A Baroque design for the first Italian Parliament

Palazzo Carignano, one of the most original buildings of the Turin Baroque period, stands out for its curvilinear terracotta façade and its atrium with double staircases. In 1679, Prince Emanuele Filiberto commissioned the construction the Palazzo to Guarino Guarini, who took inspiration from Bernini’s designs for the Louvre.

During the 19th century, a second building was added to house the Italian Parliament, with a new façade overlooking the current Piazza Carlo Alberto. With its current quadrangular structure, Palazzo Carignano is a symbol of the history of the House of Savoy and of the Italian Risorgimento. Carlo Alberto and Vittorio Emanuele II were born in the Palazzo, which was also the seat of the Subalpine Parliament and the first Italian Parliament.

On the ground floor there are the elegant apartments of the Princes of Carignano, decorated with beautiful Baroque panelling. Since 1938, the rooms on the piano nobile (the main floor) have housed the National Museum of the Risorgimento.

One of Europe’s most important Baroque residences is open to visitors and lies just a stone’s throw from Piazza Castello. Its name is Palazzo Carignano and it is a veritable trove of artistic treasures, memories of the Savoy dynasty and the Italian Risorgimento.
Its history began in 1679 when, following the death of Duke Carlo Emanuele II, in the uncertainty over his succession, his cousin Emanuele Filiberto Savoia-Carignano decided to erect a building to celebrate the greatness of the lineage, as if to propose an alternative to the Royal Palace. The architect Guarino Guarini was called upon to design a project that would forever shape the image of the Piedmont Baroque style. The fulcrum of the palace, which originally featured a C-shaped floor plan open towards the gardens and stables, in what is now Piazza Carlo Alberto, is the oval atrium, from which the ceremonial route runs through the two lateral wings. Around the atrium are two symmetrical staircases leading to an elliptical hall that was once covered with a dramatic double ceiling. The curved development of the interior architecture is reflected in the undulating façade, inspired by Gian Lorenzo Bernini’s design for the Louvre in Paris. The apartments became an international inspiration for interior decoration in the last decade of the 17th century. Stefano Maria Legnani from Milan was entrusted with the painting of the ceilings, which were frescoed with mythological scenes celebrating the figure of the prince; Pietro Antonio Garoe and Pietro Somasso provided the stucco decorations, ahead of the forms of the French Rococo; Giovanni Luigi Bosso adorned the rooms of the south wing with carvings and mirrors, and these were subsequently known as the “gilded” rooms.
As remembered by two commemorative plaques, Carlo Alberto and his son Vittorio Emanuele II were both born in Palazzo Carignano. The accession of the former to the throne (1831) and his subsequent move to the Royal Palace marked the start of a new chapter in the palace’s history. Assigned to the State and stripped of its furnishings, which were transferred to the Royal Palace, Racconigi Castle and Pollenzo, in 1848 it became the seat of the Subalpine Parliament, set up in the old elliptical hall. With the Unification of Italy, these premises became too small, so the decision was made to double the size of the building, extending it to its current quadrangular shape, with a new façade overlooking Piazza Carlo Alberto. While waiting for the work to be completed, a temporary parliamentary chamber was built in the central courtyard: it was there that, on 17 March 1861, Vittorio Emanuele II promulgated the legislative act that sanctioned the birth of the Kingdom of Italy. In 1865, the capital relocated to Florence and the parliamentary chamber designed as part of the 19th century extension was never used. From then on, the palace became the seat of various cultural institutions: the ground floor houses the elegant Apartments of the Princes of Carignano. The rooms on the piano nobile have housed the National Museum of the Italian Risorgimento since 1938.
Via Accademia delle Scienze, 5 – Torino
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