Italy: Step Right Up to the Center

Italy: Step Right Up to the Center

JUNE 1996. TURIN, ITALY: After a seventeen-year absence, no surprise that I had forgotten how lovely much of this city is: deep porticos running up and down the boulevards, giving shade to posh cafés and shops; baroque palazzi whose carved decoration stands somewhere between French and Italian in style; and just across the tree-lined banks of the Po river, steep green hills dotted with villas and, higher, cherry orchards and meadows.

Turin puts forward a stately facade, appropriate to its place in modern Italian history as seat of the House of Savoy, birthplace of the Risorgimento, and first capital of a united Italy. Since the turn of the century, it has also represented industrial society—home to Fiat and “Fordism,” and—for leftists—heart of the Italian workers’ movement. To think of Turin is to think of Antonio Gramsci and the Ordine Nuovo group, the “red biennium” of 1919-1920 with its revolutionary workers’ councils and factory occupations, the massive antifascist strikes in 1943 and 1944, when workers risked death or deportation to Germany, and the long workers’ insurgency that began in the late 1960s and lasted well into the next decade.

...

Lima