The Royal Villa of Monza, also called the Royal Palace of Monza, is a large neoclassical palace built in Monza by the Habsburgs – as a private residence – during the Austrian domination of the eighteenth century.
Become the residence of the viceroy with the Napoleonic Kingdom of Italy, it increasingly loses this function during the Kingdom of Italy of the Savoys, the last Royals to use it. It currently hosts exhibitions, shows and in one wing also the artistic high school of Monza.
Wanted by Empress Maria Theresa of Austria as a country residence for her son Ferdinando I, Governor of Lombardy, the Royal Palace of Monza today represents an important place where art and culture manage to merge and amaze visitors, but also a jewel that is increasingly assuming a fundamental role from the naturalistic-ecological point of view.
Its park and gardens are, in fact, an irreplaceable lung for the hundreds of thousands of inhabitants who gravitate around it, as well as being the only oasis for many animal and plant species.
The construction of the Villa, in 1777, was entrusted to the architect Giuseppe Piermarini while the place of residence north of Monza had been identified by Archduke Ferdinando himself. The beauty of the landscape, the healthiness of the air and the presence of refined noble residences in nearby Brianza were decisive for this choice. The construction and furnishing works of the Villa (740 rooms) were completed in 1780; between 1778 and 1783 the Gardens of the Villa Reale were planted, while in 1805 the Parco della Reggia was born, extending almost 700 hectares, which still constitutes today one of the largest historical parks in Europe and the largest among those surrounded by walls. The Reggia, with its park, gardens, villa, farmhouses, mills, represents a complex of inestimable landscape, historical, monumental and architectural value.
The construction of the villa was commissioned by the Empress of Austria Maria Theresa of Habsburg as a summer residence for the archducal court of her son Ferdinand of Habsburg-Este, Governor General of Austrian Lombardy from 1771, who initially had settled in the Villa Alari in Cernusco sul Naviglio, rented by the Alari Counts. The choice of Monza was due to the healthiness of the air and the amenity of the country, but it also expressed a strong symbol of bond between Vienna and Milan, finding the place on the road to the imperial capital.
The construction commission, conferred in 1777 to the imperial architect Giuseppe Piermarini, was completed in just three years, while to complete the setting up of the well-kept gardens it took a few more years. Subsequently, the young Archduke Ferdinando had additions made to the complex, again by Piermarini and he used the Villa as his country residence until the arrival of the Napoleonic armies in 1796.
Among the main models from which Piermarini took inspiration are Schönbrunn Palace and the Royal Palace of Caserta by his master Vanvitelli. From Schönbrunnin particular, the inverted U-shaped plan is taken up, which combines the strong scenographic impact that the lateral wings give to the main facade, the distributive convenience that provided for the use of the central body for the representation functions, the lateral wings for private apartments foreparts for service functions. For this purpose, the main body has only two floors twice the height of the side wing rooms, in addition to the central belvedere located on the third floor. In the wings intended for private functions there are five floors, with two of a lower height intended for servants. Unlike the other imperial palaces, the east-west orientation of the facades is preferred here, compared to the classic north-south orientation which guaranteed greater solar radiation.Austro-Hungarian empire. The extension is vast: 700 rooms for a total of 22,000 m².
The Napoleonic period
Eugene of Beauharnais, appointed Viceroy of the newly established Napoleonic Kingdom of Italy in 1805, established his main residence in the Villa which then on this occasion assumed the name of “Royal Villa”.
The new Viceroy commissioned his trusted architect Luigi Canonica to make improvements to the villa, including the construction of the court theater – collection of a structure for music, song, dance and theater – built in the north wing.
It was always at the behest of Beauharnais that, between 1806 and 1808, the complex of the Villa and its Gardens was extended in size, through the creation of the vast fenced park now known as the Monza Park; in fact, it was between 1807 and 1808 that the current long city wall was built14 km, using the demolition material of the ancient Visconti castle.
The Austrian return
After the fall of Napoleon in 1815, there was the return of the Austrians, with his appointment as Viceroy of Ranieri Joseph of Habsburg-Lorraine to the new Kingdom of Lombardy-Venetia. Archduke Ranieri was a lover of botany and it was thanks to him that the park and gardens were enriched with new and precious essences.
