Nestling in a hilly basin on the far side of the Po, on what is known as Turin’s “Montagna”, this villa was the Royal Madames’ much-loved holiday resort. The garden’s imposing, newly-restored amphitheatre and its clearly cadenced spaces were inspired by the glorious template of the Tuscolana country residences.
The “Vigna” of Cardinal Maurice of Savoy was built in 1615 based on a design by architect Ascanio Vitozzi, deliberately referencing, albeit on a smaller scale, Villa Aldobrandini in Frascati. Although the main body of the villa was enlarged and the garden enriched, this architecture still indelibly reflects its original phase, from which the current semi-circular layout of the garden derives. Overlooking Turin from the hilly slopes surrounding it, Villa della Regina constitutes an exceptional belvedere on the capital of the State of Savoy, being a courtly variant of an architectural typology of aristocratic holiday residence, the so-called “vigna” defining those villas around Turin with rustic outbuildings and dedicated to wine production. The garden, designed by Filippo Juvarra with its Belvedere at the top of the central axis and two terraces at the ends of the transversal axis, with the Padiglione dei Solinghi to the south, is a perfect example of an “Italian-style” formal garden integral to the House of Savoy’s residences, adorned with geometrically pruned yews and boxwoods. Architectural features, such as staircases, grottoes, fountains, the large hemicycle and the sculpted cascade are key elements of this complex. The building, enlarged by Filippo Juvarra from the 1720s onwards, boasts refined interior decorations in rooms overlooking the garden and affording views on the surrounding landscape. The complex that was restored to fix the damage caused by the war and by a long period of neglect, was reopened to the public in 2006. The long-disappeared vineyard mentioned in 19th-century maps was also reinstated.
Grottos and Nymphaeums
Taking advantage of the orography of the site and interpreting it with a theatrical vision, the garden presents, along one single axis, a series of grottoes and nymphaeums. From the curvilinear backdrop of the upper Belvedere – where the Mascherone Fountain feeds the little Naiad Waterfall – you descend to the grotto known as “del Re selvaggio” (of the Wild King) and, further down, to the scenographic exedra-theatre area opening up with rustic niches home to statues, set at level with the piano nobile. Towards the valley, the Neptune’s nymphaeum-grotto concludes the sequence by the entrance.
The Main Hall
Situated at the centre of the piano nobile, this spectacular room designed by Filippo Juvarra and that must be crossed to get from one end of the floor to the other affords a privileged view of the gardens and of the city. Its decorative apparatus was created by artists whose work can be found in other Savoy residences, such as the quadratura-virtuoso Giuseppe Dallamano, Giovan Battista Crosato and Corrado Giaquinto, who in the mirrors painted scenes from Ovid’s Metamorphoses.
Most of the garden sculptures – except for Bacchus and the Maenad, that are late 18th-century works by Bernero – originally come from the gardens of Venaria Reale, dismantled in the early 18th century to be redesigned according to French taste.
A fine vineyard
Between 2003 and 2006, as part of the villa’s restoration project, the old vineyard documented by the sources was also reinstated: on an area of approximately one hectare, 2,700 shoots of Freisa di Chieri, a historic Piedmont grape variety, were planted. Thanks to the ideal southern exposure and the particular characteristics of the soil, the planting quickly gave excellent results: in 2011 the vineyard of Villa della Regina was once again included in the DOC (controlled designation of origin) labels of the area of Freisa di Chieri.