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Official Web site: La Palazzina di caccia di Stupinigi
Photos by Lucia Ranieri

The territory around the current Palazzina di Stupinigi had a castle (still visible from the east side of the palazzina) since medieval times. This castle was owned by the Acaia family, a cadet branch of the dynasty. When the Acaia lineage became extinct in 1418, the castle passed to the Savoy family. However, about twenty years later, Amedeo VIII decided to leave it to the Marquis Pallavicino, with whom he was related.

In 1564, Emanuele Filiberto expropriated the Pallavicini family, regaining possession of the castle and the surrounding lands. He entrusted its management to the Order of the Mauriziano. Considering that the Duke of Savoy historically also held the position of Grand Master of the Order, in practice, the management was in their hands. The fact that all the surrounding lands were favored by Emanuele Filiberto and the court for hunting expeditions serves as evidence.

Palazzina di Stupinigi: construction and extensions

In any case, it was only during the reign of Amedeo II of Savoy that an imposing structure dedicated to hunting was created in 1729. The project was entrusted to Filippo Juvarra and inaugurated in 1731. In reality, the work continued until 1837 for the decoration of the king and queen’s apartments.

Palazzina di Stupinigi
Palazzina di Stupinigi

A second solemn inauguration took place in 1739. On that occasion, Grand Duke Francesco II of Tuscany also visited. Throughout the 1700s, the palazzina was never a place for extended stays. The sovereign spent only two or three days there during hunting expeditions.

The palazzina was later expanded during the reign of Carlo Emanuele III and Vittorio Amedeo III. Several architects contributed to this, including Benedetto Alfieri and especially Giovanni Tommaso Prunotto. In 1740, stables were added.

During the early 1800s, under French rule, the palazzina briefly hosted Napoleon. He stayed there for about ten days in 1805 before heading to Milan. Three years later, Paolina Bonaparte also had a brief stay.

After Napoleon’s fall, Stupinigi returned to the control of the Savoy family, along with all other territories. In 1842, it was the venue for the wedding between Vittorio Emanuele II and Maria Adelaide of Austria.

Finally, the entire complex was donated to the state domain in 1919, and later returned to the Order of the Mauriziano in 1925.

Palazzina di Stupinigi: architecturs

The heart of the palazzina consists of a large central oval hall. From this, four secondary arms extend to form a St. Andrew’s cross.

Palazzina di Stupinigi – The Deer

The central salon is surmounted by the statue of the Deer by Francesco Ladatte (1766). However, it was replaced by a copy in 1992. The original was moved inside and can now be admired at the entrance. In the arms, we find the royal and guest apartments.

The interior is in Rococo style and includes 137 rooms, 17 galleries, for a total of 31,000 square meters. Among the furniture carvers, highly esteemed names include Giuseppe Maria Bonzanigo and Pietro Piffetti.

Apartments

The Appartamento di Levante was expanded by Benedetto Alfieri to accommodate the Duke of Chiablese, son of King Carlo Emanuele III.

Noteworthy is the gaming room intended for court leisure and entertainment. The furnishings are precious, particularly the gaming table with an exquisite chessboard inlaid with ebony and ivory.

Palazzina di Stupinigi
Palazzina di Stupinigi – Interior

The apartment also includes the Hall of Mirrors and Paolina Bonaparte’s cabinet, which is said to have been directly furnished by Paolina herself. Notably, there is a marble bathtub adorned with imperial insignia. The decorations in the Bonzanigo Room and the kneeler crafted by Piffetti in the Prayer Room are also of exquisite workmanship. Finally, the Bedroom houses valuable and significant Piemontese-style furnishings, including the original red wallpaper from 1763.

The Queen’s Apartment was created around 1730 to accommodate the wife of Carlo Emanuele III. The construction of the King’s Apartment dates from the same period. Both consisted of an antechamber, a bedroom, and a toilet.

On the other hand, the Appartamento di Ponente was expanded by Benedetto Alfieri to welcome Vittorio Manuele, Duke of Aosta, son of King Vittorio Amedeo III, and his consort.

Palazzina di Stupinigi
Palazzina di Stupinigi – The grand central hall

The true centerpiece of the entire palazzina is The grand central hall, an oval shape crowned by a closed dome. Completed in 1730, the following year saw the commissioning of the fresco on the vault by the Valeriani brothers.

The work concluded in 1733 with a representation of Diana, the goddess of hunting. However, it appears that the proportions and the fresco’s design were directly suggested by Juvarra to maintain the overall vision of his project.

Garden

The building is at the center of a large garden with geometric shapes and pathways, designed in 1740 by the Frenchman Machael Benard. The whole area is enclosed by a perimeter wall.

On the other hand, the hunting estate consisted of 1700 hectares of land outside the perimeter wall. These lands had been expropriated from the Pallavicini family by the Savoy family.

In 1814, the management of a zoological garden was established. The purpose was to manage the animals on the estate, both for the court’s pleasure and to ensure the necessary game for hunting.

The garden

It is estimated that in the first half of the 19th century, there were about 2000 deer, as well as other exotic animals, including a jaguar, two bears, kangaroos, jackals, vultures, and even an eagle.

Among the animals at Stupinigi, the most famous is undoubtedly Fritz, an African elephant gifted to King Carlo Felice by the Governor of Egypt in 1826. Fritz remained on the estate until 1847 when he killed a keeper with a trunk blow. Due to the enormous costs of maintaining the animal, the decision was made to euthanize him. He was 53 years old when he was killed in 1852. His meat was sold, while his skin is now displayed in the current Museum of Natural Sciences in Turin.

Today, the building is entrusted to the Mauriziano Order Foundation, which is responsible for its maintenance and enhancement. Additionally, since 1919, it has been the site of the Furniture Museum, which can be visited along with the premises.

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