition space for the Franco Noero art gallery.

Since 2013, it has resumed its role as a residential dwelling, while still housing privately viewable contemporary art installations.

It is also worth mentioning the plaque placed by the City of Turin in 1974, commemorating the centenary of the death of Niccolò Tommaseo, who lived in the building. There are many doubts about whether Tommaseo actually lived in the “Fetta di Polenta” during his stay in Turin for the compilation of the Italian dictionary published by the Pomba brothers. In fact, he was in Turin from 1854 to 1859, a period during which Scaccabarozzi House was still under construction.

Lastly, it should be noted that the ground floor was home to the Caffè Progresso for a long time, a historic meeting place for coalmen and revolutionaries.