The Royal Residences
1 December 2016
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The urban space of Turin is surrounded by what was historically called the ‘Crown of Delights’, the ring formed by the royal residences situated outside the city, declared UNESCO cultural heritage, which include maisons de plaisance and sumptuous gardens and were the setting for refined life at court and evidence of the power of the Savoy dynasty. This voyage through the centuries will become an indelible memory for the family, for a couple or a group of friends for a day in the shoes of kings and queens.
Some of the palaces are scattered between the city centre and the foothills, such as those of the Polo Reale [Royal Centre], Castello del Valentino or Villa della Regina. The latter is the only one that can boast a royal vineyard, the ‘Vigna della Regina’, resuscitated in 2003 by the Balbiano family, reinstated in the Freisa di Chieril DOC area and recently twinned with the ‘Clos Montmartre’, an urban vineyard in Paris. Other residences, including the ‘Reggia di Venaria’, the ‘Palazzina di Caccia di Stupinigi’ and the castles of Rivoli and Moncalieri are just outside the gates of Turin.
It is possible to reach them with the most famous tourist bus in the world, the City Sightseeing Torino. With three different routes (lines A, B and C), it carries visitors to their destinations and is equipped with a digital multi-language audio system. In alternative, visitors can choose the ‘Royal e-bike Tour’, an easy, entertaining and sustainable experience on an EPAC (Electric pedal assisted cycle) along the bike paths of the city, through pedestrian only areas and along the Po river banks, through famous and little-known spots, along an itinerary of about 14 km, almost entirely flat.
The key to entering the Royal Residences of Turin (and Piedmont in general) is the ‘Royal card’, a card with 48 hour validity for free access to the Royal Residences, use of the special public transport shuttle buses ‘Venaria Express’, plus other discounts and reductions on the ‘Merende Reali’ [royal snacks].
The palaces are often used to stage special events such as the ‘The Wonders of the Tsars’ and ‘Brueghel. Masterpieces of Flemish Art’ shows open at the Venaria until 29 January and 19 February 2017), respectively; and the collection ‘Toulouse Lautrec. La belle èpoque’ at Palazzo Chiablese until 5 March 2017 or ‘Natale è reale’ [Christmas is royal], at the Palazzina di Caccia di Stupinigi until 11 December 2016.
The royal experience would not be complete without a taste teaser. The ‘Merenda Reale’ [Royal snack] is a delicious excursion in an atmosphere of other times, a genuine ritual that was born in the city of the 1700s at the Savoyard courts. Every weekend, all year round, the historic coffee houses in the city centre and the coffee shops of some royal residences, celebrate the noble pastry arts of Piedmont by proposing the irresistible pastries for dipping into warm cocoa and other sweet specialities to accompany the warm drink. Today, the ‘Merenda Reale’ box is available for online ordering with delivery directly to your home for a gift worthy of a king!
Flavours are even more royal at the star restaurant of chef Alfredo Russo ‘Dolce Stil Novo alla Reggia’, a fascinating place with a breath-taking view of the gardens and fountain of the Reggia di Venaria, which captivates and conquers with its beauty, scale and majesty.
If the appetite, after pedalling along the ancient hunting routes in the park of the Palazzina di Stupingi – newly recovered itineraries, enhanced in their ecological and environmental dimensions and included in the ‘Corona Verde’ [Green crown] project – is whetted, the brand new ‘Casa Format’, next to the palace, offers an experience of responsible cuisine and hospitality (with 5 guest rooms and a natural kitchen garden) in a totally biologically sustainable and energy self-sufficient structure.