Often referred to as the ‘Eiffel Tower of Italy’, the Mole Antonelliana has since become one of Italy’s pride and joys and even features on two centime coins. But today, we’re not talking about the iconic spire. Instead, we’re speaking of a smaller project that architect, Alessandro Antonelli, embarked on in his younger days: the Slice of Polenta, also known in Italian as the ‘Fetta di Polenta‘.
Fetta di Polenta: A history of a slice of a strange building in Turin
In the North of Torino, not far from the Mole Atonelliana (which incidentally offers one of the very best views of Turin), on the side of the main street that cuts its way through the city, you’ll find the leaning tower of Turin. Also known as the Casa Scaccabarozzi, the structure is located in the Vanchiglia district of the city and has been nicknamed ‘Casa Luna’ and ‘La Spada’ (the sword) since its construction over one hundred and fifty years ago.
Many wonder how such a strange building came to be in a city known for its chocolate production, Fiat manufacturing, and boutique, chic hotels. So here’s a quick history of how the Fetta di Polenta came to be: In the mid-1800s, the Maquis of Barolo, Juliette Colbert, commissioned a number of palazzos and residential buildings to be built near the River Po.
This was because at this time, the city of Turin was ever expanding and the population growing. A construction company undertaking the work near the River Po hired an unknown young architect and designer by the name of Alessandro Antonelli, a man who would go on to become designer of Turin’s architectural pride and joy, the Mole Antonelliana.
As a bonus for his good work, the young architect was gifted a strangely shaped piece of land that was left over from the building work and that no one quite knew what to do with. The front of the plot is over five metres wide, whereas the back of the plot is a tiny 54 centimetres in width! One glance at this triangular shape of land, and it’s easy to see where the nickname ‘Fetta di Polenta’ (slice of cornbread) came from!
So strange was this shape of land, that Antonelli attempted to purchase a neighbouring plot to extend his chances of building a stable structure. However, when his tries to garner more land fell through, Alessandro Antonelli went ahead with the build anyway! The original building plans had four floors, though later extensions now mean that the Fetta di Polenta stretches six floors into the sky.
When the leaning tower was first erected, many believed that it would collapse. After all, Antonelli was a relatively unknown architect, and the building tilts heavily to one side. To prove the naysayers wrong, Antonelli himself, together with his wife, ended up moving in for a year upon the building’s completion!
So if you’re looking for an open-air exhibit in the middle of the city, then you should check out the Fetta di Polenta, one of architect’s Alessandro Antonelli’s greatest architectural challenges. Unfortunately, the inside of the building is closed to the public. However, as the Fetta di Polenta is just a short walk away from the Mole Antonelliana, you can still enjoy its quirky exterior and perhaps even snap a few photos!