Royal Villa and its garden

Monza's Villa Reale was built between 1777 and 1780 by the Royal Imperial architect Giuseppe Piermarini, commissioned by Archduke Ferdinand of Hapsburg, Governor General of Austrian Lombardy, and thanks to the considerable contribution (seventy thousand zecchins) handed out by his mother, the Empress Marie Therese of Austria. For the Hapsburg family (Ferdinand, Rainier) the villa was the archducal residence, for the French it was the seat of the Viceroys (Eugene de Beauharnais) and finally it became a royal home (Vittorio Emanuele II, Umberto I). The U-shaped layout applied to the villa in Monza is attributable to the typical plan of 17'" century Lombard villas; the central body raises to only two floors and has two side wing of the same height that end with two lower cubic foreparts -on the left the Court Chapel and on the right the Manege - which thus form the court of honor. An ample semicircular "forecourt" and another two buildings flanking the "U" block were used for amenities, and confer the complex with a solemn monumentality. The main block consists of two floors and the fa~de has a horizontal tendency, cadenced by two orders of windows, interrupted centrally by the volume of the staircase that emphasizes the building's main nucleus, which terminates with an upper floor belvedee. Only the main block, the perspective backdrop and symbol of political power, deserved the application of classical orders; in fact, it was here that the archducal apartments were located, together with guest reception and entertainment rooms. The two wings, on the other hand, were used to house visitors and servants: the former on the main floor and the latter in the upper mezzanines. The rustic parts were organized as stables, carriage-houses and kitchens -where subsequently the Court Theatre was located, built in the early 19'" century by Luigi Canonica -the glass- houses, called the Serrone and the rotunda or Rotonda delle Serre. The interiors of the villa's main block are all set out around a square module and appear, overall, quite uniform, with the exception of the octagonal atrium where the influence of Vanvitelli is evident. The atrium actually constitutes the vestibule to the great ballroom, with its double height and the fulcrum of the views towards Milan and the gardens. Most interesting inside are the royal apartments of Umberto and Margherita, located in the south wing on the first main floor, and the chapel, a lovely elaboration by Piermarini with a central plan. The tiny church is dedicated to the Immaculate Mary and it is without doubt the most richly decorated of the Villa's ambients, even though there is no lack of stucco design, wooden carving, furniture and fittings contributed by the genius of Giocondo Albertolli, Alessandro Sanquirico, Giuliano Traballesi .  

As far as pictorial art is concerned, the Rotonda is worthy of mention for its cycle of frescoes by Andrea Appiani, dedicated to the fable of Love and Psyche, mediated by Apuleio's- Golden Donkey. The Villa has its own annexed Gardens, the first in Italy to be conceived along the lines of the typical "English Garden", with rich and rare floral essences, groups of trees alternating with stretches of lawns, grottoes, water that flows sinuously into small cascades and pools, a small Doric temple reflected by the waters of a I lake, an artificial hill ; overrun with paths, and the Neo-Gothic Visconti tower.

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