Have You Ever Taken a Bull by the Horns?
by Virginia De Faveri
It’s impossible to stroll around Turin and not see a bull. You will see them in the city squares, streets and gardens around Turin. To go up to them and take them by the horns is a Turin tradition. Actually, they’re harmless and quite indispensable for the old, young, sporty and lazy. They’re called “Toret” [tʊ’rɛt], a word in Piedmontese that means little bull.
Turin’s torets are small and sweet cast-iron bulls which are usually bottle green and used to supply water. These public water fountains are somewhat sacred elements and a landmark for the citizens of Turin. The bull’s head recalls the symbol of the city itself, depicted even on Turin’s official emblems: the raging bull.The parallel-piped shape ends with a rounded off summit, while at the base there is a drain which is usually equipped with a central bowl to allow animals to drink.
According to Turin’s Historical Archive, the first project concerning torets dates back to 1854 while the first installation dates back to 1862. Recent research carried out by Mario Pellegrino, owner of the Fonderia Pinerolese, found that the mold of the fountain originates from Sicily from around the XIX century. Pellegrino states, “There weren’t any fountains in Turin, the first appeared only around 1900. While the Sicilian ones were anonymous, those in Turin are equipped with a bull’s head and to do this it was necessary to raise them a few centimeters. This is the only alteration. I sketched the designs of the Sicilian fountains and compared them with those in Turin”.
Even though the date and origin of the toret is apparently unconfirmed, in the 1930s, the bull-shaped fountains were numerous and well-known in the city; they were placed near markets, by tree-lined avenues, in public gardens, in the streets and squares of the city. There weren’t any public spaces without a toret.
Since the 1970’s, the Fonderia Pinerolese has been in charge of the realization of elements of the squares and fountains of Turin. Occasionally it was preferable to install torets out of stone, especially in the more prestigious areas such as monumental gardens and hill areas. The water that supplied the fountains originated from the Pian della Mussa aqueduct and it flowed continuously from the faucets of the bulls. Today, there are about 800 surviving torets that are still supplied by the ordinary network of the civic aqueduct and they’re equipped with taps to meet the environmental needs of our times and to reduce water waste.
The years 2010 and 2011 were important for the city of Turin in defining the value of the torets. In 2011, strong criticism began (also thanks to an instant poll by the newspaper La Stampa), concerning the decision to install fountains based on a new model of the toret, more modern, sober and in tune with the noble squares of Turin’s city center, such as Piazza San Carlo.
This wasn’t the first case of controversy concerning the bull-headed fountains…in 2010, probably with the best of intentions, the municipal advisor Alessandro Bussola suggested the intervention of some artists to restyle some of the exemplar fountains ruined both by time and by vandalism. The answer from the people and artists was universal and clear: “The fountains should remain green, just the way they were historically.” That is why, since 2010, the toret have been included in the array of iconic figures in Turin, alongside the Mole Antonelliana and the Gianduiotto.
Furthermore many initiatives were dedicated to the preservation and memory of these historic landmarks of Turin. In particular, in 2011 the “I Love Toret” Association, in charge of the sewer mapping was born; thanks to the localization of the toret it’s possible to symbolically adopt a toret or you can use the “iToret” app to find the nearest point to quench your thirst.
Through the collaboration between the municipality and “I Love Toret”, the idea of telling Turin’s story via the fountains was born and it’s all taking place in these months. The idea is to transform the torets into hot-spots through the use of iBeacon technology. When smartphones is in proximity of the toret it will receive, in a non invasive and free way via the bluetooth system, information concerning the local neighborhood in which it is located and the surrounding monuments. As well as provide information on the quality of the water emitted by the fountain and any cultural themed initiatives that will take place in the area. The Assessor Enzo Lavolta explains, “It’s a way to make our city smart and it’s in line with the Torino Smart City title”.
From an interview with Mario Pellegrino in the La Stampa newspaper the owner of the Fonderia Pinerolese doesn’t miss the chance to remind us that the torets aren’t being produced anymore: the Fonderia went from 70 to 17 per year, but because of the municipal initiatives the orders are almost all on behalf of private citizens. Today, in honor of the fame of these historic works the Fonderia donates them in small-scale to personalities who have given prestige to Turin, but the more attached local citizens still carve torets with their hands to put them in the nativity scenes during Christmas. So, the next time you come to Turin, be sure to discover our historic torets!
more info about Turin’s Torets: