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Le strade di Torino

Giacomo Gribaudi | The fairy-tale world of Giacomo

Giacomo Gribaudi | The fairy-tale world of Giacomo

Having a talk with a person born and raised in a place is a bit like living through their story, imagining what their eyes have seen and remember: the streets, the people, the moments.

Giacomo is, as we say in Italian, a torinese DOC – someone who’s born and bred in Turin, in reference to the “Denominazione di Origine Controllata” labels that on wine bottles made in specific locations. He was born in the 1950s in a house that’s still standing, right across from one of the laneways in Turin’s famous Balon market at Porta Palazzo. For many years now, he has been a successful lawyer, but during our chat I felt he was still that same child from his youth, one that observed the world with fascination and amazement. I asked him to tell me about his Turin, and he chose the streets of his childhood as the setting.

aperitivo san salvario aperitivo san salvario

Giacomo remembers scenes and characters that seem to come right out of a fairytale: groups of gamblers who deceived naive men from the countryside who were passing through the city; mighty men who performed record-breaking feats – just like the 20th Century Italian film character Maciste, who used to lift astonishing weights – and one guy who literally took bites out of a Fiat 500; and makeshift dentists on the street curb who pulled molars while their assistant made tons of noise to cover the screams of those unlucky patients. Meanwhile, kids plodded along playing hopscotch on the sidewalks.

Today, Porta Palazzo is Europe’s largest open-air market, a multicultural space that is also the gatekeeper of ties to the earth. Alongside shops stocking products from outside Italy and visitors from around the world, there are the farmers’ market stands where Piedmontese dialect is spoken between vendors and torinese grandmothers doing their shopping. It is a tornado of colors, scents and voices that captures the whole world we live in just one little place. A few steps further, the cobbled lanes of the Balon market are hidden. Today, the area houses antique dealers and shopkeepers, but once it was the home of industrial Turin; highly productive during periods of war, then converted to keep up with the economic boom. It’s very close to the most precious electricity source of that era: the Dora river, sister to the river Po, which also runs through Turin. If you ask around, olden day Turin in these parts will be described as grey and desolate, but the purely commercial feeling of that time is in contrast with Giacomo’s memories.

Giacomo’s fanciful stories seem astonishing and so far away, but it’s exactly the same place we pass through nowadays. After all, the past is just the present of yesterday.

All images © 2017 Luca Iovino

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