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TORINO ON SET WITH DARIO ARGENTO

It is not a pure coincidence that Dario Argento chose Torino as his set.

My lockdown started with a long series of Italian horror and thriller movies from the 70s, watched in complete darkness and silence. A great supporter of American horror films, I realised that I had never explored their Italian counterparts. At the heart of it all were Dario Argento’s films and their strong aesthetics; as soon as I had the chance I jumped on a train to Torino – where as a young movie director, Argento started to explore the city. He walked its grey streets and secret Liberty villas, falling in love with it and began to conceive most of his scripts. 

The filmmaker said about Torino:

 

“La storia tra me e questa città è molto lunga. Cominciò moltissimi anni fa, quando mio padre dovette venire a Torino per un lavoro e scelse me, che ero il più grande dei figli, per accompagnarlo. Arrivammo di sera e attraversammo queste strade lucide di pioggia, con luci gialle che si riflettevano sulla pavimentazione, piazze grandissime e poche persone in giro. Fui rapito dallo spirito del luogo. E non intendo il trascendente, l’esoterico o il misterioso di cui tanto si parla. Ma lo spirito degli abitanti e dell’architettura, ogni angolo era diverso, un guazzabuglio di stili e influenze”.

The story between me and this city is very long. It began many years ago, when my father had to come to Turin for a job and chose me, who was the eldest of the children, to accompany him. We arrived in the evening and walked through these rain-shining streets, with yellow lights reflecting on the pavement, huge squares and few people around. I was captivated by the spirit of the place. And I don’t mean the transcendent, the esoteric or the mysterious that we talk about so much. But the spirit of the inhabitants and the architecture, each corner was different, a jumble of styles and influences.”

 

Torino is a surreal place. Even if Dario Argento was not captivated by the esoteric stories, he surely breathed the atmosphere. In fact, Torino is one of the top “magical cities” in the world, together with London, Prague, Lyon and San Francisco. Even for the most rational of people, these cities are charming and hypnotic, believed to absorb white or black energy as geographical magnets on earth. According to esotericism, Torino is the vertex of both white and black energy triangles and is crossed by two rivers, the Po and the Dora, thought to be two mystical entities, one male, one female, absorbing all the magic that comes with water.

It is not a pure coincidence that Dario Argento chose Torino as his set, crime stories of blood and salvation in beautiful architectural monsters. His cinema is a perfect catalyst of intellectuals, cinephiles and mystery lovers. Torino is a playground of riddles. 

Let’s discover some of them:

If your appetite calls for a snack or a late breakfast, Caffè Mulassano in Piazza Castello 15, must be the place. The historical 31 square-meter bar was chosen for a quick scene in the movie “4 Mosche di velluto grigio” (Four Flies on Grey Velvet, 1971) where detective Arrosio met Roberto, the protagonist, and ate “tramezzini”, the iconic Italian sandwiches. Oh, this is not a causal choice, because the “tramezzino” was born right here! Before sandwiches, the name of Mulassano was linked also to that of the famous mint Sacco. In fact, Amilcare Mulassano was also the owner of the distillery that produced this famous syrup which explains why there is a Sacco sign behind the bar of the Caffé. Let’s taste our truffle and mascarpone tramezzino and drink amber-coloured Mulassano Vermouth while reading about the next places. 

Just a few steps away from Caffé Mulassano, you step into Subalpina Gallery, an attractive covered gallery that evokes the Parisian “Passages” dotted with vintage shops. Close by you will find Teatro Carignano, in Piazza Carignano 6, where “the scene of the movie from which everything started” was filmed – that is the session of parapsychology in “Profondo Rosso” (Deep Red, 1975) where a medium, Helga Ulmann, sensed the “twisted, perverted, murderous” thoughts of someone in the audience. And that is just the beginning of this masterpiece.

