Milan and Turin—Delightful Cities to Visit
BY AWAKE! WRITER IN ITALY
A VISIT to Italy can be a delightful experience. The food, the wine, the scenery, the history, the culture, the music, the language—all combine to make this land unforgettable. This summer may be as good a time as any for a tour, especially for those invited to attend one of the conventions of Jehovah’s Witnesses being held there. Let us now take you on a brief tour of two remarkable Italian cities and their regions.
Milan—The True Capital of Italy?
In terms of business and industry, Milan is often considered the true capital of Italy. Compared with other Italian cities, it is not as well-known for antiquity and art. Here, the modern seems to dominate over the ancient. Nevertheless, Milan is home to some outstanding art and architecture that testify to an ancient past.
About 600 B.C.E., the region was settled by the Gauls, an ancient Celtic people from the area now known as France. In 222 B.C.E., the Romans conquered the city and gave it the Latinized name Mediolanum, now Milan. Through the centuries, the Italian peninsula has been a divided and conquered land, attaining independence only in the second half of the 19th century. So Milan was subject to an endless succession of invaders. Among those who occupied this area were the Lombards, probably originating in Scandinavia. They gave their name to Lombardy, the region of which Milan is capital.
Come Visit the City
The history of Milan, like that of the rest of Italy, is dominated by the Catholic Church. Little wonder, then, that the cathedral, or duomo, there is the third-largest church in Europe and one of the largest Gothic churches in the world. About 500 feet long, it bristles with spires and more than 3,000 statues and gargoyles. Construction began in 1385 and took five centuries to complete. Today when Italians speak of a job that is taking too long to complete, they say that it is like “building the cathedral.”
Bible readers will be interested to see God’s name, in the form “Jahve,” high up in a Gothic window of the cathedral facade. The exterior of the facade is decorated with numerous depictions of Bible episodes.
The Castello Sforzesco is one of the buildings that have become symbols of the city. It was built in the 15th century by the Sforza family, the lords of Milan. Today it houses a number of museums. One famous room contains frescoes that some say were painted by Leonardo da Vinci, the renowned artist and scientist.
Among da Vinci’s best-known paintings is a fresco in the 15th-century Renaissance convent of Santa Maria delle Grazie. It depicts Jesus at what is commonly called the Last Supper and is judged one of the most famous of all Renaissance paintings. The Pinacoteca di Brera, another museum, has one of the largest Italian collections of paintings by such famous artists as Bellini, Raphael, Tintoretto, and Caravaggio.
Bible students will appreciate the Pinacoteca Ambrosiana, which is a library and art gallery. There you can find the Muratorian Fragment, a Latin catalog of the Christian Greek Scriptures dating to the end of the second century C.E. It helps to confirm the composition of the “New Testament” canon.a
The same library contains a codex called Ambrosian O 39 sup., dated to the end of the ninth century C.E., which renders the divine name by the Tetragrammaton written in square Hebrew characters, as mentioned in the New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures—With References.b The library also possesses other ancient versions of the Bible, as well as the Atlantic Codex, a collection of more than 2,000 drawings and scientific notes made by Leonardo da Vinci.
A useful suggestion for visitors to remember is that many museums and libraries are housed in ancient buildings, splendid for their beauty, but easily filled to capacity by today’s ever-increasing flow of tourists. In many cases visits have to be booked in advance, and some museums set a time limit on visits.
Before leaving the old part of the city, music lovers might want to see the outside of La Scala, one of the most famous opera houses in the world. Even if the visitor cannot attend an opera, he might like to tour the museum, where many mementos of musicians and famous singers are on display.c
A tour of the modern part of Milan, one of the wealthiest cities in Europe, with its skyscrapers and sports stadium will provide you with an overview of the city. You will be able to appreciate the variety, beauty, and long history of Milan. Visitors who love shopping and sightseeing will want to visit the huge Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, with its superb glass ceiling and dome.
You’ll be glad you came to Milan! But now, let’s travel westward to visit an altogether different great city of Italy.
Turin—Another of Italy’s Jewels
Turin, a city with a population of about one million, is located at the narrowest point of the Po Valley, at the foot of the western Alps, and less than 60 miles [100 km] from the French border. It is surrounded by an awesome “amphitheater” of alpine mountains that reach as far as the eye can see. Almost half of Turin’s province consists of mountains, woods, and valleys. A drive of less than an hour takes you to mountain resorts. In less than two hours, you can be on the beaches of Liguria.
