Allegedly the tallest museum in the world, the Mole Antonelliana (originally conceived as a synagogue) is home to a surreal museum of cinema, a magnificent panoramic viewing platform, and a truly terrifying lift.
Not for the Faint Hearted
Before reaching the dazzling panorama of the Mole Antonelliana one has to endure or enjoy, depending on feelings towards heights, a glass walled lift that soars up through the Mole’s vast dome (which reaches a height of 167.5 metres) and is suspended by worryingly thin cables. For those with vertigo, looking down is not recommended.
Buy your tickets for the panoramic view online as this way you skip the queue outside and at the ticket office. Be prepared, however, to wait a little while in the queue for the lift as only about 8 people are permitted to ascend each time.
On reaching the panoramic platform one spends several minutes open-mouthedly digesting the infinite view of boulevards, palaces and parks of elegant, 17th century Torino that pans out beneath you, stretching endlessly towards hazy, painted mountains, surreal as a stage set.
Cities are an amassed jumble of historical periods, planned and re-planned urban space and layers upon layers of building fabric. From the ground they are a jungle, but from above they materialise into organised, comprehensible systems of streets, alleys and rooftops. Torino has a particular history of town planning, and its medieval labyrinth was subject to a more strict regularisation by the Kingdom of Savoy from the 16th to 18th centuries. From the top of the Mole Antonelliana one can begin to appreciate the great town planning projects executed by the Dukes of Savoy to regularise the streets and form dramatic entrances through the city towards their palaces. This vision was not confined to within the city. Country palaces and hunting lodges are metaphorically connected to the city by vistas, and from the Mole one can spend at least 15 minutes ‘palace-spotting’.
Return to Earth but not to Reality
Another heart-palpitating ride later visitors find themselves back on solid ground and ready to explore the Museum of Cinema. This is a magnificent warren of dark corridors filled with illusionistic machines, giant surreal 3D film sets, and a winding ramp of cinema history.
The route begins with a comprehensive history of cinema, beginning from shadow plays, through to peep shows and optics, and finally the first pioneering attempts that film. From there the visitor is thrown into a dizzying amalgamation of film sets, a monstrous Egyptian statue from Cabiria beside an elegant 19th century cafe, a giant open fridge door beside a fleshy horror scene. One finds the toilets after walking through a flowery 60s living room. Each themed room has a film of that genre playing.
Around the walls of the central space winds a ramp leading visitors through the edgy, subversive history of cinema; skin heads, discoveries of sexual desires, experimentations with drugs, Glenn Close shot in the bath tub, it’s all there in a sequence of film stills, actors headshots and art works.
When visiting epic museum complexes the visitor often finds the desire to sit for a while and replenish energy reserves. The Museum of Cinema graciously provides for this, with a host of plush red reclined loungers facing two large cinema screens. Clips of vintage films are playing and each lounger has little speakers either side of the head rest playing the soundtracks and dialogues. Before taking a seat it is amusing to count the number of visitors slumbering in the semi-darkness lulled by the soundtrack of jazz and Charleston.
The Mole proves to have something for everyone: film sets like a giant (creepy) playground for energetic children, reclined loungers for exhausted parents, a rollercoaster lift for the masochistic and dramatic views for the budding photographer.
Official website in several languages.
Link to book advance tickets for the Panoramic lift.