Ancient foliage reflecting on the water, vast clearings, small temples and sham ruins: a garden that is the heart of vast agricultural and hunting estate, much loved first by the Hapsburgs and then by the Savoy family, and today home to an important agricultural school.
Built between 1777 and 1780, Villa Reale was designed by the renowned neoclassical architect Giuseppe Piermarini at the behest of Archduchess Maria Theresa of Austria and her son Ferdinand. Occupied by Eugene de Beauharnais during the Napoleonic era, it then became property of the Savoy family and later abandoned after the assassination of Umberto I in 1900. Its 40 hectares of gardens, part of the more than 700 hectares of parkland, were completed around 1783. Faithful to the great example of the Reggia di Caserta and assisted by Viennese gardeners, Piermarini designed a formal layout defined by a central perspective axis of French inspiration. A recently restored labyrinth and parterreswere built to the north and west of the villa. To the east, a terraced area with an exedra was complemented by a canal and tree-lined avenues. Parts of the landscape garden provided a visual opening onto the surrounding agricultural landscape. At the beginning of the 19th century, the villa was redesigned by architects Luigi Canonica and Giacomo Tazzini. The gardens, under the direction of Luigi Villoresi, saw the integration of an evocative English-style landscaped area in which exotic species were introduced and a first plant catalogue of the property was published. Citrus fruits, tobacco, chocolate and coffee were grown in the Orangerie. The water of the Lambro river still feeds the numerous canals in the park and a small lake with a small temple designed by Piermarini. The subject of numerous paintings, this water feature is completed by the Grotta del Nettuno (Neptune’s Grotto). Not far away, beyond a stream and a waterfall, are the Antro di Polifemo (Polyphemus’ cave), Gothic Revival walls and a lookout tower.
This romantic pond is one of the most loved and portrayed Giardini Reali features. The artificial lake, with the neoclassical Tempietto and the small lateral waterfall, designed by architect Piermarini date to the early 19th century, as attested by the famous paintings by Martino Knoller and the engravings published in Ercole Silva's 1801 treatise Dell’arte de’ Giardini Inglesi.
The Villa Reale gardens are home to many monumental trees, such as the two large oaks in the lawn sloping gently towards the east. Other unique botanical highlights, set a landscape home to beeches, plane-trees, horse chestnuts, liriodendrons, oaks and soforas, are a splendid Ginkgo Biloba, the American sequoia and a majestic Lebanese cedar with a quadruple trunk-system.
A European residence
Designed by architect Piermarini, Villa Reale di Monza fits in the tradition of the great European residences (Versailles, Schönbrunn Palace, Venaria Reale...). This U-shaped architecture embraces the courtyard of honour and its extremities correspond to the Chapel and the Cavallerizza space. The villa's many halls, such as the imposing Salone d'Onore (Hall of Honour), still retain part of their original decorative apparatus.
A vast portion of agricultural and wooded Lombard landscape – crossed from north to south by the river Lambro – with its roads, canals, villas, farmsteads and mills was modelled by Luigi Canonica, who incorporated this system into a unitary design creating an extraordinary estate-park. At the beginning of the 20th century, the wooded portions to the north were transformed with the insertion of the Autodromo Nazionale Monza Racetrack and the Golf Club Milano.
Villa Mirabello and Villa Mirabellino
Villa Mirabello was commissioned by Count Durini at the end of the 17th century. Located in a dominant position on the Lambro, it is attached to a terraced garden with a formal layout. A perspective avenue connects it to Villa Mirabellino that was built in 1776 as setting for parties and cultured entertainments of the illustrious guests of the Durini family. Luigi Canonica preserved both villas – which are the real heart of the park – refining them with the introduction of neoclassical elements.