Villa Reale

The History of the Villa Reale

The imperial architect, Giuseppe Piermarini, was appointed to construct the Villa in 1777. It was completed in only three years and was used by the Archduke as a country residence until the arrival of the Napoleonic army in 1796. The Villa was part of a wider reform project, conceived by Ferdinand. This was aimed partly towards political-administrative matters, but also involved a reuse of many spaces. The hub of the new set-up was to be the creation of a “system of Royal Residences”. Monza was chosen as a royal summer residence on account of its closeness to the capital city and the particular nature of the terrain, characterized by ancient fluvial terraces and a wealth of fine vegetation.

With the coronation of Napoleon in 1805, the Villa became the residence of his stepson Eugène de Beauharnais. The fall of Napoleon delivered the Villa back into Austrian hands. For several years, however, the Austrians left it in a relatively abandoned state, until the Viceroy of Lombardy-Veneto, Giuseppe Ranieri, took possession of it in 1818. The Villa was occupied by Radetzky’s troops in 1848 but became once again a lavish court from 1857 to 1859, during the brief stay in Monza of Maximilian I of Hapsburg, the last representative of the Austrian imperial family and the brother of Franz Joseph. When Lombardy-Veneto was annexed to the State of Piedmont, the history of the Villa became inevitably linked to the destiny of the House of Savoia. It was a favourite residence of Umberto I and thus resumed its original role of summer residence. The sovereign commissioned the architect Majnoni to decorate, restore and improve it according to the taste of the time. During those years, therefore, many parts of the Villa were radically transformed. In 1900, Umberto was assassinated at Monza by Gaetano Bresci. As a consequence of this violent event, the new King, Vittorio Emanuele III, preferred not to use the Villa. He ordered its closure and transferred most of the furnishings to the Quirinale.

In 2003, work began on a conservative restoration of the nine reception rooms on the first piano nobile. These concluded in 2007 with an extraordinary opening to the public. On 30th July 2008, a strategic agreement was signed covering Villa Reale and the Parco di Monza. The agreement involved the restoration and subsequent improved use for cultural purposes of the Villa and Park. The plan was to dedicate the entire historical complex to cultural purposes and institutional representation, with a view to the events accompanying Expo 2015. The conclusion of the restoration work was celebrated with a public ceremony on 26 June 2014.