Torino is a city in great contrast to much of the rest of Italy. Its architecture is typically Baroque; its piazzas are colonnaded and industry is strong in this northern capital of education and commerce. Its narrow side streets lead onto some of the greatest public spaces in all of Italy, such as Piazza Castello and Piazza San Carlo. It was, in fact, the first capital of a United Italy in 1861 and wears its patriotism proudly. Yet, hidden among its wealth of art and culture is a wonderful find, off the beaten path, Torino’s Egyptian Museum (Museo Egizio, Via Accademia delle Scienze, 6 – 10123, Torino), which reopened in April after a five-year, €50 million renovation.
Its collection of artifacts is impressive and its new layout allows for a chronological walk through time. It’s housed in a regal looking building (a former 17th century palazzo) and the treasure trove of Egyptian artifacts stands up to the great collections at the National Museum in Cairo, the British Museum in London and the Egyptian Museum of Berlin.
Museo Egizio was started in 1824 with the acquisition by the Savoy King Carlo Felice of the “Drovetti Collection” of over 5,200 objects. Some 80 years later, at the start of the 20th century, another 25,000 artifacts were added, either through purchase or excavation, and after the mega renovation, visitors and scholars can now journey across history amid 4,000 years of Egyptian art and architecture, science and technology.
The spectacular Tomb of Kha is the museum’s showpiece, dating back t0 3500 B.C. Yet, one of my favorite exhibits was the Temple of Ellesiya. It was constructed in 1450 B.C. and the museum saved this Nubian temple from flooding by the rising waters of Lake Nasser. The exhibits also include the papyrus architect’s plans for the temple of Ramesses IV. The project was never realized so the ancients just flipped over the papyrus and drew plans for another tomb, just fascinating – ancient green recycling!
If you find yourself in Torino, make this a definite stop on your itinerary.