A small Versailles in Piedmont. The Palace of Venaria (Italy)

photo credit: reggia di venaria quattroterzi via photopin (license)

Over the last 20 years, Turin and its surroundings have undergone major redevelopment and upgrading of touristic facilities, which made the area one of the most attractive destinations for foreign visitors in the North of Italy.

In my opinion, one of the most successful examples of local heritage enhancement is the Palace of Venaria with its beautiful gardens. The Palace was added to the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1997 and it rivals the famous royal palaces of Caserta and Versailles in elegance and glamour.

Its foundation was set in 1658 from the will of Carlo Emanuele II, who wanted to establish a hunting residence near the woods and the hills surrounding Turin. However, this beautiful Palace met a sad fate because, since the end of XVIIth century, it was damaged by the French soldiers and, during the siege of Turin taking place in 1706, it was conquered by the troops that destroyed part of the buildings and used it as barracks. Napoleon dismantled the gardens too and devoted the whole complex to military exercise.

After the Restoration and a short period when a military riding school was settled, this area was abandoned and ruined until the end of XXth century, when it was clear to everyone that it was such a huge waste to neglect this amazing heritage. Indeed, the restoration work began in 1998 and lasted for about 9 years.

photo credit: La vastità dei giardini all’orizzonte via photopin (license)

Though the architecture and the interior of the Palace are quite impressive, I especially loved the garden tour. Despite everything was lost over the years, the landscape architects found some old drawings showing the original Italian garden built on 3 levels with plenty of statues, fountains and architectural decorations and they tried to restore it accordingly.

The new garden is quite faithful to the original project, but in the lower area an experiment has been made, which I’ve particularly appreciated: the so-called Garden of the Fluid Sculptures created by Giuseppe Penone between 2003 and 2007. He built 14 sculptures using different materials (bronze, real trees, stone etc) showing the interrelation of mineral, vegetal and human worlds. That was the same idea that pushed XVIIth century artists to mix nature and art by putting statues and architectural elements in the beautiful gardens they created for nobles and kings.



2 thoughts on “A small Versailles in Piedmont. The Palace of Venaria (Italy)

  1. Great post! This palace and garden has some incredible history, and the time invested into such a restoration project must have been immense. I was in Turin a few months ago and definitely agree that Turin (and the surrounding area) is a fantastic destination for travellers in Northern Italy.


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