Giardini della Margarita

Region: Piemonte e Valle d'Aosta

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This 17th-century Palazzo belonging to the Solaro Counts was built in the centre of Margarita near Cuneo in the Piedmont region by the first count, Antonio Solaro, after he received the fiefdom from the Princes of Savoy Carignano, with whom he was a close associate. Since that time, the Castello has always belonged to the same owners, undergoing very few modifications and passing, after the extinction of the Solaro lineage, to their heirs, the Marchesi Lovera di Maria family.

The original central core of the building consisted of a couple of rooms used as a hunting lodge, with an adjoining icehouse, and was owned by the Sandri Trotti di Mombasiglio Counts. It was then acquired by Antonio Solaro, the first Count of Margarita, in 1646, at the suggestion of Prince Tommaso and Cardinal Maurizio of Savoy. The Castle was extended and finalised in 1680 by Antonio and his son, Giuseppe Maria, an artillery lieutenant during the siege of Turin. It took the form of a double horseshoe, one part with a more simple, rustic design, and the other more representative and ornate. Later, the interiors were entirely frescoed, and the focus transitioned to the design phase of the gardens.

The land around Margarita was notoriously marshy, rich in springs and sources, and while on the one hand this meant that the terrain required draining, on a more positive note the numerous waterways could also be exploited for the creation of fountains, nymphaea and fishponds.

Giuseppe Maria commissioned the project of designing the garden to his brother-in-law Bartolomeo Giuseppe Antonio Amico, the Count of Castell’Alfero and a pupil of Le Nôtre, the famous architect of the gardens at Versailles. The project was later taken up and realised in the 18th century by Count Baldassarre Piossasco di Rivalba. Illustrated in 22 oil-painted plates, it envisaged the large parterres surrounded by boxwood hedges, long trellis-covered ‘treillage’ porticos in hornbeam accompanying the three alleys on the side projections and on the central gate of the Castle, the ‘poissonnerie’ or fishpond, as well as various fountains, water features, statues and a grandiose 'teatro di verzura', or verdant space resembling a natural theatre, with a stage and side balconies made of hornbeam hedges. Great importance was given to the orchard, meticulously described by Piossasco, as he was not only a landscape architect but also an expert in all things botanical.

The residence has a very simple double horseshoe structure, designed by Architect Tosetti, who also created Villa della Regina in Turin. Both the house and the garden have undergone modifications over the centuries, following the fashions of the time, but never losing their original character. In the early 1800s, the Castle was used by Napoleon's army as a barracks, and traces can still be seen in one of the rooms where the Napoleonic soldiers indicated their regiment and the period of their stay. During that time, Clemente Solaro, future foreign minister to Carlo Alberto of Savoy, was forced as a child to escape with his mother and siblings through a secret passageway he later described in his letters. Apart from that brief period, the home has always remained in the hands of the Solaro family and their direct descendants.

With regard to the interiors, the frescoes display several different themes that range from hunting and naturalistic representations in the small reception rooms to mythology in the large halls.

What makes this historical residence unique is that both the Villa and the garden are perfectly integrated into the town, which had already been built around the year 1000. The exterior façade gives absolutely no indication of the garden of approximately 30,000 square metres to be found within.

The small courtyard in front of the main entrance still bears the signs of the old road that used to pass right in front of it until the 1800s, which is now used as a small internal car park.

In reality, the garden can be considered a collection of very different environments, almost like an open-air dwelling, with varying sounds of water accompanying the visitor throughout their itinerary. Walking through it, you move from more formal ambiences, where geometric designs reign supreme, to lofty settings such as the ‘teatro di verzura’, and then into more intimate areas like the secret garden and the decorative chapel made of foliage, or romantic ones such as the riverside walk, and even wilder sections like the English garden.

As in every household, the garden features prominent individuals: the centuries-old trees appear to be silent observers of the changes wrought over the centuries in this cocooned environment.

A visit of the garden consists of a walking tour on two levels, including a higher part and a lower part created at certain points by wall buttresses and in others by descents into the forest, offering visitors a journey through different emotions as they explore the garden's diverse areas, all meticulously planned and executed.

We are open by appointment for guided tours for groups, with a minimum of 4 participants, and we are available to host cultural events, film productions and photoshoots.

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