VALENTINO AND THE MEDIEVAL VILLAGE
THE VALENTINO CASTLE
Purchased by Emanuele Filiberto di Savoia in 1564, following the transfer of the capital of the Savoy duchy to Turin after the peace of Cateau-Cambrésis, the Castello del Valentino owes its name to the geomorphological characteristics of the region, already known as "Vallantinum" in the documents from the seventeenth century because the territory is not flat and uniform, but marked by the presence of a valley crossed by a watercourse, the bealera del Valentino which still flows underground.
River villa, with the main view facing the Po, is immediately affected by embellishment works that mostly modify the interiors of the building, not large and with a simple sleeve, divided into four floors parallel to the river, delimited by a tower with a stairwell to south and from a volume projecting to the north. It is Christina of France, wife of Vittorio Amedeo I and, after the death of her husband, the first Madama Reale, who promoted the construction site that in the seventeenth century transformed the building into a maison de plaisance on the transalpine model, inserting it in a wider, extended territorial context from the city to the hill where the Duchess built her vineyard, now Villa Abegg.
The projects by Carlo and Amedeo di Castellamonte define, on the French pavillon-system scheme, the design of an imposing building that doubles the pre-existing structure, closing it with two towers, connected with terraced arcades to two new pavilions, raised towards Turin and connected by a semicircular exedra. The symmetry of the entire composition is marked, towards the river, by a forepart and, towards the city, by an atrium from which two double flight staircases branch off which reach the loggia, on the main floor, and lead into the Hall of honor. .
Inside, two symmetrical side apartments, equal in number and arrangement of the rooms, are decorated by workers from the Laghi region who define a decorative project that, in each room, introduces the fundamental theme in the fresco in the center of the vault, taking it up again in the stuccoes and frescoes of the vault itself and in the connecting strip between it and the walls. The general program of the decoration, the subjects and the stories narrated, are chosen by Count Filippo di San Martino d’Agliè, a man of letters and a man of the court close to Christina of France. The south apartment, intended for the Duchess, is characterized by the gilding of the stuccos, while the rooms of the north apartment, for the crown prince, are characterized by white stucco.
No longer a court residence, at the beginning of the nineteenth century, the building houses the Veterinary School and therefore was used as a military barracks until it was sold by the Crown to the State Property in 1850. In the middle of the century, the area on the left bank del Po is used as a public park, presented on the occasion of the Sixth National Exhibition of Industrial Products commissioned by the Minister of Finance Camillo Benso, Count of Cavour at the Castello del Valentino, then restored to a design by Luigi Tonta and Domenico Ferri. In adherence to the then widespread culture of Eclecticism, with a historicist language, the connecting terraces between the towers are replaced by two large galleries and part of the decorative apparatus of the rooms on the main floor is modified. The nineteenth-century works definitively overturn the main view towards Turin, marking the transition from the idea of a palace to the nineteenth-century one of "castle".
In 1859, the Casati law marked the reorganization of training courses of all levels and, in Turin, decreed the opening of the Royal Application School for engineers, inaugurated in the early sixties at Valentino. Subject of subsequent expansion and restoration interventions, the Castle becomes a university seat, a place for research and in-depth studies, as well as scientific and technological experiments that allow, in the site still constantly open with the support of the University, the best choices for protection and conservation of cultural heritage.
THE MEDIEVAL VILLAGE
On April 26, 1884, the Italian General Art and Industrial Exhibition opened in the Parco del Valentino in Turin. It was placed in the wake of the great international events which intended to promote industrial production still in its infancy in Italy. The models were the London Exposition of 1851 and that of Paris of 1878.
These were large events that benefited from public funding and that merged the characteristics of the traditional fair-market with those of the presentation of new products, and those of the exhibition.
These events, aimed essentially at the future, at innovation, at international exchanges, were however always accompanied by pavilions or structures that illustrated the artistic and architectural production of past centuries and of the most varied civilizations.
Turin lived in anticipation of the 1884 Exposition with great expectations of economic rebirth for a city that had lost its role as capital for two decades and was in search of a new identity. The success of the initiative was remarkable and the presence of a very particular "pavilion" contributed to it: the medieval village and fortress.
The Turin Exposition set out to offer an artistic-architectural section; for this purpose the Section of Ancient Art was set up, an interdisciplinary commission made up of writers, historians, artists, architects, archivists, experts in art objects, who began to meet in January 1882, under the presidency of Ferdinando Scarampi di Villanova , to develop a pavilion project. The works underwent an acceleration and a turning point from May 1882, when Alfredo D'Andrade, a wealthy Portuguese scholar of Italian architecture, especially medieval architecture, joined the Commission. The idea of a pavilion that incorporates architectural styles from different eras and regions of Italy was definitively abandoned, in favor of a project that dates back to a single century (the fifteenth century) and to a single cultural territory (the Aosta Valley and Piedmont). Thus began the preliminary research for the construction of the medieval village, consisting of a village and a turreted castle.
Product of invention as a whole, every architectural, decorative and furnishing element of the Borgo is reproduced with philological precision from original models of the fifteenth century, traceable at the time in Piedmont and Valle d'Aosta, detected and studied personally by the members of the Commission .
The immense work of finding and reproducing the models proceeded at an accelerated pace: on 12 December 1882 the first stone of the Rocca (the castle) was laid, on 6 June 1883 the first stone of the village was laid, on 27 April 1884 the Borgo was inaugurated in the presence of the sovereigns of Italy, Umberto and Margherita di Savoia.
Under the arcades there were craft shops, entrusted to companies of national level, which were examples of high tradition in the processing of ceramics, wood, iron and which realistically animated the village street.
While the Rocca, the castle, was built to last over time, the village was destined for demolition once the demonstration was over.
The enormous success achieved by the complex meant that it was purchased by the City of Turin at the end of the event, becoming part of the Civic Museums only much later, in 1942.