We finally made it to Barge, the other local market town, slightly larger than Bagnolo and more of the atmosphere of the mountains (it was once a stronghold of the Waldensians), with an enormous Romanesque church which presides over the town:-
We consoled ourselves with Aperol spritzes and sandwiches at the newly converted Drogheria in the Piazza Carignano (highly recommended):-
It had a good view of the Piazza:-
And the brick back of S. Filippo Neri:-
By now, we were extremely nearly too late for S. Lorenzo (it closes on the dot of 12 noon):-
We dashed in to see the wonderfully complex cat’s cradle of Guarini’s dome:-
Then, I wanted to see Aimaro d’Isola’s first work – the Turin stock exchange, now deserted, a strong piece of early 50s design and his first work, won in competition when he was still a student:-
Last, we felt that no visit to Turin is complete without a visit to Lingotto, Fiat’s great car factory in south Turin, begun in 1912, with the car track on the roof laid out in 1919, and the remarkably theatrical ramps in 1922:-
We had another day of architectural touring in Turin, starting with a BBPR office block in the northern suburbs, designed by Ernesto Rogers in 1959 as a manifesto against modernism:-
We parked by the Galleria San Federico, which, rather amazingly, is a building of the 1930s, designed to house the offices of La Stampa:-
And Juvarra’s nearby church of S. Filippo Neri with it’s ninetennth-century façade constructed to Juvarra’s design:-
The object of the day’s journey was the Egyptian Museum, but I had forgotten how much its early privatisation (it was privatised in 2004) had led to an infinitely much more professional and well-lit set of museum displays (and vastly much more popular), but a simultaneous loss of the original, extraordinarily well-preserved, nineteenth-century sense of imaginative discovery (till recently, it was pretty much as it was originally laid out in the Palace of the Accademia delle Scienze in 1824).
I took photographs of two sad cat mummies:-
We accidentally took the wrong road up to Montoso and found ourselves instead at the Monastero Dominus Tecum in Pra d’Mill, another church project, overseen, but not, I think, executed by Aimaro d’Isola (it is attributed to Maurizio Momo) in a fully fledged, elaborately vernacular style, with multiple pitched stone rooves more reminiscent of Frank Lloyd Wright than Turinese modernism, in a remote valley, surrounded by mountains:-
We made our way up the mountain road above Bagnolo to see Montoso whose church, designed by Aimaro d’Isola in 1963, is dedicated to Our Lady the Assumption and was consecrated on 15 August 1967. It was one of the first of his experiments in reviving the Piedmontese vernacular, working with the local community and using local materials. On the Feast of the Assumption (today), it has an open-air street market where people come and sell holy biscuits, salami and mountain cheese:-
I realise I should have declared a special interest in this topic in that my father was one of the civil servants who packed his bags on 15 August 1947 and left India where he had lived and worked for the previous thirteen years, never to return, except for a brief visit in the 1970s. He was phelgmatic about the end of British rule, as he was about most things in life, as he had known that one of his prime responsibilities as a civil servant, from the time that he joined the Indian Civil Service in 1934, having leaned Bengali as well as something about Indian history and law’ before travelling out, was the benign transfer of power, and was not a whisky swilling imperialist, but an excessively conscientious, highly upright, legal minded, New Statesman reading, colonial administrator, as were the other former members of the ICS who I met in my youth.
I found myself wandering round Pinerolo in the middle of the afternoon when everyone else was having a siesta or preparing for the National Holiday tomorrow (it’s Ferragosto). Like a lot of Italian towns, it has a rather dull nineteenth-century town centre, where one finds the town hall, the riding school and other civic institutions and then, up the hill, is what survives of a medieval, sub-Alpine hill town:-
And, lastly, a picture of the railway station, waiting for the last train:-
I have been listening with the utmost interest to the programmes broadcast each morning about Partition and have been waiting for some reference to the fact that Indian Independence also involved the rapid unwinding of at least two centuries of British rule and the transfer of authority to two new governments and two new systems of administration, both of which were modelled on the previous Indian Civil Service and involved the transfer of a number of existing civil servants, a small number British (the great majority returned to Britain) and a much larger Indian. But there seems to be a tacit assumption that this period of Empire was either an accident or an embarrassment, responsible for the disastrous consequences of Partition. In marking Independence, it is surely worth considering the British side of the narrative, as well as the Indian, whether or right or wrong.
We went down to the Po Valley to see Staffarda Abbey, the local Cistercian monastery founded in 1135 by the Marquis of Saluzzo, in the middle of a farm, with a beautiful unspoilt cloister, leading to a grandly decorated, sparse, Romanesque church interior with painted brick decoration:-
These are the farm buildings, with views back up to the mountains:-