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Residences of the Royal House of Savoy
Among the long porticoes, cafés and piazzas of the elegant and tranquil Savoy capital that is Turin, it is still possible to find a secluded corner or two which has retained its mystery and its ability to take the visitor’s breath away. The origin of this city, which is situated among hills along the river Po, with the loveliest Alpine peaks in the background, is linked to the ancient Ligurian population of the Tauri, who were shortly to be defeated by the Roman army. Roman Turin was called Augusta Taurinorum, and was one of the bases for the expansion of the Roman Empire: unfortunately, traces of the ancient colony here have grown faint, and little remains of the castrum, the Roman settlement, save for the chequered lay-out of the streets, crossed by the Roman cardo, the main south-north axis road which is now Via di Porta Palatina, and by the decumanus (the other axis road, running east to west and now Via Garibaldi) coming from the distant military camp. During the Middle Ages, the city was at the centre of frequent struggles and continual change: in 1250, Frederick Barbarossa passed it on the family of the House of Savoy, who did not manage to gain control of the city with any degree of stability until 1280.
Despite the interruptions to their rule caused by the long periods when Turin was occupied by the French, the family of the House of Savoy changed the face of the city several times over the centuries: to them, the credit is due for that special cityscape blend consisting of, on the one hand, the rationalised geometry of long avenues, and, on the other, of the exquisite elegance of the many baroque palazzos - which is perhaps the most fascinating feature of the old capital. Turin is a city which has respect for its past, and the same busy, quaint atmosphere which used to enliven the oldest markets can still be found every Saturday at the Ballôn, the large and always very crowded flea-market.
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