Barely thirteen years have passed since the first of May 1898, when Turin invited us to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the proclamation of the Statute in Piedmont.
In thirteen years, from 1848 to 1861, what a long way we have come, what names of painful battles and famous victories, what a history full of events that are yesterday's and yet seem to be stirring in the hazy vision of distant centuries! The unfortunate day of Novara, the exile of Oporto, the meeting at Plombières, the bold expedition to the Crimea, the undertaking to break through the Fréjus. Then Sapri and Belfiore, the sacred spring of 1859, Vinzaglio, Palestro, Magenta, Solferino, San Martino, names as bright as the fanfares of the victory that smiled upon us on their battlefields. A pause with the armistice of Villafranca; then the greatest attempt, the expedition of the Thousand, a handful of men who conquered a kingdom in four months, with the support of the people, and the unstoppable flow of plebiscites in central Italy; Victor-Emmanuel was able to proclaim himself, before the National Assembly gathered at the Carignan Palace, the first King of Italy.
27 March 1861: this date is now engraved in history.
Afterwards there would be more sad days. But no matter! Italy was made in 1861, and today, free from the Alps to the sea, she can prepare to joyfully celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of her deliverance.
The example of a people which, torn by 1400 years of internal and external dissensions, divided and debased by the most humiliating foreign dominations, succeeds in one fell swoop, as if by the magical virtue of men and times, in recovering its scattered members and in sitting down, with the honest audacity which is born of youth and strength, among the other peoples, is surely the greatest political event of the past century.
Turin has therefore done well to announce, no longer a National Exhibition, like the previous Exhibitions of 1884 and 1898, but an International Exhibition, and to invite the other nations to take part in the festival of Industry and Labour.
The spectacle of life being reborn and boldly developing is so comforting, both in individuals and in peoples, that all the principal nations have eagerly accepted the invitation and are joyfully surrounding us today. Desired guests, courteous rivals in the noble struggles of work, the foreigners who arrive among us find Italy indissolubly one of language, race, traditions and projects.
Walking around the Exhibition grounds, they will find themselves in the presence of an Italy which, from the 25 million inhabitants it had in 1861, has risen to 34 million in 1901 and in a few days, with the census next June, will reach 36 million, not counting the 5 million free workers who fertilise the two Americas. On all sides they will find the imprint of a nation which has only needed fifty springs, enlivened by the breath of liberty and peace, to recover the faith and the strength to venture into all the fields of progress and civilisation, to attempt victoriously all the trials of ordered and conscious work.
Turin, in celebrating the fiftieth anniversary of the proclamation of the Kingdom of Italy, is also celebrating its own progress, unwittingly and almost unnoticed. The capital of Emmanuel-Philibert, which had barely 11,000 inhabitants, after having risen to 204,000 during the holy years of the redemption of the country, has doubled in the last 50 years and now has 400,000 inhabitants.
The Valentin Park, the marvellous previous Exhibition Park, has become too small, despite its 300,000 square metres of surface area, to accommodate all the buildings of the Exhibition.
The Exhibition was transported - happy inspiration! - on both banks of the Po, at the "Pilonetto", upstream from the river and the city. The Exhibition occupies 1,200,000 square metres, of which 350,000 are covered; it will undoubtedly leave behind it the fertile soil for new extensions, the nucleus of a new Turin that we will see, each time we return, ever larger, more industrious and more beautiful.