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Reggia di Venaria Reale

Top choice in Turin

OK, it may not enjoy the weighty publicity of its French counterpart, but this is one of the largest royal residences in the world, rescued from ruin by a €235 million 10-year-long restoration project. Humongous, ostentatious, regal, yet strangely underpublicised, this Unesco-listed baroque palace some 14km northwest of Turin was built as a glorified hunting lodge in 1675 by the frivolous Duke of Savoy, Carlo Emanuele II.

Among the jewels bequeathed by its erstwhile royal rulers are a vast garden complex, a glittering stag fountain (with water shows), a conspicuous consumption style Grand Gallery, plus the attached Capella di Sant'Uberto and Juvarra stables. The last three were all designed by the great Sicilian architect Filippo Juvarra in the 1720s.

To enjoy the permanent exhibition alone, you’ll need to walk 2km through the aptly named Theatre of History and Magnificence, a museum journey that relates the 1000-year history of the Savoy clan set in their former royal residential quarters, with a Brian Eno soundtrack and film installations care of Peter Greenaway.

On top of this are numerous temporary exhibitions, regular live concerts, an on-site cafe and restaurant, and an adjacent borgo (medieval town), now engulfed by Turin’s suburbs, that's full of cosy places to eat and drink. Take note of the scale and leave the best part of a day to visit. You can reach the palace complex via the Venaria Express shuttle, one of the tourist office's summer sightseeing buses or bus 11 or 72 from Porta Nuova station.

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