Jewels of Italy:
PALACES IN ITALY
Italy remained under the control of royal families until 1946
when, through referendum, the monarchy was abolished. We present the more meaningful notes related to ten among
the principal royal buildings still today situated in various cities, direct testimonies of a long and decisive
period of the Italian history and treasures of art.
ROYAL PALACE - TORINO
Built in place of the old episcopal palace and as an extension of the
palace of San Giovanni, Turin's Palazzo Reale was commissioned from the military architect Ascanio Vitozzi by duke
Emmanuel Philibert of Savoy, in 1584. The buildings as we see it today is the result of the additions ordered by
Christina of France from 1643 on wards and executed by Amedeo di Castellamonte and his assistants. Royal Palace
of Turin was the seat of the Savoy royal family from 1646 until the unification of Italy. Behind the austere façade
lie richly decorated state apartments. The many splendid furnishings, tapestries and ornaments date from the 17th
to the 19th centuries. Further extensions were made to the Palace by Filippo Juvarra after 1713. Special
areas for Offices, the State Archive, and the Royal Theatre were built. After Juvarra, the Court Architect was
Benedetto Alfieri, who worked on rooms on the second floor, and renovated several of the Sale di Rappresentanza.
Under his direction, the Galleria di Daniel became a Ballroom. Behind the palace are extensive gardens, which extend
THE VENARIA REALE - TORINO
The Venaria Reale complex is a unique environmental and
architectural whole. It is one of the most significant examples of the magnificent architecture and art of the
17th and 18th centuries. The Reggia of Venaria Reale and the Royal residence of La Mandria have been declared World Heritage Sites by UNESCO.
The origins of Venaria Reale date back to the mid 17th century when Duke Carlo Emanuele II of Savoia decided to
build a new residence to be used by the court for pleasure and hunting. Venaria Reale was not conceived
as a self-contained residence but as a carefully structured complex whose residential areas were integrated with
those used by the court and then merged seamlessly with the surrounding nature. The fulcrum was the palace, the
so-called Reggia di Diana which was destined to undergo two centuries of endless changes, reconstructions and events
that, by reflection, influenced the town
s social and economic life.
ROYAL CASTLE - RACCONIGI
The Royal Castle of Racconigi is situated in the province of Cuneo in
the region of Piemonte. It was the official residence of the Carignano line of the House of Savoy and is one of
the Residences of the Royal House of Savoy included by UNESCO in the World Heritage Sites list. The first records
of the castle are from around the year 1000, when Bernardino of Susa rebuilt an ancient manor, leaving it to Cistercian
monks. In the 16th century it was acquired by the House of Savoy. The architect Guarino Guarini transformed the
fortress into a pleasure residence. He erected the current central section where the court was, adding a pagoda-like
roof. The two northern towers were replaced by pavilions with dome roof and square plan, provided with white marble
lanterns. Charles Albert further enlarged and embellished the castle to represent the splendor of the newly acquired
reign. His court architect expanded the ancient square structure around the central section, added two side buildings
connected to the façade pavilions, as well as another staircase on the southern side. Here the last King
of Italy, Umberto II, was born in 1904. He proceeded to install in it the family gallery of some 3,000 paintings
and historical documents regarding the Shroud of Turin. The castle opens northwards to a wide park, designed in
the 17th century.
ROYAL PALACE - MONZA
Monza's Villa Reale is a big neoclassical complex used as summer residence by Austrian
royal family and Italian Savoia royal family. Nowadays it hosts exhibits and events. Villa Reale was built between
1773 and 1780 by architect Giuseppe Piermarini as a country residence for the Austrian vice-king, archduke Ferdinand
Hasburg. In 1806 the Parco di Monza was created as hunting grounds. After Italy's Unification, Villa Reale has
been used by Savoia family, especially by king Umberto I, who stayed in Monza very often. In 1900 Umberto I had
been killed by anarchist Gaetano Bresci in the avenue in front of Villa Reale (now Vialone Cesare Battisti). After
this episode, new king Vittorio Emanuele II abandoned Villa Reale and it was left in decay for a long time. Nowadays
Villa Reale has been partially restored and works still go on. The large complex is built on a classical U-plan
and has a beautiful park garden. The greenhouse rotonda has frescoes by Andrea Appiani. The villa interiors are
magnificent, rich in stucco works and boiseries.
ROYAL PALACE - MILANO
The Royal Palace is one of the most beautiful architectures
of the Milanese 18th century. It was the home of the Visconti and of the Sforza families in the past and later,
residence of the Spanish and of the Austrian governors. In 1452, the Palazzo Reale was remodelled by Francesco
Sforza. It was the architect Giuseppe Piermarini (the same who designed La Scala theatre and the Royal Palace of
Monza) who renovated the building between 1771 and 1778 giving it the splendid Neoclassical appearance it has today.
From 1598 the Royal Palace housed the first permanent theatre in Milan, then destroyed by fire in 1776. In 1965
the city of Milan purchased the palace to use it as offices, museums and for the temporary shows and exhibitions.
One of the attractions of the palace is the 1804 miniature Roman forum centerpiece, with replicas of statues, temples
and columns made of marble, onyx and gilded bronze. Palazzo Reale is also home to the Cimac, the City Council
s Contemporary Art Museum.
