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.
The Garden of Fluid Sculptures
This area is a project by contemporary artist Giuseppe Penone. Integrating metal, marble and nature itself, this installation creates an environment that is both rigorous and captivating, perhaps the most coherent of the entire complex.
The Grande Galleria terraces
These terraces afford the best view on the Grand Parterre with boxwood hedges, pyramid-shaped sculpted yews, tidy lawns and hornbeam galleries echoing the original antique views. At the centre, a contemporary art installation by Giovanni Anselmo.
The Royal Potager Garden
Planted along the canal, this fruit and vegetable garden recreates the design of the original potager. Visitors can buy its produce.
Rebuilt during restoration in keeping with the original 17th-century design, this Peschiera gives a sense of the grand scale of the Venaria complex, reflecting the entire palace in its waters.
Fontana di Ercole
Formerly the centrepiece of the 17th-century garden this fountain dedicated to Hercules was demolished in the 18th century. Currently undergoing restoration, the fountain will see the reintegration of the original Hercules statue and casts of the other sculptures now disseminated in other in castles and villas across Piedmont.
The Park of La Mandria
Next to the Venaria gardens there is the large Park of La Mandria (over 3,000 hectares), the ideal setting for sport and recreational outdoor activities. Today property of the Region, during the 19th century this area was the hunting reserve of Victor Emmanuel III and his retreat where he would meet with Bela Rosin, his morganatic wife.