Ever look at the birds sitting on top of buildings and telephone wires and wish you could be them? You know, that you too could rise above the hustle and bustle of the streets and sit beyond the reach of chaos and simply enjoy the scenery. Maybe I’m weird, but there have been times in my life where I would have loved to trade places with our feathered friends and engage in a little bit of escapism.

Well, I got that chance yesterday when we visited the Palazzo Madama (Pah-Lot-zo Mah-dahm-ah) museum as a class. However, before I describe my avian adventure, a quick history lesson on the Palazzo Madama would probably be a worthy endeavor. The Palazzo Madamo (which henceforth will be referred to as the Palazzo) was originally nothing more than the Roman gates to the city of Torino. Torino was established as a Roman military camp and eventually grew into a city that was a very important strategic stronghold for the Roman Empire.

As the saying goes, all roads did lead to Rome in ancient time. It appears that the Barbarian hordes of Northern Europe were able to effectively navigate these roads and bring the once mighty Empire of Rome to its knees; thereby ushering in the Medieval age. It was during this time that the Roman gates at Torino morphed into a small fort in order to protect the city from invaders. During the fifteenth century the fort underwent another transformation and became the castle for the Princes of Acaia. Regrettably, I must acknowledge that I know nothing about these Princes and for what purposes they employed the castle.

However, in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, the castle received a complete overhaul and became a palace and home for the royal dowagers of Savoy. It was during this time that the crude stone fortress became truly grand, as the Savoy family had a Baroque fassad added to the face of the castle. They also redid the interior to become more worthy of housing the ruling family of a duchy. Comically enough, Torino and the Palazzo became the capital of the Savoy family’s province even though it was located on the wrong side of the Alps! That’s right, the territory Torino was to act as capital of was located not in Italy, but in France. I still don’t quite understand the logic behind this move, but then again, I don’t really understand the French in general.

Again, in the nineteenth century the Palazzo underwent another overhaul when King Charles Albert christened it the home of the Royal Painting Collection and the first Senate of the new, unified Kingdom of Italy. So of course, the building needed even more decoration so that it could obtain the level of splendor needed for such prestigious employment. In 1934 the Palazzo received its current commission as the Museo Civico d’ Arte Art di Torino (The Museum of Ancient Civic Art of Torino). To this day, it still brandishes that title proudly and is the faithful home to several important pieces of art and other artifacts which I cannot do justice to through my humble blog.

So how does this all tie in with my experience of feeling like a pigeon? Well, at the Palazzo you have the ability to climb to the top of one of the original castle towers. It’s a little bit of a hike up a spiral staircase, if you decided to skip the glass elevator, but it was completely worth it. I loved it so much I went up twice during my time there. Up in the tower I really did feel like a bird. The noise from the busy piazza below was reduced to almost nothing, and the people scurrying around beneath me looked like mice.

The best part was that the tower offers a 360 degree view of almost all of Torino. Around me I could see the Mole (Torino’s iconic dome), bell towers, prayer pillars to a masque, the domes of the old churches, the foothills, and of course: The Alps. Once again I was stunned by the beauty of Italy as I gazed upon the brilliantly blue sky, sparkling white caps of the Alps, the red terracotta tiling of the roofs around me, and the thickly wooded foothills. So there I was, at the top of a medieval castle’s tower, looking at the great expanse of a gorgeous city and its rustic setting feeling like a bird; and happy as could be.

Me, perched on top of the tower

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