Postcard from Genoa, Italy: Balbi abode fit for royalty

Bolstered by his family’s fortune built on the silk trade, Stefan Balbi commissioned a regal residence in Genoa in the first half of the 1600s. Direct access through the medieval town to the palace was hindered by seven dwellings. Balbi purchased the houses from their owners and demolished them in order to gain permission from public officials to build a new street, installing a system of irrigation for his gardens during the process. In need of suitable portraits, the family temporarily relocated Anthony Van Dyck (1599-1641) from Antwerp to Genoa to fill in some of the blank spots on the new walls.

The Durazzo family purchased the palace in 1677. Finding it too confining, the family commissioned architect Carlo Fontana (1638-1714) to enlarge it and add a hall of mirrors modeled on Versailles.

The House of Savoy bought it in 1823, which necessitated its conversion into an actual royal residence and the addition of a throne room. The palace was handed over to the state in 1919, and now is operated as Museo Palazzo Reale.

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