It was always thanks to him that in 1819 a school was opened in the park to train professional gardeners to take care of the gardens of the imperial residences. The archduke commissioned the architect Giacomo Tazzini to renovate the villa. He worked in particular on the apartments reserved for the archduke’s sons and daughters, as well as on the floors, which were enriched with precious decorations, and on the bathrooms. Ranieri left Monza in 1848 and for a very short period of time Marshal Radetzky settled there.
In 1857 the new governor of Lombardy-Veneto arrived the archduke Maximilian of Habsburg who occupied it sporadically for only two years, definitively closing the Austro-Hungarian period of the Villa Reale.
The Kingdom of Italy
In 1868 the villa was donated by Vittorio Emanuele II to his son, the future Umberto I on the occasion of his marriage to Margherita di Savoia. The villa was a very welcome gift and was immediately used by the royal couple; after the death of King Vittorio, modernization works were undertaken which were commissioned by the architects Achille Majnoni d’Intignano and Luigi Tarantola.
At the disposal of the Villa, for the royal house and its guests, in 1882 the nearby Royal Station was built on the new Monza-Chiasso railway line (extension of the Milan-Monza line of 1840).
On 29 July 1900 Umberto I of Savoy was assassinated in Monza by Gaetano Bresci while attending a sports event organized by the sports club ” Forti e Liberi “. Following the mournful event, the new King, Vittorio Emanuele III, no longer wanted to use the Villa Reale, closing it and transferring most of the furnishings to the Quirinale.
In 1934 with Royal Decree Vittorio Emanuele III he donated a large part of the Villa to the Municipalities of Monza and Milan, associated. But he still kept the southern portion with the rooms of the apartment of his father, King Umberto I, always closed in his memory.
During the Italian Social Republic it was the seat of the command of the Republican National Guard.
The events of the immediate post – war period of the Second World War provoked occupations, further dispossession and decline of the monument.
With the advent of the Republic, the south wing became a patrimony and administered by the state. The rest of the Villa Reale is jointly administered by the Municipalities of Monza and the Lombardy Region.
The Royal Villa of Monza
After a long period of deterioration also due to the division of the administrations, in 2012 the restoration work began inside the villa, which involves the recovery and enhancement of the central body, the partial recovery of the north and south wings, the construction of the technical area outside the Villa on the north side and the recovery of the avant-garde courtyard of honor.
As regards the building structure, the consolidation of the walls of the ground floor, the restoration and consolidation of the vaults and the wooden floors, the execution of extraordinary maintenance works for the safety of the court and the restoration of the pavement were planned, of the gate and the south facade of the north area. In addition, the project involved the redevelopment of the Belvedere curated by the architect Michele De Lucchi and the restoration of the ground floor rooms.
At the end of the works, on 26 June 2014 the villa was inaugurated on 8 September 2014.
At the moment you can visit the royal apartments of Umberto I and Margherita di Savoia which still retain part of the furnishings, as well as the reception rooms and the other private apartments set up for the visit of the Emperor of Germany William II in 1889, for the Prince of Naples, future king Vittorio Emanuele III, and for the Duchess of Genoa, Elizabeth of Saxony, mother of Queen Margherita.
The Villa, the Royal Gardens and the Park are managed by a single Consortium (Consorzio Villa Reale and Monza Park), which includes the owners of the villa.
Decentralized offices of the Ministries
From 23 July 2011 it hosted the branch offices of four Ministries (Economy and Finance, Reforms, Simplification and Tourism inaugurated in the presence of ministers Giulio Tremonti, Umberto Bossi, Roberto Calderoli and Michela Vittoria Brambilla).
On October 19 of the same year, the court of Rome canceled the decrees establishing the peripheral offices of the ministries in Villa Reale for anti-union conduct, given that these offices had been established without involving the union organizations and / or without activating them in advance, as required by the law, prior information or consultation with trade unions . With the fall of the Berlusconi IV government, the branch offices in question were definitively suppressed by President Mario Monti.
