Postcard from Naples, Italy: Glamming up the royal residence

While Pope Sixtus V (1521-1590) kept architect Domenico Fontana (1543-1607) well occupied around the Vatican and Rome, he managed to take on a project for the Viceroy in Naples. The excuse for the construction of the palace was an impending visit by King Philip III of Spain (confusingly known as Philip II in his role as King of Naples, Sicily and Sardinia) (1578-1621). But, alas, when the king did not make it to Naples as planned, rather than let it go to waste, the Viceroy himself move into the grand new quarters.

A new royal arrived in town in 1734, King Charles III of Spain (adding to the confusion, prior to becoming King of Spain in 1759, he was known as Charles VII of Naples and Charles V of Sicily) (1716-1788). By the time King Charles arrived, the palace was empty of residents and devoid of furniture. While waiting for suitable decorating, the new arrivals temporarily were forced to furnish it with contents bought from the pawnshop and private citizens.

King Charles III immediately put architects and artists to work. With his marriage to Maria Amalia of Saxony (1724-1760), decorating assumed a sense of urgency. To take care of royal needs, a porcelain factory was founded, which later became known as Capodimonte porcelain. Receiving an abundant supply of art from his mother, Elizabeth Farnese (1692-1766), the Queen of Spain, Charles was able to transfer it from family palaces in Parma and Rome to Naples. One palace, however, is hardly enough to accommodate royal needs, so two more were built which the blog will visit later.

His son, Ferdinand I as King of the Two Sicilies (Ferdinand IV as King of Naples or Ferdinand III and King of Sicily) (1751-1825), begin to take beautifying the palace to even higher levels. Arranged by his father, King Charles, Ferdinand’s proxy marriage to 16-year-old Maria Carolina of Austria (1752-1814) spurred further gilding and flocking throughout. The grand hall was remodeled to serve as a court theatre.

By the time his grandson, Ferdinand II (1810-1859), became King of the Two Sicilies, the whole palace was viewed as in need of a major renovation. This was partially due to a fire in 1837 and partially to accommodate modern services and systems for lighting, water-delivery, sewage and so forth.

Finally in 1888, King Umberto I of Italy (of the House of Savoy) (1844-1900) altered the façade of the building addressing the grand Piazza del Plebiscito. Large statues of major rulers of Naples were commissioned for the new niches.

Addicted to writing with access to two computer screens displaying a multitude of resources, I was most impressed by an early innovative predecessor – sort of a ferris wheel for books to aid research from multiple tomes at one’s desk.

Postcard from Saluzzo, Italy: Last stopping place of a trip always get short shrift

A medieval town set against a backdrop where the snow-topped Alps melt upward into the clouds, making mountains and sky almost indistinguishable from one another.

Located in the province of Cuneo in the Piemonte region of Italy, Saluzzo spent much of its history under the House of Savoy or neighboring France’s rule.

We spent a leisurely week wandering her narrow cobbled streets. Sort of a vacation tagged onto our extended stay in Italy last year.

It is only because I have so many “postcards” waiting to be delivered that the beautiful spot will be showcased mainly through snapshots not words.

 

Postcard from Turin, Italy: A royal villa with a Chinese accent

The tastes of the royals of the House of Savoy required numerous elegant residences for retreats and entertaining around the outskirts of Turin. Vigna, a villa and vineyard, was built on a rise on the other side of the River Po for a cardinal who was the brother of Victor Emanuele I (1587-1637).

In 1684, the estate was inherited by Anne Marie d’Orleans (1669-1728), a niece of King Louis XIV (1638-1715) of France. Eager to maintain and strengthen the French influence over the House of Savoy, Louis XIV earlier had arranged for his 14-year-old niece to marry the young duke, Victor Amadeus II (1666-1732). Victor Amadeus II already was struggling to wrench control from the French-born acting regent, his mother, Maria Christina (1606-1663). While the marriage proved lasting, the King of France sometimes found the Duke of Savoy allying himself with the opposing side on the battlefields of Europe.

After Anne Marie and Victor Amadeus II became the Queen and King of Sardinia, the palace became known as Villa della Regina. The royals’ favored architect, Filippo Juvarra (1678-1736), undertook the conversion of the villa into a more palatial retreat for the queen. The Chinoiserie decorations in vogue following King Louis XIV’s incorporation of them in the Trianon at Versailles took over numerous rooms in the palace.

Victor Emanuele II (1820-1878) donated Villa della Regina to the state of Italy in 1868.