Turin’s origins predate the Romans. Originally a settlement of a people called the Taurini, it later became a Roman colony, the remains of which lie in the historical area. There are medieval features, but most of the city’s architecture dates from the 17th and 18th centuries, with the baroque style dominating among buildings lining the downtown streets.
Turin is home to one of the best Egyptian museums in the world. Its exceptional collection of objects from the ancient civilization that developed along the Nile is second only to the one in Cairo.
In a visit of just a few hours, you can admire the city’s historical and artistic center, the Madama Palace, the Royal Palace, and the Mole Antonelliana, which at 550 feet [170 m] high was until recently one of the tallest masonry structures in Europe. As a city landmark, it is sometimes called Turin’s equivalent of the Eiffel Tower in Paris. Then there is Valentino Park, with its botanical gardens as well as lawns, avenues, fountains, and a medieval burg—a picturesque and faithful reconstruction of a 15th-century Piedmontese village.
Turin is one of the most important manufacturing centers of Italy. It is the home of the FIAT (Fabbrica Italiana Automobili Torino) car company. If you are interested in vintage cars, the Museo dell’Automobile, about two miles [3 km] from the city, has a collection of 150 veteran, vintage, and classic cars, including Bugattis, Maseratis, and Lancias. It is obvious why the livelihood of about half of Turin’s present population is in some way tied to the automotive industry.
Jehovah’s Witnesses in Turin and Milan
The valleys around Turin have for centuries had a high concentration of Waldenses, the descendants of itinerant preachers of the Protestant Reformation. It is no surprise, then, that during a trip to Europe in 1891, Charles Taze Russell, who took the lead among the early Bible Students (as Jehovah’s Witnesses were then known), made contact with a local Waldensian pastor, Daniele Rivoir. Russell made arrangements with him to have a number of Bible study aids translated into Italian. The year 1903 saw the formation of the first group of Bible Students in this area. When Russell returned to Italy in 1912, some 40 individuals were holding regular Christian meetings in a building in Pinerolo, near Turin. And at Pinerolo, their first Italian assembly was held in 1925.
Thus, the first real traces of Bible Students in Turin date back to the 1920’s. The first missionaries of Jehovah’s Witnesses were sent to Italy in 1946. They helped to put the work of the Witnesses onto a solid footing. In the late 1940’s and early 1950’s, the first congregations were formed in Turin. Now there are some 13,000 of Jehovah’s Witnesses in the city and its province. What, though, about Milan?
For a little over a year, the branch office representing Jehovah’s Witnesses in Italy was in Milan. It was moved to Rome in 1948. The first postwar assembly was held in a city theater in Milan in 1947. Some 700 from all parts of the country were present. In 1963 the “Everlasting Good News” International Assembly was held in Milan’s Vigorelli Velodrome, then perhaps the most famous cycling track in Europe.
The modern-day preaching of Jehovah’s Witnesses has met with great success in Milan. At present, there are 57 congregations in the city, with more than 4,000 active evangelizers, as well as an Assembly Hall in a converted city theater.
Visiting Milan and Turin can be rewarding indeed. Whenever you go there, you are likely to find a warm welcome and have an experience to treasure.
a See “All Scripture Is Inspired of God and Beneficial,” pages 302-4, published by Jehovah’s Witnesses.
b Appendix 1C, page 1564, published by Jehovah’s Witnesses.
c See Awake! of July 8, 1994, page 24, “A Night at the Opera.”
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The Shroud of Turin—Authentic?
Perhaps the most famous feature of Turin is the shroud that some believe is the winding-sheet in which Christ’s body was wrapped. A travel guidebook explains: “The most famous—and most dubious—holy relic of them all is kept in Turin’s duomo [cathedral].” It is permanently exhibited in one of the duomo’s chapels, locked in an airtight, bulletproof glass case filled with an inert gas. The book goes on to say: “In 1988, however, the myth of the shroud was exploded: a carbon-dating test showed that it dates back no farther than the 12th century.”d
d See Awake! of December 22, 1998, page 23, “The Shroud of Turin—Burial Cloth of Jesus?”
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Mountain High Maps® Copyright © 1997 Digital Wisdom, Inc.
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The modern seems to dominate over the ancient in Milan
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In Milan, La Scala (above) and the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II (right)
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The “Last Supper” by Leonardo da Vinci
Scala/Art Resource, NY
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Drawbridge entrance to Turin’s medieval burg
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Mole Antonelliana in Turin; its spire is 550 feet high
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The river Po passing through Turin