City’s historical and political hub, some 40.000 sq. wide, it was designed in 1584 by A. Vitozzi, and later redesigned in some items by A. di Castellamonte and F. Juvarra. Valuable buildings incl. the Royal Palace – king’s residence up to 1865, face it.
In its middle stands Madama Palace (1645-46), defined ‘a stone abridgment of all of Torino’s past’, which encloses what used to be the Roman Praetoria Gate, Ludovico d’Acaja’s 15th century castle – hence the Square name – and its Juvarra’s overbuilding; it was the seat of the Subalpine Senate and is now the Ancient Arts City Museum.
The Piedmont Region’s Palace and San Lorenzo (St. Lawrence) baroque church face the square on its western side.
On its eastern side Juvarra’s Court Archives Palace –now Historical Museum of State Archives- stands together with the Royal Theater, witness to the Olympic Truce Appeal signing ceremony prior to the Torino 2006 Winter Games.
On the square’s northern side the Armoury and the Royal Library stand, as well as the 18th century Secretariats Palace, Savoy kings’ throbbing political heart, and nowadays Prefecture head office; a memorial slab for the people deported to the WW2 extermination camps can be seen under this side’s arcades.
Another slab in the paving opposite Via Garibaldi reminds of the spot where a Waldensian pastor was executed to death by burning in 1558. The nearby Waldensian valley communities currently light up joy bonfires on Feb. 16th evenings in memory of king Carlo Alberto’s Feb. 17th 1848 ‘Patent Letters’, by which civil rights were granted to the Waldensian minority – and a few days later to the Jewish community too – for the first time ever in Piedmont, besides ruling the board of censors’ authority scope – a significant turn in the press operability. Such bonfires, ‘freedom fires’, are a symbol of joyful brotherhood and communication across peoples’ cultures and faiths.
This central square, with its many institutional and war memorial objects, has always been a meeting and showing place for civil society activists: whether No-war, No-nuclear, No-TAV (high speed railways) or pro-conscientious objection and pro-public waterworks protesters.
A standing Silence Hour for peace, Constitution art. 11 honoring, and a cut of Military spending, is often kept here on via Garibaldi corner on Wednesday evening, simultaneously to other cities.
Such significant protests have sometimes spread also to nearby Palazzo di Città (Town Hall) Square, at the end of namesake street, as early as, for instance, the August 1917 Women against war rally.