Audio File length: 2.19
Author: STEFANO ZUFFI E DAVIDE TORTORELLA
English Language: English

A castle has been present in the south side of the city along the banks of the Po River since medieval times, but the building before you now is instead one of the best examples of Baroque architecture in Turin. The Castle is dedicated to St. Valentine, whose relics had been preserved in a chapel which has since been destroyed. It is no longer a defensive, military structure, but a beautiful royal residence: a large villa surrounded by green gardens modeled after the famous French castles known as "Châteaux".

And it is precisely with France in mind that you can start to appreciate and understand the history and appearance of this monument which is finally recovering all of its original charm thanks to complex restorations. It was built in the first half of the 17th century for the daughter of the French King Henry IV, who had married Victor Amadeus I of Savoy. It was designed by the architect Carlo di Castellammonte and his son Amedeo. As you can see, it's a large horseshoe-shaped monument with four massive square towers and a large courtyard in the middle. Its high pitched roofs and attic with windows pay homage to the French origins of Princess Cristina, known as "Madama Reale", or the Royal Madam. Admire the majesty of the main façade, with its porticoed entrance and loggia.

You should know that over the centuries the Castle has had many functions: first it was a veterinary school, then military barracks, then home to the University's Engineering faculty, and even now it still serves some University roles. In 2006 it became the seat of "Casa Italia" for the Winter Olympics, and the restoration of its splendid halls commenced. You can currently visit the apartments on the first floor consisting of various halls decorated with frescoes and stuccoes from around 1640 that show mythological scenes, the signs of the Zodiac, Piedmont landscapes, and glorious episodes of French history combined with those of the House of Savoy.

 

FUN FACT: along with Lyon and Prague, Turin is considered one of the three "magic cities" of Europe, and many dark legends loom around a lot of their buildings. For example, legend has it that the Royal Madam used the Castle of Valentino to meet with hapless lovers, who were then killed and thrown down a well.

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