Finding Ancient Rome in Turin

Modern day Torino is built on the site of the Roman colony, Julia Augusta Taurinorum. Originally home to the Taurini, a people of Celtic origin at the gateway to the Alps, the area would have been first in the firing line of Hannibal’s incursions.  The Roman colony was formed as Augusta Trurinorum in the early days of Augustus’s rule in the first Century BC as a castrum or military camp.  Even today, flying over the city, the city’s grid-like Roman structure is still visible, and long straight streets predominate.  The city hasn’t forgotten its Roman heritage, as the Quadrilatero Romano area continues to be a popular part of town.

Augustus continues to look out over his city: here he is at the so-called Palatine Gate, the northern exit to the city (today a taxi trip to the airport goes right past), looking over the city, with the Duomo (home to the Turin Shroud) and its medieval campanile looming large.

The gate itself isn’t original, but has seen reuse throughout the centuries, including as a prison and a music school.  A painting at the Museo del Risorgimento shows how those buildings could have looked in the 18th or 19th Centuries.

The Archaeological park which houses the Gate connects directly to the Musei Reali complex of museums, specifically the palace housing the Museo Archaeologico and the Galleria Sabauda.  From here, the remains of the city’s Roman-era theatre can also be viewed.


Inside the Archaeological Museum, the city’s antique past is atmospherically presented in a partly underground setting.


The spectacular Marengo Treasure, found in the 1920’s in a field outside the village of Marengo, is also displayed.  A selection of silver treasures, it includes this bust of Lucius Verus.

Other treasures include spectacular mosaics such as that of Orpheus below.


Palazzo Madama, just outside the Musei Reali complex, was the first home of the Italian senate and marks the site of yet another gate into the city. This one connected directly to the city’s main streets.

And inside, descending the landmark medieval towers of the original building, one can see the Roman era tower’s earlier structure.

And the Roman influence doesn’t end there. The city’s Egyptian Museum was playing host to the ‘Il Nilo A Pompei’ exhibition, tracing the relationship of Greece and Rome with Egyptian imagery and religion – with some spectacular finds from Pompeii (normally exhibited in Naples), including frescoes from the House of the Golden Bracelet.

Have you explored Roman Torino? What was on your must-see list?


  1. Amazing documentation Marilyn! I particularly enjoyed the photograph of the old Roman theater from an open door, and the giant marble foot. I also love the delicacy of the Orpheus mosaic. Would like to know more about the fresco and the scene depicted. I see some conservation at work as the colors are so fresh.

  2. Thank you Cynthia. That Orpheus mosaic was just beautiful The frescoes from Pompeii (possibly the Temple of Isis) were all incredibly fresh and vibrant, and just a delight to see. That one is a 2nd Century BC representation of Isis greeting Io at Canopus.

  3. Marilyn, check out the rendering of architectural objects in each lower corner. We can see that there was an unresolved struggle with depicting perspective of simple geometry, while the artist portrayed figurative elements much more realistically in 3-D space.

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