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Official Web site: La Venaria
Photos by Lucia Ranieri

The Reggia di Venaria Reale was born out of the need of Carlo Emanuele II to have a hunting residence. This area was chosen for its vast forests rich in game. He acquired the two villages of Altessano Inferiore and Superiore with the specific intention of building a hunting estate. The Reggia di Venaria Reale is located in the homonymous municipality, adjacent to Turin.

In this case, it is the municipality of Venaria Reale that takes its name from the palace. It derives from its venatorial purpose (in Latin, Venatio Regia or Venària).

Construction

In 1658 the construction works began. based on the designs of Michelangelo Garove and Amedeo di Castellamonte and lasted for several years. The establishment of a village was also planned.

The village, later known as the municipality of Venaria, was intended to accommodate workers as well as other citizens. Chronicles report that by 1675, the Reggia and the houses in the village were mostly completed.

Reggia di Venaria
Reggia di Venaria – Entrance

In 1693, Vittorio Amedeo II commissioned further work, and the Reggia underwent restoration.

Subsequently, during the siege of 1706, the palace was used by the French as a barracks. Due to its military use, it suffered damage in many parts.

After the siege, with the expulsion of the French, Vittorio Amedeo II entrusted Filippo Juvarra with a reorganization. This also included the addition of other structures such as stables and the church of Sant’Uberto. Finally, in 1739, Benedetto Alfieri, under the orders of Carlo Emanuele II, completed an expansion project.

Reggia di Venaria, the decline

However, the Reggia di Venaria Reale began to lose some of its popularity. In fact, the rulers started to prefer the newer Palazzina di Stupinigi.

During the Napoleonic period, it was once again used as a barracks. Additionally, the French destroyed the gardens to create a parade ground.

Reggia di Venaria
Reggia di Venaria

Upon their return, the House of Savoy chose the Palazzina di Stupinigi for hunting, designating the Reggia di Venaria for military purposes. They also established the center of the kingdom’s cavalry, complete with a prestigious European-level riding school.

From the early 1800s, the use of the Reggia as a barracks continued for nearly two centuries, leading to its gradual deterioration and damage.

In 1978, it was finally entrusted to the Superintendency for restoration work. However, it took twenty years before the restoration efforts could begin.

Restoration

The restoration work involved over 250,000 square meters of structures and nearly one million square meters of gardens. It required funding of over 280 million collected from Italian and European sources.

The recovery of the Reggia di Venaria Reale is considered one of the largest restoration projects in Europe. It encompasses not only the restoration of an architectural complex but also the urban redevelopment of an entire area. This includes the city of Venaria, its historic center, roadways, infrastructure, the Borgo Castello della Mandria with its park, approximately 30 farmhouses and internal villas, and the reclamation of abandoned land now transformed into gardens.

(Francesco Pernice, Superintendent for Architectural Heritage and Landscape of Piedmont and technical director coordinator of the restorations of the Venaria Reale, 24 July 2007)
Reggia di Venaria

It is the most significant conservation effort ever undertaken for a cultural asset in Europe. 100,000 square meters of the entire complex’s surface area have been restored, 9,500 square meters of stucco have been recovered, and 1,000 square meters of frescoes have been brought to light. The visitable gardens cover 50 hectares, with 200,000 new plantings, 11 million liters of water in the Peschiera, and 4,500 square meters of the Juvarrian Stables.

(Source: La Venaria)

Reggia di Venaria: la Galleria Grande

La Galleria Grande (The Grand Gallery) has been designed by Juvarra, it connected the king’s apartment with that of his son.

The Gallery is approximately 80 meters long and 12 meters wide. The vaulted ceiling is richly decorated and reaches a height of about 15 meters.

44 large windows and 22 openings (called “eyes”) positioned in the vault providing huge light . This unique system creates a special interplay of light and shadow that enhances the gallery and its decorations.

