In the footsteps of Antonelli

Verticality and grandness are the stylistic features of the eclectic architect born in Ghemme in 1798, author of works that - particularly in Turin and Novara - radically transformed the urban landscape into the skyline we admire today.


There remains an enormous collection of drawings and projects of Antonelli's fruitful ingenuity and his predilection for the neoclassical style, many of which were never executed, such as the general urban development plan of Turin, which envisaged the extension of Piazza Castello with palaces, a new cathedral and a new Parliament building. This architectural vision of large spaces that seem to expand to infinity gave rise to the vertiginous structure of the Mole, now a symbol of Turin and home to the National Cinema Museum. When it came to completing the synagogue commissioned by the Jewish Community of Turin in 1863, its 167.5 metres already made it the tallest masonry structure in the world, but not for Antonelli. The Community withdrew from the project and work was not completed until 1889, a year after the architect's death.


Strolling through the city, we come across several original private residences designed by Antonelli. In the Vanchiglia district, the so-called "Fetta di Polenta", with its slender trapezoidal shape and ochre-yellow façade, is a true Antonelli oddity. He lived there with his wife Francesca Scaccabarozzi, the owner of the building, for a few years, then moved to the new Casa Antonelli, in Via Vanchiglia 9. Distinctive of the "Casa senza finestre" are the balconies and railings that run uninterruptedly along two facades between Via Lagrange and Via Doria.  We then find the building known as “Casa delle Colonne” (or Casa Ponzo Vaglia, Aghemo, Ferroggio) at the intersection of Corso Matteotti and Corso Re Umberto. Built in 1853, with its loggias with Doric-style columns on the five floors of the façade, it is a unique example among the many designed by the architect, professor at the Accademia Albertina and senator of the Kingdom of Italy.


In the province, in Castellamonte, what remains of the parish church that should have been built and was inspired by St Peter's Basilica in Rome, is the Rotonda Antonelliana, embellished by a 6-metre arch in terracotta tiles (1995), a tribute to the city, capital of ceramics, by the artist Arnaldo Pomodoro. Among the works scattered throughout the territory there are parts of the Santi Antonio e Biagio di Alessandria hospital (for orphans, women and the incurable); in the Novara area, the church of San Clemente and the Asilo De Medici nursery school in Bellinzago Novarese, and the parish church in Borgolavezzaro. Designed by Antonelli in the provincial capital of Novara are the Duomo and the 121-metre brick dome (1878), in harmony with Baroque masterpieces such as the Basilica of San Gaudenzio and the bell tower of Benedetto Alfieri. On the Baluardo Quintino Sella, you can visit Casa Bossi (1857 - 61), one of the greatest examples of neoclassical civil architecture in Italy.


Outside the city, BicinVigna con Antonelli is the bicycle-tour itinerary that passes through 9 municipalities linked to the architect's biography. The ring route starts from Villa Caccia, the residence of the Counts of Romentino designed by Antonelli, and continues through the beautiful landscape of the Novara Hills, abundant with renowned DOCG and DOC wines, from the Monte Fenera Park to Baraggia, encountering sacred architecture in Fontaneto d'Agogna, in Boca, at the Sanctuary on which Antonelli worked all his life, and in Maggiora, where the architect is buried. On the way there are splendid medieval views in Ghemme, the City of Wine and Honey well maintained within the walls of the castle-ricetto.