If you want an off-the-beaten-path experience in Turin, it’s well worth a visit to the Villa Della Tesoriera.
Built in 1715 for the Savoy Councilor of State and general treasurer, Aymo Ferrero di Cocconato, this country villa started its life as a place for entertaining and hunting. Over the course of 300 years, it has been owned by a broker, multiple lawyers, a duke, and a famous entomologist. It has been occupied by the French (who used it as a barracks) and by the Nazis (who looted it). As the city has grown, it has served as a home, a school, and now a public music library.
But while you can study, listen to, and record music here, the real attraction for an out-of-town visitor are the fantastic baroque paintings and plasterwork. From the minute you enter the building you are greeted by welcoming cherubs:
In what is now the children’s room of the library, complete with Siamese cats prowling the shelves …
… you can sit and read beneath the panoply of Roman gods:
One whole room is dedicated to the light of Apollo …
… while another calms you with the silence of Diana:
But the real joy here is in studying the trompe l’oeil, trying to figure out where plasterwork ends and the painting begins.
It’s masterful technique, and I often had to study closely to tell the real plasterwork from the fake.
The Savoy elite of the early 1700s loved a good optical illusion, so there are many fake windows …
… including one with a “curtain” …
… several with “scenery” outside …
… and even a few fake skylights:
Each of the rooms here offers something special, but grand dame is the ballroom, now used as the building’s concert hall.
It’s a sumptuous space.
Everything is spectacular here, from the ceiling …
… to the murals on the walls …
… to the Muses that watch over the doorways:
The doors elsewhere in the villa are equally lovely — many return to the trompe l’oeil theme in their frames …
… and some offer hand-painted panels:
There is evidence everywhere that this is a working, functional building — not a museum:
And while much of the artwork has been lovingly restored, a few rooms have suffered from lack of funding for this work (one of the librarians explained that they’ve just had to spring for a new roof, so the money set aside to preserve the artwork has all been spent).
The villa was expanded twice, once in 1846 and again in the 1930s — so not all of the art on the walls is Baroque.
My guide said that this painting style is called “Pompeian” — and while it feels a little light for the richness of the building, I think it still has its own charm.
Less charming — but fun in an anachronistic sort of way — was the exhibit of Pink Floyd albums and memorabilia in an unadorned second floor room:
A visit to Villa Della Tesoriera is entirely free — it’s a public library — but I went to see the villa as part of an Airbnb Experience, which was worth every penny. Having a guide here (and possible access to semi-secret back rooms) made this a really special visit. We wandered both the villa itself and the extensive grounds (not so picturesque in January, but well used by dog walkers), and I had a great time!
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