PITTI - FIRENZE
The Palazzo Pitti is a vast mainly Renaissance palace
in Florence. It was originally the town residence of Luca Pitti, an ambitious Florentine banker. The palace was
bought by the Medici family in 1549 and became the chief residence of the ruling families of the Grand Duchy of
Tuscany. It grew as a great treasure house as later generations amassed paintings, plates, jewelry and luxurious
possessions. In the late 18th century, the palazzo was used as a power base by Napoleon, and later served for a
brief period as the principal royal palace of the newly united Italy. The palace and its contents were donated
to the Italian people by King Victor Emmanuel III in 1919, and its doors were opened to the public as one of Florence's
largest art galleries. Today, it houses several minor collections in addition to those of the Medici family, and
is fully open to the public. The palazzo is now the largest museum complex in Florence and is characterized by
a severe and simple architecture. Control of the palazzo is in the hands of the Italian state through the "Polo
Museale Fiorentino", an institution which administers twenty museums, including the Uffizi Gallery. In spite
of its metamorphosis from royal residence to a state-owned public building, the palazzo, sitting on its elevated
site overlooking Florence, still retains the air and atmosphere of a private collection in a grand house. The palazzo
still impresses visitors with the splendors of Florence, the purpose for which it was originally built.
THE QUIRINAL PALACE - ROMA
The Quirinal Palace is the current official residence of the President of the Italian Republic
on the Quirinal Hill, the tallest of the seven hills of Rome. The palace was built as summer residence in 1573
by Pope Gregory XIII, and was the location of conclaves. Until September 1870, when the papal state was overthrown,
in the year of Italian unity the palace hosted the central offices of the civil government of Papal State.
About five months later, in 1871, Rome became the capital of the new Kingdom of Italy. The palace became the official
royal residence of the Kings of Italy. The monarchy was abolished in 1946 and the Palace became the official residence
and workplace for the Presidents of the Italian Republic. The façade was designed by Domenico Fontana. Its
'Great Chapel' was designed by Carlo Maderno. It contains frescos by Guido Reni, but the most famous fresco is
the Blessing Christ by Melozzo da Forlì, placed over the stairs. Its grounds include a famous set of gardens
laid out in the eighteenth century.
ROYAL PALACE - NAPOLI
The Royal Palace of Napoli is one of the four residences used by the Bourbon Kings of Naples
during their rule of the Kingdom of Two Sicilies (1730-1860): one is in Caserta, another on the Capodimonte hill
overlooking Naples, and the third is in Portici on the slopes of Vesuvius. The Royal Palace is on the site of an
earlier building meant to host King Philip III of Spain; the architect chosen for that palace was Domenico Fontana.
The royal residence was moved to Caserta in the 18th century, as that inland town was more defensible from naval
assault than Naples. The 17th century palace visible today is, however, the result of numerous additions and changes,
including some by Luigi Vanvitelli and then by Gaetano Genovese after a fire had damaged much of the palace. Additionally,
restoration was done after World War II to repair bomb damage. The western façade side of the building displays
a series of statues of the rulers of dynasties to rule Naples since the foundation of the Kingdom of Naples in
the twelfth century. Today, the palace and adjacent grounds house the San Carlo Theater, a museum, the National
Library of Naples and a number of city offices, including those of the regional tourist board.
REGGIA DI CAPODIMONTE - NAPOLI
The Palace and Museum of Capodimonte is a grand Bourbon
palace in Naples, formerly the summer residence and hunting lodge of the kings of the Two Sicilies. It houses the
main museum and art gallery of the city. "Capodimonte" means "top of the hill", and the palace
was originally just outside the city, which has now expanded to surround it. It was built at the command of Charles
VII, king of Naples and Sicily and started in 1738. King Charles built it partly to house the fabulous Farnese
art collection which he had inherited from his mother, Elisabetta Farnese, last descendant of the sovereign ducal
family of Parma. It is the prime repository of Neapolitan and general Italian cultural heritage in the city. The
first and second floors house the Galleria Nazionale (National Gallery), with paintings from the 13th to the 18th
centuries including major works by Raphael, Titian, Caravaggio and many others. Elsewhere in the palace the royal
apartments are furnished with antique 18th century furniture and a collection of porcelain and majolica from the
various royal residences. The palace is situated in the Bosco di Capodimonte ('Hilltop Wood'), which served as
a royal hunting preserve. There is still a pleasant park around the palace.
ROYAL PALACE - CASERTA
The Royal Palace of Caserta is a former royal residence
in Caserta, constructed for the Bourbon kings of Naples. It was the largest palace and probably the largest building
erected in Europe in the eighteenth century. In 1996, the Palace of Caserta was listed among the World Heritage
Sites. The construction of the palace was begun in 1752 for Charles VII of Naples, who worked
closely with his architect Luigi Vanvitelli. The political and social model for Vanvitelli's palace was Versailles,
which, though it is strikingly different in its variety and disposition, solves similar problems of assembling
and providing for king, court and government in a massive building with the social structure of a small city. The
reasons for building the Palace were to have a new magnificent administrative capital of the Kingdom in Caserta
and to protect the court from possible attacks from the sea. The King also decided to build a theatre, a large
library, and a university. The garden is inspired by the park of Versailles, but it is commonly regarded as
superior in beauty. The park starts from the back façade of the palace, flanking a long alley with artificial
fountains and cascades.
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