From antique to contemporary: at Venaria echoes of 17th- and 18th-century gardens intertwine with contemporary art interventions set in a vast complex rebuilt several times due to destructions and aesthetic evolutions.

The history of this site, featuring the largest garden of the House of Savoy in Piedmont, is long and troubled: in 1659 Amedeo di Castellamonte designed a single complex comprising a hunting lodge, a village, Italian-style formal gardens and hunting grounds (today’s Mandria Park). This layout survived until 1700, when the gardens were completely destroyed to create a new French-style system, realized by Henri Duparc and based on the project of a collaborator of André le Notre, who probably visited Venaria in 1679. During the Napoleonic era the park was completely converted into fields while the palace was used as barracks. Following the interventions carried out from 1998 to 2003 and later, the park has been partially reinstated (30 hectares out of 125). The unique quality of this site, besides its vastness, resides in the fact that it creates a harmonious balance between the antique original layout echoing in the recently reconstructed garden and the declaredly contemporary design interventions that are not only displayed artworks but elements of a cohesive composition: therefore the garden layout corresponds to the original project, while the three-dimensional features and the botanical selection are truly contemporary, as in theGiardino delle Rose where modern pergolas laden with climbing roses pay homage to the antique 18th-century “berceaux”. The Sala di Diana, the hall at the heart of the 17th-century palace, affords a perfect view on the large-scale garden layout: on one side – beyond the courtyard of honour – the eye is drawn eastwards along the great Via Maestra of the village; while westwards – beyond the parterre – it is led along a gallery lined by Corten steel walls retracing the antique avenue, all the way to the remains of the Temple of Diana. A clear trace of the 18th-century interventions is the large Citroniera: designed by Filippo Juvarra, in winter it was used to store hundreds of crates of citrus fruits, while today it has been converted into a location for major art exhibitions.