What are the Residences of the Royal House of Savoy?
The Residences of the Royal House of Savoy are a system of castles and palaces built between the 16th and 19th centuries in the region of Piedmont, in the Italian northwest. They belonged to the ruling family of Savoy. The total of 21 imposing estates, in and around Piedmont’s capitol Turin, served as summer residences for recreation and pleasure, or hunting lodges for ceremonies and parties.
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Eleven of these properties are in the centre of Turin and were intended as a “command center” for the entire collection:
- Palazzo Madama
- Palazzo Carignano: now a museum about the Risorgimento (unification of Italy)
- Villa della Regina
- Palazzo Reale
- Palazzo Chiablese
- L’Armeria Reale: a former armory, now the Galleria Sabauda
- Segreteria di Stato: now housing the prefecture of Turin
- Archivi di Corte: now a government archive
- Ex Accademia Militare: former military academy, partly destroyed, but still used by the Italian army
- Cavallerizza e scuderie a.k.a. Cavallerizza Reale: today a cultural center
- Fronte Teatro Regio: an opera house, then and now, but only the facade is part of the UNESCO designation
The most famous ones within the city center are the Palazzo Reale and the Palazzo Madama.
The remaining ten properties are located around the former Italian capital according to a radial plan, serving as a “crown of delights” around the city:
- Castello del Valentino: now houses an architecture school
- Castello di Rivoli: houses a museum of contemporary art
- Castello di Moncalieri
- Castello di Venaria (or Reggia di Venaria Reale): the second biggest castle in Italy
- Castello della Mandria
- Palazzina di caccia di Stupinigi
- Castello di Agliè
- Castello di Racconigi
- Tenuta di Pollenzo: privately-owned
- Castello di Govone
Why are the Residences of the Royal House of Savoy a UNESCO World Heritage site?
The impressive buildings, added to the UNESCO list in 1997, reflect the original radial plan from the central hub of the “command center” in the capital of Turin to the surrounding pleasure residences.
UNESCO’s description says that “The Residences of the Royal House of Savoy provides outstanding testimony to the exuberant genius of Baroque and Late Baroque art and architecture, constructed over many decades by outstanding architects”.
What can you expect on a visit to the Residences of the Royal House of Savoy?
The main elements of the site for visitors in Turin are, of course, the Palazzo Reale and the Palazzo Madama. Both are located in the main square of the city center, at the Piazza Castello. Today, within those historic walls, there are several interesting museums as well as the royal apartments and armory.
Just outside Turin, the center of power and former capital of Italy, you will find the Reggia di Venaria Reale. That beautiful residence is the second largest castle in the country and an absolute highlight. To visit and explore the entire castle area, including the two castles located on the grounds, a village and castle park, you need almost a day.
Another highlight is the Palazzina di caccia di Stupinigi, a beautiful and huge hunting residence, just 10km (6mi) southwest of Turin. Inside the stunning castle à la Versailles, you can stroll through the apartments of the royal family and the Chiablese Dukes and admire original furniture, paintings and masterpieces of cabinetmaking.
The impressive castles and palazzi are unfortunately not all open to the public.
Are the Residences of the Royal House of Savoy worth visiting? What sorts of travelers would like them?
The Residences are definitely worth visiting but you will have to pick your favorites. Getting to know and explore a few of these impressive castles and palazzi will give you a better understanding of the power the Savoy family had in the past. The different constructions reflect the original radial plan from the central hub of the “command center” in the capital Turin to the surrounding pleasure residences.
The royal residences of the Savoy family are not only recommended for culture lovers. Anyone who enjoys architecture, art, historical interiors or historical gardens will appreciate the Residences.
Tips for visiting the Residences of the Royal House of Savoy
If you want to see the Palazzo Reale in Turin, try to avoid weekends within the summer months for your visit. The palace is one of the main attractions in Turin and therefore very touristy in July and August.
Book a tour of Palazzo Reale, including admission, ahead of time.
Book this tour of the Castello di Venaria, which includes admission.
If visiting Turin during high season, you should buy the entry tickets in advance to avoid queuing. Access to the individual Residences varies from €10-€20.
If you want to visit two or more Residences, you may want to buy the 2-day, 3-day or 5-day Torino Piemonte Card. Especially the entrance fee for the Venaria Reale is very high; with just one other visit of any other residence you already have made the discount card worth its cost.
Where are the Residences of the Royal House of Savoy?
The 21 Residences of the Royal House of Savoy are located in and around Piedmont’s capital, Turin. Half of the sites are within the city center and easily accessible by walking during your city sightseeing. The ten other buildings are strategically based around the former capital, not further away than a maximum of 30km (18.6mi).
Depending which ones you intend to visit, you may be able to get there by public transport from Turin. More reliable and easier, of course, is visiting by car as there are parking spaces close to each residence.
For more information on the individual Residences of the Royal House of Savoy, visit the official Turin tourism website.
Text and photos provided by Linda of insieme Piemonte. Since living in the beautiful Piedmont region, she tries to convince other to visit the often forgotten region in northwest Italy which offers so much natural beauty and historic culture.
Have you been to any of the Residences of the Royal House of Savoy? If so, do you have any additional information or advice about this UNESCO World Heritage site? Please add your comments below!