di Andrea Rosselli
Should you find yourself strolling about the center of Torino this winter, you will undoubtedly find yourself wandering about Piazza Castello – found right in the heart of the city. While taking a break from visiting the Royal Palace, the newly reopened Palazzo Madama, or from eating a slice of focaccia…. A special short-termed exhibit awaits to be discovered just steps away…
2006 is the 100th anniversary of the Torino Football Club, and a temporary free exhibit open until January 27th, 2007 is well worth a short visit. Burgundy banners announcing proudly “MOSTRA STORICA: IL CENTENARIO DEL TORINO” mark the entrance at the “Palazzo della Regione” easily spotted in Piazza Castello.
This exhibit holds some of the most valued sports items that the city of Torino possesses. Along with two Italian friends I went for a visit yesterday.
To enter the exhibit one must pass through a metal detector under the scrutiny of two security guards. Being that the temperature is hovering around 0°C this means layers of scarves, jackets, and gloves need to be taken off. I’m not sure if the guards were looking for weapons or for Juventus apparel, for as soon as they spotted my metal belt with a Toro symbol they passed me through. The muscled guard cleared me through immediately despite the alarming beeps from the detector with a welcoming smile. Somebody wearing a Toro belt would never harm the exhibit he reasons. I’m curious what he would have done should he have seen a Juventus belt or scarf….
A few moments later one is immersed into a sort of “granata” Hall of Fame. Jerseys from different eras hang side by side – the different styles and symbols evolving from that of “Grande Torino” to the present day squad. Strangers gathered around a framed collection of old tickets chatting warmly, pointing out dates and teams. I would bet that all those gathered around that frame also have a collection of ticket stubs at home, thrown into desk drawers and shoeboxes. Looking over that collection seemed to reassure us all that hoarding those old ticket stubs is not done in vain.
Near to the ticket collection hangs the evolution of the Torino symbol, which evokes many to share their opinion on what they think is the best or worst design. Hand gestures fly left and right as friends try to convince others that their opinion is naturally the best.
A large model of the old “Filadelfia” stadium is held under glass nearby, looking like the recreation of an ancient roman arena or greek theater. My Italian friend Ruben nodded slowly to himself sweeping his hand over the model, leaning over to say quietly “This is where Grande Torino played…” with the reverence of a life-long Toro fan brought up in Piemonte. Though I’ve heard him speak of Filadelfia many times it seems to be appropriate to nod with a smile as if he had just shared something new. Not a minute later our friend Giuliano walked up to join us at the model. He looked up with brown eyes sparkling to explain to me, “Matt….This is where Grande Torino played…..”
The fans of Torino are proud to share their history with a foreigner…
This exhibit does not focus only on “Grande Torino” but on the entire 100 year history of the club, thus as an American I came across many unknown faces that my friends happily pointed out. Ferrini “Il Capitano”. Meroni “La Farfalla”. Leo Junior. The players of the last Scudetto Sala e Pulici. Any fan of sport can find something to enjoy with a quick walk through the exhibit with plenty of photos of not only the matches and players but also of the city.
Perhaps the most touching artifacts are those of “Grande Torino”. Pieces of the old wooden locker room are on display, as well as original signs that bring images and memories of a time when players didn’t receive thousand and million dollar contracts. On the second floor of the exhibit there is a room dedicated to “Grande Torino” and the airplane propeller recovered from the fateful crash at Superga can be found draped in “granata”… images of the “Immortals” looking back at us through time. In this room I noticed an elderly woman in perhaps her late 70’s or early 80’s. As many Torinese woman of that age, she wore a dark brown fur jacket that hung down to just above her ankles. Her face was colored up with just a tint of too much make-up and her perfume seemed to hover around her like a cloud. However, unlike many Torinese woman of that age one might pass in the street, she beamed with outward excitement and smiles, recounting a story of her youth to a man in his twenties who stood with arms folded and short-spiked hair. Perhaps it was her grandnephew or family member, or perhaps she just happened to turn and started speaking to the first she found. In Torino if a man or woman of a certain age starts to speak of “Grande Torino”…. it is wise to listen.
The exhibit hosts a large number of items spanning the 100 year history of the club, including jerseys, trophies, cups, newspaper articles, videos, personal items of players, letters, and a grand selection of photos. It is open from 10:00am to 8:00pm all days of the week until 27 January 2007. Admission is free. Apparel of Juventus prohibited.