The automobile giant Fiat and the Shroud of Turin form a popular part of the rich history of Torino Italy. But the history of Torino is far richer than these. Torino (the Italian name most likely derived from Taurini — an ancient Celto-Ligurian tribe that settled at the heart of Piedmont before the arrival of the Romans) or Turin (gotten from “Tau” a Celtic word for mountains) is an important cultural and economic center in northern Italy.
Some centuries after the city was destroyed by general Hannibal in 218 B.C., Torino became a Roman military colony and a military camp — Castra Taurinorum — was built. During this time, the about five thousand inhabitants of Torino lived behind the high walls of the city. Dominated by the barbarians after the fall of the Roman empire in the Middle Ages, the city was overrun by the Lombard kingdom and then the Frankish empire. The marriage of Adelaide of Susa and Count Odo of Savoy in 1046 began the shift of control to the family of the Counts of Savoy. In 1563, Torino was named the capital of the Duchy of Savoy by Emanuele Filiberto. The Treaty of Utrecht led to the annexing of the Kingdom of Sardinia to the Duchy of Savoy and Torino becoming the capital of a European kingdom. Many of the lavish castles, gardens, and palazzi like the Palazzo Madama are from the Savoy rule.
During the Battle of Turin in 1706, the city survived an unsuccessful 117 days siege by the French. In 1814, Torino became the capital of the kingdom of Piedmont-Sardinia, after the 19th-century occupation of the city by Napoleon. It served as the political and intellectual center for the kingdom of Sardinia-led Risorgimento — the struggle for Italian unification. And in 1861, Torino emerged the capital of the Kingdom of Italy and served as that until the capital was moved to Florence in 1865.
Torino rapidly became one of the industrial powerhouses of Italy in the late 19th century. The establishment of Fiat in 1899 and Lancia in 1906 attracted migrants from across the country and the city’s population grew to about 430,000 in 1911. Many of the most significant landmarks of the city were built around this time including the Egyptian Museum, the Mole Antonelliana, Piazza Vittorio Veneto, and the Gran Madre di Dio church. The effects of World War I on the city was seen in the social unrest and protests by workers which lead to the occupation of Fiat’s Lingotto factory in 1920. Torino sustained heavy air-raid damage in its industrial areas during World War II.
Torino quickly recovered from the war. The city experienced a massive economic growth driven by it automobile industry with its population reaching about 1.2 million in 1971. It was nicknamed the “Automobile Capital of Italy” and the “Detroit of Italy”. Unfortunately, the 1970s and 1980s industrial crisis, from which it has not fully recovered, resulted in a sharp decline in the city’s population. With a population of about 908,000, the city hosted the 2006 Winter Olympics.