The Royal Museums of Turin are one of the largest and most varied museum complexes in Europe and are equal, in terms of their size and the value of the collections, to the major European royal residences. They are located in the heart of the ancient city and offer an itinerary of history, art and nature that winds through over 3 km of museum walk on 30,000 square meters of exhibition and storage spaces, 7 hectares of gardens, with evidence dating from Prehistoric times to modern age.
Their origin dates back to 1563, when Emanuele Filiberto di Savoia moved the capital of the duchy from Chambéry to Turin and began the great urban transformation and enrichment of the dynastic collections.
This new command pole, which stood north-east of the square Roman city facing south on the large square of the medieval castle, has expanded over the decades thanks to the construction of imposing factories articulated according to a precise orthogonal scheme, linked to representation needs. , to the life of the Court and to the administration of the State.
New structures began to be added to the palace complex such as: the Royal Gardens, the Beaumont sleeve (seat of the Armory and Royal Library), the Chapel of the Shroud built behind the apse of the Cathedral, the Royal Church of S. Lorenzo and the Galleria Orientale, where the State Secretariats were located (today the seat of the Prefecture), the Manica degli Archives (now the seat of the State Archives), the Teatro Regio (destroyed in a fire in 1938 and rebuilt in 1971 based on a design by Carlo Mollino ) extending up to the Cavallerizza. Over time, the reshaped Palazzo Chiablese and the Manica Nuova along via XX Settembre were added, built between the end of the nineteenth century and the early twentieth century, now home to the Galleria Sabauda and an Archaeological Museum section.
In fact, in 1563, Emanuele Filiberto di Savoia established his residence in the bishop's palace, but already in 1584 Carlo Emanuele I entrusted Ascanio Vitozzi with the construction of a new factory. After 1643 the direction of the works passed to Amedeo di Castellamonte and then to Carlo Morello; meanwhile the rooms on the first floor were furnished, with carved and gilded ceilings and large allegorical canvases by Jan Miel and Charles Dauphin, whose subjects exalt the virtues of the sovereign according to the program of the court rhetorician Emanuele Tesauro.
In 1688 Daniel Seyter was called from Rome to fresco the gallery since then known as “del Daniel”. Seyter, flanked by the Genoese Bartolomeo Guidobono, also intervened in the apartment on the ground floor, later known as Madama Felicita's. At the end of the seventeenth century, the layout of the garden was revised and enlarged by the famous French architect André Le Notre. When Vittorio Amedeo II obtained the royal title, in 1713, the so-called “command area” was created, annexed to the palace and made up of Secretariats, Offices, Teatro Regio and State Archives.
The director of these interventions was Filippo Juvarra, who also created the Scala delle Forbici and the Chinese Cabinet. The position of first royal architect then passed to Benedetto Alfieri, who defined the decorative elements of the apartments on the second floor and set up the new rooms of the Archives, frescoed by Francesco De Mura and Gregorio Guglielmi.
At the time of Carlo Alberto (1831-1849) some rooms on the noble floor were renovated under the direction of Pelagio Palagi, such as the Salone degli Svizzeri and the Sala del Consiglio, and other rooms on the second floor; in 1862 the new grand staircase was built. With the transfer of the capital from Turin to Florence and then to Rome, the palace progressively lost its functions of residence. Since 1955 it has been handed over to the Superintendency for Architectural and Landscape Heritage; today it is part of the Royal Museums.
In 1997 Palazzo Reale was inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List as a serial site "Savoy Residences" together with other 22 buildings, 11 of which located in the center of Turin, and others distributed according to a radio-centric system around the city.
On 12 April 1997 a strong fire in the Shroud Chapel devastated the chapel and part of the north-west tower of the Royal Palace.
In 1998 the Territory Pavilion was set up as an extension of the existing Museum of Antiquity, the work of the architects Gabetti and Isola, which exhibits the archaeological materials found in Piedmont.
Between 2000 and 2006 a major recovery and enhancement project was carried out for the entire museum complex. Inside the Royal Armory, a restoration of the monumental rooms is carried out with the recovery of the historical setting desired by Carlo Alberto in 1832; the recovery of the north-west tower, the Staircase of Honor and the adjacent sector of the Swiss Hall of the Royal Palace is carried out; the first tranche of interventions relating to the cafeteria and the Cappella Regia closes.
In 2016 the Turin museum area, which in recent years has been defined as Polo Reale (Palazzo Reale, Galleria Sabauda, Museo d'Antichità, Biblioteca Reale, Armeria Reale, Giardini Reali, Palazzo Chiablese) changes its name to Musei Reali (a following of the Ministerial Decree n. 43 of 23/01/2016) adding the Chapel of the Shroud to the visit itinerary.