The Royal Palace of Turin

If you want a jaw-dropping experience while you’re in Turin, make sure to pay a visit to the Royal Palace (Palazzo Reale).

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The seat of the House of Savoy from the early 17th century until the creation of the Kingdom of Italy in 1861, this was the royal residence, home to dukes and duchesses — and later to kings and queens (the history of the Savoy rulers is long and complicated). The palace also served as a place to impress visitors and as a home to their vast collections of arms and artwork.

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The palace was expanded several times over the years, but it has always maintained its fundamentally Baroque nature — and every bit of it has been designed with grandeur in mind.

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Only in a royal palace will you find a Room of the Footmen …

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… a Throne Room (“the ceremonial fulcrum” of the building) …

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… and a Private Audience Room with brocade walls and an enormous malachite bowl, a gift from the Tsar of Russia:

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The Queen had her own Toilet Cabinet room “alla Chinese,” featuring lacquer pieces that the architect purchased in Rome in 1732. But he wasn’t able to obtain enough of them, so he had a local painter make imitations go complete the space.

fullsizeoutput_5c14People move pretty quickly through these rooms, but everything stops — and the crowds commence — when you hit the Beaumont Gallery:

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This room houses the Armory, said to be one of the most important weapons collections in Europe. I don’t know much about arms and armor, so I started out just admiring the architecture, the sculptures …

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… and the paintings on the ceiling:

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But it’s impossible not to be drawn into the collection of arms, especially when you’re surrounded by knights and armored horses.

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Guys like these also drew me in:

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There’s so much to see in this room, from mounted horsemen …

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… to rings of swords …

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… to knights on the wall …

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… to knights on the floor:

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Just off to the side, there’s a staircase with two great trompe-l’oeil “windows”…

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… and there’s more trompe-l’oeil in the king’s bedchamber, where painted flowers on the ceiling emerge from a gold-covered plaster vase:

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The Baroque frenzy continues on from here in galleries and hallways, with more painted ceilings …

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… mirrored halls …

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… elaborate doors …

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… and then, oh my goodness, the Medallion Room:

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The neo-baroque wall decoration here dates to the late 1800s, when it was added because Queen Margherita liked the style. I can only imagine what the architect must have thought when she requested it.

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Two of my favorite rooms in the palace were the relatively spare, neoclassical ballroom …

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… with dancers lining the walls …

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… and the imposing dining room:

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All of this ornate Baroque fussiness can be a bit overwhelming, but taken in stride, it’s fun. For a more contemplative opportunity, your ticket will also give you access to the Chapel of the Holy Shroud. I have no idea where the shroud itself is, but I did love the domed interior, designed by Guarino Guarini and recently reconstructed after a devastating 1997 fire:

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A ticket to the palace also gets you into the Sabauda Gallery (a major art collection), the Royal Library, and a Museum of Antiquities. Prepare to be exhausted! And note that if you want to visit on a Saturday, you may need to wait in a long line — I was glad to have a cookie along to tide me over:

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