Piermarini creates an exemplary building of neoclassical rationality adapted to the needs of a suburban reality. The three main bodies, arranged in a U shape, delimit a large courtyard of honor closed at the end by the two cubic volumes of the Chapel and of the Cavallerizza, from which the lower wings of the service buildings leave: this defines a space rational, consisting of the orderly arrangement of volumes which intersect orthogonally and which progressively develop in height. As in the Royal Palace of Caserta by Vanvitelli and even before in Versailles, in the Royal Villa of Monza a path is highlighted which, through a main avenue, connects the villa to the center of power.
The decoration of the facades, renouncing gables, colonnades and relief panels, is extremely rigorous, marking the surfaces with subtle gradations. The stylistic essentiality of the building is due not only to precise taste choices, but also to political reasons: the illuminated court of Vienna preferred to avoid an excessive display of wealth and power in an occupied country. The interiors also agree with the principle of rationality and simplicity that characterizes the entire project. In particular, their functionality is taken care of: the corridors, for example, are cut so as to serve independently various rooms used for different uses.
The internal decoration is entrusted to the main masters of the newly formed Accademia di Brera, founded by archducal will in 1776. In particular, the stuccos and decorations of the reception rooms are due to the Ticinese Giocondo Albertolli, the frescoes and paintings to Giuseppe Levati and Giuliano Traballesi, floors and furniture at Giuseppe Maggiolini’s workshop.
The complex of the Villa includes the Royal Chapel, the Cavallerizza, the Rotonda dell’Appiani, the Teatrino di Corte, the Orangerie. On the first noble floor are the boardrooms, the apartments of Umberto I and Queen Margherita. The front of the Villa facing east opens onto the English Gardens designed by Piermarini.
Royal Villa of Monza in 900 after the death of King Umberto I a few steps from the Villa, experienced a period of decline due to the continuous occupations, looting and degradation due to the total abandonment in which it was left. The general condition of the Villa on the threshold of the restoration works decided and started, finally, in 2012, was of considerable deterioration.
The planned interventions were aimed at the recovery and enhancement of the Central Body of the Villa Reale, the partial recovery of the north wing, the construction of the technical area outside the Villa on the north side, the safety of the entrance courtyard, the management for the entire duration of the concession, commercial areas, artisan workshops, bars, cafes, restaurants and flexible and multifunctional spaces; it involved both structural renovation and consolidation of the walls, renovation of the systems, and restoration work on the entire decorative structure, which includes stucco on the vaults, plaster on the walls, tapestries, boiseries and wooden floors. The restoration involved the decorative system desired by the Savoys who had replaced or overlapped.
The works relating to the building organization included all the consolidation and restoration works on the partitions to close the premises (vaults, wooden floors, etc.) in accordance with the approved project.
The entrance court was made safe through the construction of extraordinary maintenance works and the timely restoration of the pavement and gate, and interventions on the south facade of the north wing, which allowed the verification and restoration of the windows exteriors and shutters, limited to the portion of the north wing affected by the restoration works.
Lastly, due to the requirements of functional self-sufficiency, the project envisaged interventions to complete the staircase in the south wing, bordering the Central Body, and the implementation of those interventions necessary for the use of this staircase by the users of the Body. Central.
The main objective of the work was to integrate the ancient historical-artistic qualities of the central body of the villa with functionality that went to support the economic framework of the intervention.
In this sense, in parallel with the recovery of the historic rooms on the noble floors of the central body, the project envisaged the following interventions:
the redevelopment of the belvedere floor with the location of new uses;
the redevelopment of the ground floor rooms;
functional adjustments for a new use of the Villa.
The ground floor, originally intended for the most diverse uses: servants’ rooms, kitchens, engine rooms ect…, had been excluded from the initial decorative context and presents, instead, a series of graffiti dating back to the 1920s, when the rooms hosted some editions of the Biennial of applied art. The graffiti depicting animals and flowers have been cleaned up and brought to light thanks to the removal of various layers of plaster that have settled over the years.
On the First Noble Floor, works were carried out in the north part, with vaults, walls and floors. Furthermore, important consolidation works were carried out. To access the Second Noble Floor go up from the Staircase of Honor, also restored and restored to its former glory. The interventions concerned marble, marmorino and the stucco of the vault. They are carried out cleanings, consolidations, reconstructions of missing parts and colored glazes. The completely gray stuccos have been restored to their original colors.