The original floor was dismantled by the French and reused for the Beaumont Gallery in Turin. The current floor was laid in 1995, following the original design by the Messina-born architect.

Reggia di Venaria
Reggia di Venaria – The Gardens

Chapel of Sant’Uberto

Commissioned by Vittorio Amedeo II, it was completed by Juvarra in 1729. The floor plan is in the shape of a Greek cross, with two large altars and four circular chapels. Particularly precious is the main altar , a masterpiece by Giovanni Baratta, highlighted by beams of light entering through the chapel’s windows. The connection between the Chapel and the Reggia was carried out at the behest of Carlo Emanuele III and executed by Benedetto Alfieri.

The stables

Comprising the Scuderia Grande and the Citroniera, they were completed by Juvarra in 1727 at the behest of King Vittorio Amedeo II. The Scuderia Grande consists of a long nave measuring 148 meters. It could accommodate 200 horses. The building always maintained its role, as it was naturally useful for military purposes as well. The Citroniera, also 148 meters long, could hold over 400 crates of citrus fruits.

Reggia di Venaria

Inside the Scuderia Grande, don’t miss the splendid Bucintoro commissioned by Vittorio Amedeo II and created in Venice in 1731. It is the only remaining original specimen in the world.

Since May 5, 2021, the Carrozza di Napoleone (Napoleon’s carriage) from the early 1800s is also on display.

The gardens

The original gardens of the Reggia di Venaria, unfortunately, have completely disappeared. Napoleon’s French forces destroyed them entirely, turning them into a parade ground. However, designs from that era still exist, showing a French-style garden divided into three terraces connected by staircases.

The restoration work we previously discussed also included the gardens. They have been restored and continue to expand. They were opened to the public in 2007.

Central axis

The central axis was the original path conceived by Castellamonte, along with the Borgo and the Reggia di Venaria. In the garden section, this path was adorned with fountains and sculptures.

The centrality of the axis remained even during the 18th-century renewal by Garose, but it became marginal after Juvarra’s intervention. Along the axis, we find the Giardino a Fiori (Flower Garden), which has been present since the 1600s and has now been restored to its ancient splendor.

Reggia di Venaria – The Gardens

The monumental Fontana d’Ercole (Fountain of Hercules) was destroyed in the mid-18th century, and today, we can only see the ruins of its foundations. A similar fate befell the Tempio di Diana (Temple of Diana), of which only the base remains visible.

Parco Basso (Lower Park)

During the restoration work, the ancient structure of the Parco Basso (Lower Park), which had been buried, was uncovered. Today, we find the Giardino delle Sculture Fluide (Garden of Fluid Sculptures) with 14 works by Giuseppe Penone created between 2003 and 2007. Additionally, the large water mirror of the Peschiera reflects the original design.

Parco Alto (Upper Park)

Reconstructed following the designs from the 1700s, the Parco Alto features the Gran Parterre as a tribute to the eighteenth-century garden.

Reggia di Venaria
Reggia di Venaria

The Boschetti were created in analogy to what was already present in the 1700s, serving a similar role for entertainment, games, and music. The Upper Park also includes the Giardino delle rose (Rose Garden) and the Allea Reale.

Potager Royal

In the 1800s, this area was dedicated to cultivation for the Royal household. Similarly, today we find a vegetable garden and orchard here. The fruits and vegetables are used for food products available at the Reggia di Venaria.

La Reggia di Venaria today

The Reggia di Venaria Reale has been part of UNESCO’s heritage since 1997. In 2019, its garden was voted the most beautiful public park in Italy. The Reggia hosts periodic art exhibitions and serves as a venue for meetings, conferences, concerts, and events.

Nearby, don’t miss a stroll through the historic Borgo Storico della Venaria Reale and a visit to the Parco della Mandria.

There’s a local saying:

Chi a ved Turin e nen la Venerìa, a ved la mare e nen la fija

Those who come to Turin and do not see Venaria, see the mother but not the daughter.

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