When I lead tour groups around the city of Turin and we arrive in front of the seventeenth-century Palace of the Noble College, which now houses the Egyptian Museum, one of the most recurring questions is: “Why is there such an important Egyptian Museum here in Turin?” People are astonished to discover that the Egyptian Museum of Turin is the second in the world for the richness of its collection (first, obviously, is the Egyptian Museum of Cairo).
In fact, Egypt was never an Italian colony, and rationally there would be no reason to have such a collection in Turin, but often things in history happen by chance.
It so happens that during the Napoleonic period, a Piedmontese from Barbania, in the Canavese area, Bernardino Drovetti, found himself following Napoleon Bonaparte in his military campaigns and for his merits was conferred the position of French Consul in Egypt. There he collected an enormous quantity of objects of Egyptian culture which, thanks to his friendship with the viceroy of Egypt, Mohammed Ali Pasha, he succeeded in shipping to Europe. At that same time, following the requisitions of Egyptian works of art to the Louvre by Napoleon, the taste for Egyptian art and the passion for the archaeological finds of this ancient civilization had spread throughout Europe. Bernardino Drovetti, on his return to Europe, put on sale his very rich collection which was bought by the King of Sardinia, Charles Felix of Savoy, who with this collection of 5,268 objects, founded the Royal Egyptian Antiquities Museum in Turin in 1824.
The uniqueness of such a rich collection attracted scientists and enthusiasts, and thus a scientific community dedicated to the study and research of new Egyptian discoveries took root in Turin. A member of this community, Ernesto Schiaparelli who, as Director of the Museum, organized excavation missions in Egypt at various archaeological sites and with his findings continued to enrich the Turin collection.
It was he who in 1905 began a systematic investigation in the village of Deir el-Medina, to which many of the objects of the Turin collection were traced. He was searching for the tomb of Kha and Merit, of which the funerary chapel had been found but not the grave. It was well-known, in fact, that the funerary chapels were erected on the site where below the tombs were dug, in which lay the sarcophagus with the mummy and all the funerary equipment. Years earlier, Bernardino Drovetti had found the chapel, but not the tomb, and so the mystery of the tomb of Kha and Merit continued to intrigue the Italian Archaeological Mission for a long time.
Finally in 1906, more than 20 meters from the chapel, Ernesto Schiaparelli found the tomb of Kha and Merit, completely intact and still sealed; a truly unique fact, given that all the tombs of antiquity have been robbed in successive periods to steal the valuables belonging to the funeral rituals. In all likelihood, the tombs were already being desecrated at this time in the Egyptian civilization and Kha, who was aware of this and who was an architect and superintendent of the construction of the tombs of the Kings, used a trick and had his tomb built 20 meters away from the funerary chapel, to avoid desecration and robbery. Schiaparelli left all the trousseau intact and had the authorization to bring all the objects found back to Turin: the sarcophagi, the utensils, the beds, the food. All except for some vases that are preserved today in the Cairo museum.
Thus, at the Egyptian Museum of Turin, we have the largest and most complete non-royal funeral set ever found. And in addition to this, 100 statues, 170 papyrus, including the papyrus of the Kings or Royal Canon, the oldest painted linen fabric, mummies including a natural one, ostracon, parietal wall paintings “torn” and replaced here, and finally the Temple of Ellesiya, a complete temple saved from the floods of the Nile and rebuilt here in Turin.
For all this and much, much more, the Egyptian Museum of Turin is the second in the world in terms of the richness of its collections, as well as being the only one in Europe exclusively dedicated to the art and culture of ancient Egypt …
So, do you agree with me that the Egyptian Museum alone is worth a visit to Turin?
Egyptian Museum of Turin
Address: Via Accademia delle Scienze, 6, 10123 Torino TO
Hours: Monday from 9 to 14, Tuesday – Sunday from 9 to 18:30 (last entrance one hour before the closure of the museum).
Summer special: every Friday special hours from 9:00 to 22:30
Full price – 15€
Reduced price 1 (ages 15 to 18 and licensed journalists) – 11€
Reduced price 2 (ages 6 to 14) – 1€
Free – Children up to 5, Severely disabled people + accompanying person, ICOM Members, Turin Museum Card, Torino+Piemonte Card
Guided Tours: You can book your guided visit here.
Where to Stay – Hotels in Turin
Whenever we travel in Italy, we always try to stay at an NH Hotel. They are simply the best! The rooms are comfortable and well-appointed. The staff are always very friendly and helpful. And they have the most delicious breakfast! In Turin, we are fortunate to have several NH Hotels but there are definitely two centrally located that we can highly recommend: the NH Collection Torino Piazza Carlina and the NH Torino Santo Stefano. Both are beautiful hotels in the city centre, walking distance from all the main tourist attractions.
If you are looking for something a little more economical, we can also highly recommend the Le Petit Hotel, a sweet little hotel in the heart of Turin, just next to Piazza Solferino and walking distance to all the main attractions and museums.