Second Noble Floor
The Second Noble Floor is the one that has known the most conservative interventionssometimes boiserie, tapestries and wooden floors. The paino houses the apartments of the Prince of Naples, the Duchess of Genoa and the Emperors of Germany and one defined as a reserve. This division had been desired by the Savoys, who had given the spaces a more definitive form than in the previous Habsburg period. We started from the stucco vaults, where in agreement with the Superintendency, it was decided to restore the entire decorative apparatus desired by the Savoy. On the wooden floors we worked starting from a deep but delicate cleaning of the surface, followed by the gluing of all the detached panels one by one. The work on the tapestries required a very thorough historical and archival research that allowed to reproduce original colors.
The top floor of the Villa is occupied by the Belvedere, which offers a view of the park surrounding the Villa. It is a classic attic that once housed the servants’ apartments and the personal maids of the guests on the second floor. Here too, consolidation works were necessary: new floors in metal heating and cooling carpentry were built. It was necessary to build a staircase to access the floors below and insert a new lift, which was present since the end of the 19th century, but only reached the second floor.
Designed and built at the same time as the Rotonda, in 1790, by Piermarini, it is located in the southern left part of the side wing near the cottages, on the side of the kitchens. It measures 100 meters in length by 6 in width and 7 in height up to the horizontal beams of the trusses, and takes light from the east through 26 arched windows and an arched door through which you access the rose garden.
The body of the building, in plastered terracotta, was called orangery, citroneria, cedraja, citrus fruit, citrus greenhouse, lemon house, serrone, and contained exotic and rare plants. The roof has a single pitch with a slope towards the royal gardens and rests on a series of exposed wooden trusses. The original pavement has been replaced with natural terracotta.
The Serrone is connected to the Rotunda through a door; at the time of its construction Piermarini faced the problem by creating mechanical engineering mechanisms, through which he made the doors disappear and activated the water games inside and outside the building: an explicit will of the Archduke, who loved to amaze his guests.
Since 1985 the structure has been restored to become a museum for exhibitions and exhibitions relating to modern and contemporary art.
The Royal Villa Today
The object of the recent restoration is the central body of the Villa Reale, which is divided into the ground floor, first noble floor, second noble floor and Belvedere.
The Ground Floor
The visitor who arrives at the Villa Reale will find restaurant and cafeteria services, the bookshop, an educational workshop, as well as the ticket office and the cloakroom on the ground floor.
The Noble First Floor
On the first noble floor of Villa Reale there are the Representation Rooms of the royal family. Prominent is the ballroom, the only double height hall of the Villa, with decorations on the vaults and on the walls, imitation marble mirrors, rich chandeliers and Venetian seminato flooring.
In the south wing of the first noble floor there are also the Royal apartments of King Umberto I and Queen Margherita, where it is possible to observe the original furniture of the time.
In the queen’s living room, the crimson damask tapestry with floral motifs, and the four glass doors placed at the corners of the room (the sovereign must have had a total perception of who was present in her apartments). The vault houses golden decorations with Ruinian landscapes. A small front door connects directly to King Umberto I’s apartment.
The itinerary includes a visit to the private apartments of the sovereigns with the help of audio guides.
The Second Floor Plan
The private apartments of the guests and those of the sovereigns represent the most significant rooms of the second noble floor. These rooms are accessed from the grand staircase, a triumph of marble with two large bronze and gilded iron street lamps with the symbols of the Savoy house (the node and the motto Fert).
The visitor then has the opportunity to visit the apartment of the emperors of Germany, with the particularity of the floor with geometric shapes mirroring those of the ceiling; the apartment of the prince of Naples, with its wooden wardrobe crowned with carved vases and floral wreaths which represents the only fixed furnishings for the apartments on the second floor; the apartment of the Duchess of Genoa, in which the vaulted portion of Piermarini stands out with the opening of the “fireplace of light” which allowed light to enter from the Belvedere floor.