Continuing with “Profondo Rosso”, if you don’t want to take the thirty minute taxi ride to the highly evocative Villa Scott venture outside the theatre, 7 minutes by foot, and find Piazza C.L.N.  with a giant statue of the Po River at the left. This is another key location for Dario Argento, located in an area dotted with historical villas, a labyrinth of architectural masterpieces on the hills. The yellow villa, at Corso Giovanni Lanza 5, with arched windows surrounded by flowers and vegetation is also known as “Casa del bambino urlante” (House of the screaming baby).  The villa belonged to Suore della Redenzione (Sisters of the Redemption) and Collegio delle Fanciulle. Argento sent them all to Rimini on vacation in order to peacefully shoot the film on Goblins tracks.

At this point it must be said that if you seriously want to discover Torino, in addition to a deep knowledge of Dario Argento’s movies, you must take a detour into the works of two far-reaching architects: Pietro Fenoglio and Carlo Mollino.

Pietro Fenoglio (1865 – 1927) was the “Maestro of Liberty” and sometimes neo-gothic styles. An engineer who had built several other secret houses in Torino, for example the beautiful Villa Fenoglio-La Fleurs, at via Principi d’Acaja 11, Villino Raby, at Corso Francia 8, and the picturesque Door of Pomgrenate in via Argentero 4.  If you love peculiar and bewitched doors visit Corso Francia 23, where you can find the House of Dragons, or alternatively the devil’s door at Palazzo Trucchi di Levaldigi (via XX Settembre 40). 

Carlo Mollino (1905 – 1973) was a genius in diverse fields and Torino boasts at least three of his architectural projects. The best way to know his life and works is to visit his secret house in Torino, the house he called “a warrior’s house of rest” on the Po river. So named as a place to accommodate him in the afterlife. The building, in Via Napione 2, is a maze of mirrors. Each room is full of symbols, many from Egyptian culture, which Mollino declared to be fundamental to understanding the essence of life itself. I can clearly remember the cobalt blue Vietri majolica floor and a large shell that invites hyperuranic reflections on beauty, as Botticelli and Greek mythology had already made their own. In general, there is a softly-lit atmosphere, where silence speaks, and all the four elements, earth, air, fire and water, merge into a single microcosm to be explored. 

Molino also oversaw the reconstruction of Teatro Regio, completely destroyed by a fire in its previous version of the XVII century. The new theatre’s look didn’t please the entire audience but it is a jewel of innovation and avant–garde. The entrance was designed with twelve little doors, with an opening past the doors on each side. Most expected to see mirrors in the opening, but as there were no mirrors the first thing an individual viewed entering the passage, was another individual looking for a mirror (maybe for a quick outfit check). The second object they viewed was what feels like the biggest walk–in–closet ever. A mare magnum of coats. Exhilarating. 

If you don’t enjoy the theatre and are more attracted to the best music shows, have a drink at Lutrario Le Roi Dancing, in via Stradella 8. Built and designed by Mollino in 1959 this traditional Italian dancehall, “la balera”, is an ancestor of our disco clubs. The vortex of lights, mosaics, ladders, original pink piano played by Fred Buscaglione…all of this witnesses the eclecticism of a Carlo Mollino, one of a kind.  

And now, if you are not too tired of dancing, there’s a movie by Dario Argento, the first ever shot in Torino, “Il Gatto a Nove Code” (The Cat o’ Nine Tails, 1971) with several other beautiful locations to spot in the night.

Piazza Statuto

This is one of the most important squares of the city. Stop in front of the monumental pyramidal statue of rocks, dedicated to the inauguration of Traforo del Frejus (the tunnel that connects France to Italy). The statue represents the victory of the Winged Genius on the Titans. For positivists it is the victory of the reason on violence, but for the occultists this is instead the beating heart of black magic, representing Lucifer, the angel cast out of heaven. 

Casa dell’Obelisco

A beautiful neo-liberty palace, immortalized in Piazza Crimea 2, known as “House of the Obelisk” because of the obelisk in the square, but famous for its curves and its entrance shaped as an oyster. 

Let’s conclude now with a horror classic: Cimitero Monumentale. For the brave, a must see visit. What about spending the next Halloween there?

Torino has no secrets for you anymore.