Elegant Turin, which was the seat of the Duchy of Savoy before briefly becoming the first capital of unified Italy, is home to a number of sumptuous historic palaces and castles. The Palazzo Reale (Royal Palace) is among the most opulent, and today it houses the Royal Museums, with an extensive art collection, armory, and gardens.
Originally the Bishop’s Palace, the Palazzo Reale was taken over by Duke Emmanuel Philibert when the city became the Savoy capital, and was expanded and embellished following the marriage of Victor Amadeus to the French Princess Christine Marie during the 17th century. The princess and architect Filippo Juvarra added a number of features, including the Scala delle Forbici staircase and the Chapel of the Holy Shroud, to house the Shroud of Turin.
Today, you can see firsthand how the European aristocracy lived by visiting the palace’s richly decorated rooms filled with tapestries and artwork. The Palace is also home to an armory, the Sabauda art gallery, Royal Library, Archaeological Museum, and Royal Gardens. A visit to the Royal Palace and gardens is included in most Turin small-group walking tours.
Things to Know Before You Go
- Inside the Royal Museums, there is a cafeteria, restrooms, and a locker room where large bags and backpacks must be stored.
- There are two wheelchair-accessible entrances: one on Piazzetta Reale and one on Piazza San Giovanni.
- Visitors may take photographs without flash or tripods inside the Royal Museums.
- Modest attire covering shoulders and knees is required to enter the Chapel of the Holy Shroud.
- Admission to the Royal Gardens and reading room in the Royal Library is free; there is a single ticket for access to all the museums in the Royal Palace complex.
How to Get There
The Royal Palace is located on Piazza Castello, a short walk from the Porta Nuova train station. From the nearby city of Milan, you can take a day trip to Turin via the high-speed train that runs between these two capitals.
When to Get There
Though the Royal Palace museum complex stays open until 7:30pm, there is a lot of ground to cover and it takes at least two hours to visit, so plan to begin your visit by the late afternoon. The complex is closed Monday; the library is closed Sunday.
The House of Savoy’s Controversial Shroud
The Holy Shroud, housed in a chapel adjoining the palace and cathedral, has been the subject of debate by theologians and historians for centuries, because its authenticity as the cloth laid over Jesus’ body after his crucifixion has never been officially recognized by the Catholic Church. However, this doesn’t deter the thousands of faithful and curious who come to view this religious relic on the rare occasions when it is shown publicly.