Tidbits from Turin: Piazza Castello

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This is Piazza Castello – the true heart of the city. All roads lead off this central stage to gorgeous shops, bars, restaurants, piazzas, museums, monuments, parks and the hills.

Piazza Castello – compliments of Turismo Torino

When I first arrived in Turin in 1997 this piazza was basically a traffic roundabout where cars, buses and trams circled manically around the central feature of the square – Palazzo Madama. Fortunately, that roundabout is history and since 2000 the main part of the square has been repaved. A minimalist arrangement of fountains in front of Palazzo Madama serves as a backdrop for many a wedding photo and provide fun and games and great delight to kids who love running and splashing through the jets of water. New, trendy cafes compete with historical ones – Baratti & Milano, under the porticos on the south side of the square, battles it out for custom with the new, on trend version of Fiorio on the corner of Via Garibaldi.

Where once there was a serious risk of getting knocked down by a rattling, yellow tram now you can stroll around and take in the atmosphere, sit down on one of the benches dotted around the piazza, watch the beautiful people and admire the surrounding architecture.

Here you are surrounded by vast baroque buildings that gleam with cleanliness and pride. Nearly the whole city was cleaned up to within an inch of its life in the lead up the the Winter Olympic Games in 2006. Take in the beauty of Palazzo Madama (home to the Museo Civico di Arte Antica) in the centre, Palazzo Reale (Royal Palace), San Lorenzo church and the Cappella della Santa Sindone to the north.

Don’t forget to come here in the evenings too. Winter and summer this piazza is full of life. Watch street entertainers or meet up with friends for a stroll and catch-up before going on to one of the great pizzerias nearby. Afterwards return for a post-pizza stroll and an ice-cream from Fiorio – bliss! Yes, even in the depths of winter!


Getting started: 7 steps for effective preparation

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Getting started is actually one of the most difficult steps in the academic writing process.


You’ve got an essay to write? Or perhaps a summary? Maybe even a process report? Or you’ve got to get started on your literature review?


Where do you start?


It can be thoroughly overwhelming.


You’ve got a task, you’ve got a supervisor, you’ve been to the lectures, you’ve done a load of reading, you’ve participated in the seminar and you’ve got pages of notes.


But how do you start pulling it all together into one concise piece of writing?


The laptop’s open and fingers are poised ready to start hammering out those beautifully succinct, linked paragraphs. But the ideas just don’t come. You start typing a few sentences just to try and get started. But the ideas are not flowing. What you are writing sounds jumbled and awkward and doesn’t hang together coherently. You feel stuck.


There’s an art to writing. And as in the process of producing art, it takes time to get to the finished product. But you certainly don’t have to be artistic to see this through to the end. However, like any great artist, you do need to prepare!



If you prepare for the writing process is will be so much easier. I’m not saying it will be easy – just that the task will flow more easily. You will feel more comfortable…and hopefully even enjoy the process. The stress will have been taken out of it. Giving you more time for the other things in your life.


To do that here are my 7 steps for effective preparation:


1. Patience. Lots of it. Don’t try to rush through the first draft because you’ll only run the risk of losing focus in your writing and having to make more changes later on. Your supervisor gives you feedback on a draft that is considered to be the best first draft and is not going to mother you through the entire redrafting and editing process.


2. Focus. You need to concentrate on the task in hand and cut out any distractions – both internal (letting your mind wander onto other stuff) and external (sending messages, taking calls).


3. Confidence. A good dose of that too. You need confidence in your own ability to produce a piece of writing. You’ve done it before, so you can do it again.


4. Trust in the process. Trust that something will happen. It has happened before. It will happen again.


5. It doesn’t have to be perfect. Aiming for perfection is unrealistic and only leads to frustration and misery. Instead aim to do the best job you can with the tools and resources you have at your disposal at this moment in time. You can’t ask more of yourself than that.


6. Make sure that you’re not going to be interrupted for the duration of time you’ve set aside for writing. Put devices out of arms’ reach and make sure the cordless is in the next room. Update your status to let people know you won’t be answering messages for the next 3 hours.


7. Write a plan!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I can’t emphasise this enough. Before you even start writing your first draft you must have written a plan if you are to take the pain out of the writing process. And this doesn’t mean just a few words scribbled down on a scrap piece of paper! You need to have thought clearly about:


  • What the task is asking you to do
  • What you need to have done to answer that question – reading, note-taking, lectures, seminars, talking the issues through with co-students etc…
  • And if this is an essay, what your main line of argument is going to be and how you are going to support that with examples and explanations.
  • Indicate how these examples link back to your main overall argument. 