The private apartments of the sovereigns, on the other hand, are the result, in its current guise, of the intervention carried out at the end of the 19th century by the court architect Achille Majnoni d’Intignano, who adapted to the taste of the time all the rooms located on the right of the central hall, always intended for this function. The apartment of Umberto I includes the hall, the study, the bedroom, the bathroom, the wardrobe and the armory. In the apartment of Queen Margherita the living room, the bedroom, the toilet, the wardrobe must be mentioned.
The visit ends on the top floor, with an exciting view of the magnificent park, hence the name of Belvedere. To note the servants’ apartments, with its low ceilings and simple rooms, intended for the servants who looked after the guests.
The Villa was built by the will of Empress Maria Theresa of Austria between 1777 and 1780 as a summer residence for her son Ferdinand of Habsburg, governor general of Austrian Lombardy.
The site, located at the foot of the Brianza hills, was also chosen for its beauty, for its proximity to Monza and for its strategically important position along the Milan-Vienna route. The lavish investment planned for its construction – 70,000 sequins and another 35,000 for the park – meant that the country house wanted by the governor was replaced by a real palace.
The architect Piermarini designed a “U” building, in neoclassical style, according to the sober typological tradition of the Lombard villa, but inspired by the pomp and grandeur of the Caserta palace, whose construction he had participated as a pupil of Vanvitelli. To the central body of representation were added two lateral wings for the master and guest rooms, and two other sections perpendicular to the main part, intended for servants, stables and tools, for a total of almost seven hundred rooms.
1900 for the Villa RealeMonza is the century in which its growing abandonment begins, the cause of the decay in which much of the heritage nowadays. In addition to the improper and degrading use of the spaces of the Villa during the two world wars, the twentieth century was also a time for different installations and artistic exhibitions which in various ways contributed to damage many parts of the Royal Palace.
For example, the first edition of the International Exhibition of Decorative Arts, promoted in 1923 by the Milan-Monza-Humanitarian Consortium, took place in the Villa Reale, as well as the subsequent ones of 1925 and 1927. The 43 editions of the International Furniture Exhibition that have found accommodation right in the royal residence of Monza – definitively removed only in 1990 – weighed particularly on the first floor and the noble one. During these years also much of the precious furniture and furnishings have been moved or transferred elsewhere.
The end of the nineties saw some important steps for the recovery of the Villa: in 1996 the free transfer of a large part of the compendium to the Municipalities of Milan and Monza took place and with the simultaneous maintenance of the avant-corps in the state property – once used as a horsewoman – the south wing and the Queen’s apartment. These are the years in which the recovery project of some of the main buildings in Milan such as Palazzo Reale and Villa Reale and of the Royal Palace of Monza begins.
The rose garden
The building intended for greenhouses for the service of the gardens of the Villa, named Orangerie in the original Piermarinian project and today commonly known as the Serrone, was built in 1790. Wanted by Archduke Ferdinand of Habsburg-Este on the occasion of the twentieth wedding anniversary with Maria Beatrice Ricciarda d’Este, it was designed on the model of the Orangery of the Schönbrunn Palace. Located on the north side of the villa it was connected to this through a corridor called “Passage of the ladies”. A small circular area, now called the Rotonda dell’Appiani, led to the large greenhouse.
The environment, imposing for its size, is exposed and receives light from the south by a long series of windows. In it, in addition to the winter shelter of the most delicate plants and in general of the exotic plants, in the Hapsburg age it was also used to hold various shows for the Court.
In the second half of the twentieth century, a vast rose garden was planted right in front of the Serrone where a floral competition is organized annually in May, organized by the Italian Rose Association. After the restorations that took place, the building is now used for temporary art exhibitions.
It is located in the left side wing of the Villa Reale, and consists of a series of rooms that occupy the whole part of the lowered wing that goes from the chapel to the corner that connects the building to the Serrone.
It is a real court theater, small (only 120 seats) with a wooden stage, slightly inclined towards the spectators, and a backdrop with a mythological subject created by Appiani. The ceiling of the stalls is entirely frescoed with floral motifs, musical instruments and brightly colored masks, while the ceiling of the stage has a painted terracotta vault. Two large frescoed pillars delimit the proscenium and end with an arch inside which are inserted five square rosettes and four rectangular rosettes, painted with contrasting colors.
