Friday 1 July 2011

Catching Up With Nietzsche In Turin

‘I arrived on the afternoon of the twenty-first in Turin, my proved place, my Residenz from now on. I took again the same accommodation I had occupied in the spring, via Carlo Alberto 6,III, opposite the mighty palazzo Carignano, in which Vittorio Emanuele was born, with a view of the piazza Carlo Alberto and beyond that the hills.’

- Friedrich Nietzsche, Ecco Homo

On the morning of January 3, 1889 Friedrich Nietzsche left his lodgings on the piazza Carlo Alberto. Accounts vary slightly on what precisely happened next, but within a few paces he encountered a cab driver beating his horse on or near the piazza Carignano, overlooked by the imposing Baroque facade of the palazzo Carignano. Nietzsche flung his arms around the horse’s neck to protect it, then collapsed to the ground unconscious. He was immediately carried back to his room on the piazza Carlo Alberto, returning along the little side street linking the two squares, again under the stern walls of the palazzo Carignano. When he finally regained consciousness he was no longer sane. Up until his death on August 25, 1900, he was never to be in his right mind again.

I was very moved to be conducted by Roberto and Maurizio Opalio and Ramona Pozzini to visit the spot where the tragic events of January 3 1889 took place. The distances involved seem pitifully small compared with the enormity of the mental breakdown suffered by Nietzsche that day. Even so, Roberto was kind enough to point out to me the window of Nietzsche’s room looking out onto the piazza Carlo Alberto, where I am happy to report that you can still catch a glimpse of the hills beyond.

Pictured above: the palazzo Carignano, bearing the name of Vittorio Emanuele II; the cobbled piazza Carignano and the side street leading to the piazza Carlo Alberto at the top left of the photograph; the side walls of the palazzo Carignano, Nietzsche’s last accommodation in Turin – his room is the one with the open window and the orange curtain, located on the second floor, second in from the left; looking back towards the side street leading to the piazza Carignano. As an unintended side-effect, the lurching zigzag motif suggested in the sequence of pictures above gives a sense of the collapse and distress associated with this part of Turin.

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