Now you’re ready to start…!


get streetwise in via Garibaldi

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Giuseppe Garibaldi – The General (1807-1882)

by Andrew Martin Garvey


The name Garibaldi conjures up three images for many people: the man who was one of the principle figures of the House of Savoy led Italian Risorgimento, a teatime biscuit (currants or raisins) or a main street in many Italian cities.


Via Garibaldi
Compliments of Turisti per Caso

In Turin, Garibaldi refers to the former and the latter: Via Garibaldi a main, pedestrian shopping street, which is named after Giuseppe Garibaldi (1807-1882) a man of many talents who was a revolutionary a general, a freemason, a politician, a horse thief, a seaman, a dictator, a hero (of Two Worlds – Europe and the Americas). The biscuit on the other hand was named after Garibaldi following his visit to England!


Giuseppe Garibaldi the man, was a colourful character at the battlefront of the Risorgimento – the political and social movement that eventually led to the unification of Italy, consolidating the different states on the Italian peninsula into one single state. Generally considered to be a bit of a loose cannon, Garibaldi was an enthusiastic idealist who caused more than a few headaches for the Risorgimento politicians.


Giuseppe Garibaldi
Giuseppe Garibaldi

Garibaldi was born in Nice, but served in the Piedmontese navy and came under the influence of republican Giuseppe Mazzini (1805-72) who represented the popular front of the Risorgimento. He joined Mazzini in a failed republican uprising, which ended up with him fleeing to South America with the threat of a death sentence back in Italy hanging over his head.


There he developed a penchant for ponchos and romantic, swashbuckling antics and it was only a matter of time before word of his reputation spread back to Europe. On returning in 1848, Garibaldi gathered a group of volunteer guerrilla fighters together called Red Shirts (Camicie Rosse) whose uniform was inspired by his military campaigns in Uruguay.


His raging military actions from the south to the north of Italy created a thorn in the side for Cavour in Piedmont who realised that Garibaldi was better on side than not despite their differing aims. Garibaldi wanted unification – Cavour and King Vittorio Emanuele were initially just working towards the expansion of Piedmont.


The King seduced Garibaldi away from the republican influence of Mazzini but appeared soon after to withdraw support when he decided to hand Nice over to France and failed to support Garibaldi’s famous Sicilian campaign with 1,000 men. This did not go down well. The south however voted to join Vittorio Emanuele’s united Italy in 1860 but Garibaldi’s request to be Viceroy of Naples fell on deaf ears. Considered a rival to the King’s own popularity and certainly a danger to conservative politicians, he was left to spend many of his days in self-imposed exile on the island of Caprera.

Giuseppe Garibaldi
Giuseppe Garibaldi


Via Garibaldi, the Turin street, which today stretches for almost a kilometre from Piazza Castello westwards to Piazza Statuto, was originally the Roman Decumanus Maximus, which stretched from the Porta Decumana (now behind Palazzo Madama in Piazza Castello to the Porta Praetoria which stood at what is today the crossroads with Via Garibaldi and Via della Consolata.


Previously to being named after Giuseppe Garibaldi the street had been known as Via Sant’Espedito (St Expeditus, the patron saint of merchants and navigators) and later Contrada Dora Grossa (after one of Turin’s rivers). When Turin was under the occupation of Napoleon the street was called Rue du Mont Cenis, because it led to the mountain pass between Piedmont and France of that name. When the House of Savoy returned from exile in Sardinia in 1814 the street once again became Contrada Dora Grossa. Some years after Italy had been proclaimed a Kingdom it became, in the 1880s, Via Giuseppe Garibaldi.


Other than the shops and cafes Via Garibaldi has some of Turin’s most interesting churches. Included among these is the Church of the Holy Trinity (Santissima Annuziata) at the corner of Via XX Settembre, the Church of the Holy martyrs (Santi Martiri) at number 25 and St Dalmatius (San Dalmazzo) at the corner of Via delle Orfane.


Via GaribaldiA couple of other interesting yet little known facts about Via Garibaldi is that it is almost “home” to what was the city’s largest private palazzo: Palazzo Saluzzo Paesana which was commissioned by the Marquises of Saluzzo to rival the Savoy’s palaces and which almost bankrupted the former sovereign House of Saluzzo.


The other thing is that one of Turin’s best schools, the Convitto Umberto I (or Humbert I College), is at the corner of Via Garibaldi and Via Bligny. The building that houses the school dates back to the early 18th century and was the work of three of the most famous architects who worked in Turin: Garove, Juvarra and Plantery.


Rather than go any further into Via Garibaldi it might be better to leave everything to the visitor and suggest that one of the other good things about Via Garibaldi is the fact that some of Turin’s most interesting streets lead off form it and offer visitors and residents alike some real treats to discover.