Castle Hunting in Turin: Five Palaces to Visit in the First Capital of a United Italy
|Palazzo Reale di Torino|
The obvious place to start any castle hunting adventure in Turin is of course the Palazzo Reale (or Royal Palace if your Italian is even more limited than mine). Located in the north of the country, Turin isn't only the capital city of the Piedmont but also once served as the first capital of a united Italy between 1861 and 1865 thanks to the Dukes of Savoy, who come from the region and united the country. Many of the palaces mentioned in today's post are actually UNESCO World Heritage Sites as part of the "Residences of the Royal House of Savoy". The Palazzo Reale, located in the heart of Turin, is by far the biggest of them all. Originally built in the 16th century, it was later modernised in he 17th and 18th centuries according to designs by architects such as Daniel Seiter, Filippo Juvarra and Claudio Francesco Beaumont. In addition to the royal apartments and state rooms, the Palazzo Reale also includes the royal armory, art galleries and churches. So plan at least half a day to discover the palace in all its glory.
Located right across from the Palazzo Reale is the Palazzo Madama. Today a museum for art history, it was once best known as the home of two of Savoy's female regents, Christine of France and later Marie Jeanne Baptiste of Savoy-Nemours. The mother of the future Vittorio Amedeo II of Sardinia who saw the elevation of the House of Savoy to kings, the latter styled herself as Madama Reale, hence the name of this palace. It was also Marie Jeanne Baptiste who gave the Palazzo Madama much of its current surviving Baroque design. Artists commissioned included Filippo Juvarra and Domenico Guidobono. In subsequent centuries, there were various uses for the palace including as an administrative seat as well as home to the first Senate of the Kingdom of Italy. For almost one hundred years now, the Palazzo Madama has been used as a museum. The Museo Civico d'Arte Antica showcases art from the Medieval, Renaissance and Baroque periods. From the top, you also have a stunning view over the city and the royal palace next door.
A little further down the road, you can also find the Palazzo Carignano. A private residence of the Princes of Carignano, a cadet branch of the House of Savoy. It is the least splendrous of all the palaces on this list, which may also be due to its history. Built by architect Guarino Guarini during the 17th century, the Palazzo Carignano was later used as the House of Deputies of the Subalpine Parliament during the mid-19th century. These days it houses the Museum of the Risorgimento and has been since the 1930's. The Risorgimento is, of course, the political and social movement that resulted in the consolidation of different states of the Italian Peninsula into a single state, the Kingdom of Italy. Surely it is an interesting topic but maybe read up in Italian history a little prior to visiting? Your truly wasn't very well versed in the topic and I must say, I occasionally got a little lost there.
|Villa della Regina|
If simply admiring beautiful architecture and not getting lost in the fine details of Italian political and social history is more up your alley, the Villa della Regina is the place to go. Located on the other side of the Po river up a hill, it offers stunning views over the city. In addition, there is a beautiful park and plentiful Baroque, Chinese-inspired and Grotesque architecture. Much of the current decorations of the Villa della Regina stem from the times of Anne Marie d'Orléans, wife of Vittorio Amedeo II. Thanks to her the palace, originally built in the early 17th century, became known as the "Villa of the Queen". The interior decorations include works by Giovanni Battista Crosato, Daniel Seiter, Corrado Giaquinto and Filippo Juvarra.
|Palazzina di Caccia di Stupinigi|
If you are feeling a little adventurous, have a spare day and don't mind getting out of the city a little, the Palazzina di Caccia di Stupinigi should definitely be on your list of palaces to visit in Turin. Possibly controversial statement but this might just be the singularly most beautiful palace I have ever visited - and I have visited many. The former hunting lodge of the Dukes of Savoy is a gorgeously decorated Baroque palace with more details than you can imagine to admire. The aforementioned Vittorio Amedeo II commissioned the also aforementioned Filippo Juvarra to build the Palazzina di Caccia di Stupinigi. Juvarra brought in all of the best artists, many of them from Venice, to build this masterpiece. Works started in 1729 and within two years construction was far enough advanced for the first formal hunt to take place. When you think of hunting lodges, you usually think of quaint, small palaces nestled away somewhere in the woods. But this is anything but: The Palazzina di Caccia di Stupinigi boasts a total of 137 rooms and 17 galleries. So it's not really a surprise that the Savoys liked to use it for all sorts of festivities including some very prominent dynastic weddings. Today the palace is home to the Museo di Arte e Ammobiliamento dedicated to arts and furnishings. While some are original to the palace, others were brought in from other former Savoy residences such as Moncalieri and Venaria Reale. Almost needless to say but I will do so anyway: It was heaven to visit - and I can only recommend you to do the same if you in the area.