An entire city hidden underground. Turin is not only what everyone knows above the surface, but it hides numerous tunnels: a real underground network that connects the most important areas of the city and not only them.
There are underground galleries for the defense of the city, built around the ancient Citadel and the fortified walls: the most famous one is dedicated to Pietro Micca, a courageous Turin soldier. There are underground galleries linking the palaces and churches, to hide and to facilitate the movements of priests and aristocrats. There are galleries that led to the real delights around the city. Finally, there are galleries that were used by the alchemists of the time, which have not yet been found, but which are widely spoken by some astrologers and alchemists of the time such as Nostradamus and Paracelso, considered as true “interdimensional doors”: as it’s told, they contain many esoteric secrets as well as powers of white and black magic. However, the oldest and most known underground sites among the citizens were the ancient glaciers. These large tunnels were used for ice storage, therefore for commercial purposes.
In the past, in fact, ice was, as salt, one of the most precious goods for food preservation, especially requested by butchers due to the easy decay of meat, but also by fruit and vegetable merchants. Compared to other cities, Turin benefited from the proximity of the Alps, where there were various glaciers used as quarries, both in the Val di Susa and in the Lanzo Valleys. Some underground rooms were even created just outside Turin, where in summer the water of water streams was collected passing close by; the water froze in winter and those rooms were also used as iceboxes. The ice was cut into blocks of dimensions that could be easily transported and, at the same time, allowed to make it as far downstream as possible; it reached Turin wrapped in wet jute bags, which were used to preserve it as much as possible. In Turin it was stored in ice-houses, which means underground rooms with icy temperatures. The first known Turinese icehouses were located between Porta Palazzo and the Sanctuary of the Consolata, drawn on a map of 1753. They were cone-shaped conical constructions with a domed roof, a shape that facilitated the conservation of the ice that had considerable size, about ten meters both in diameter and in height. In the nineteenth century, the glaciers were expanded to the main squares of the city and in these areas, they became local support for market traders. Approximately 150 of these rooms are found and reach up to four floors underground. Nowadays, the old ice-boxes are still used by merchants who populate the squares of Turin as storage of their carts on market days.
Spend a fantastic weekend in Turin, to visit the “underground city” and discover all its secrets.