On the opposite side of the stage are the Royal box and the balcony. The walls and the Royal box are entirely frescoed with neoclassical motifs. The upper part of the end band of the walls is decorated with indentations, ova and sheets.
Ancient documents testify that the theater was connected to the Rotonda by means of a very long corridor above, which followed the corner of the subordinate wing of the kitchens to the north and east until it met the mezzanine in the northern Capuchin wing. The theater was designed in 1806 by the Lugano architect Luigi Canonica, Piermarini’s favorite pupil.
The first news article documenting the theater performances made by the Compagnia del Teatro Carcano in Milan is dated August 3, 1808.
It is a real church, round with a Greek cross, inserted in a square-shaped external perimeter, and dedicated to the Immaculate Conception. Piermarini arranged the location of the chapel outside the Villa, at the junction point between the left wing of the central body and the development of the low wings towards the north.
A ribbed vault reinforced by four ribs that converge in a central oculus devoid of lantern shows this architect’s studies on the stability of the domed roofs.
The interior of the church is very scenic and full of stuccos, friezes and rose windows attributed to Albertolli. A series of Corinthian columns and pilasters mark the altars and niches. The main altar, above which there is an altarpiece depicting the immaculate Virgin, is inserted in a small temple formed by Corinthian columns surmounted by a tympanum forged from ovoli and strips. The niches are occupied by statues of saints.
Like all chapels of some importance also in the Royal chapel it is present an organ, although invisible.
Built in 1790 by Piermarini after 13 years from the realization of the initial project of the Villa Reale, the Rotonda is the only architectural element of circular shape in this rigidly linear and square structure. Piermarini conceived it as a kind of scenic annex where the Archduke could entertain guests and amaze them, showing doors that disappeared or fountains that gushed to the sound of music or revolving fireplaces operated by mechanical engineering mechanisms, also making everyone appreciate the fabulous plants exotic made from all over the world. Also in this part of the Villa Piermarini the ancient classical architectural language and that of the late Italian Renaissance did not leave out.
Inside, the Rotonda is characterized by arches marked by pilasters; the base and the cornice are banded. Of the four large doors, one is mirrored, to hide a secret passageway between the Rotonda and the Villa.
The floor is in white Carrara marble; the vaulted ceiling has a central medallion and four sails at the doors. The Rotonda was built in 1791, on the occasion of the twenty-year wedding of the Archdukes of Habsburg, and frescoed by Andrea Appiani, who addressed the mythological theme of Cupid and Psyche.
On the second floor there are the private apartments of the guests: the apartment of the Duchess of Genoa (mother of Queen Margherita), the apartments of the Prince of Naples (Vittorio Emanuele III son of Queen Margherita and King Umberto I) and the apartments of the Emperors of Germany; these rooms represent the most significant rooms on the second floor, of considerable historical and artistic importance.
All the apartments are rich in decorations and precious inlays, each room is finely decorated according to the taste of the royalty, especially the apartments of the Emperors of Germany suggest the magnificence and grandeur with which the Savoy royalty loved to welcome their illustrious guests.
These rooms are accessed from the grand staircase, a triumph of marble with two large bronze and gilded iron street lamps with the symbols of the Savoy house (the node and the motto Fert).
At this point, the visitor has access to the apartment of the emperors of Germany, with the particularity of the floor with geometric shapes mirroring those of the ceiling; the apartment of the Prince of Naples, with its wooden wardrobe crowned with carved vases and floral wreaths, the folding bed of the Prince of Naples’ valet, still visible in the periods in which the setting up of the exhibitions allows it; the apartment of the Duchess of Genoa, in which the vaulted portion of Piermarini stands out with the opening of the “fireplace of light” which allowed light to enter from the Belvedere floor, the wooden wall from which, it is said, the Duchess eavesdropping on the speeches of the ladies of companionship, and the apartments of the emperors of Germany with the singularity of the ceiling mirrored to the floor.
In a long exit corridor on the ground floor, the Library of the Royal Villa awaits you with books, guides and high-quality merchandising.
You will find a wide range of products dedicated to the current exhibitions, but also a careful selection of works by Italian and international publishers and the thematic characteristics of the Villa and its history. In addition to the catalogs of the organized temporary exhibitions.