The medieval town of Varzi is home to a castle built by the Malaspina family in 1164 after inheriting from Frederick Barbarossa the territory from the Rivanazzano Hills to Oramala. The structure is currently owned by the Counts of Odetti di Marcorengo, who in 1983 embarked on a redevelopment process that ended only three years ago, in order to give this gem of architecture back to the community, opening it up to the public.
Today, the castle welcomes guests for events, weddings and local culture initiatives. Its surroundings introduce visitors to renewed splendor: what used to be a vegetable garden is now the wonderful “Garden of the Contessa” and “Limonaia”. The stables have been transformed into “Antique Mangers” that maintain an original arch and stone floors, while the main dining room was created in the old barn. Renovation also extended to the 13th-century ”Antique Ice House” and the cellars, which were used to keep typical local food like wines and cured meat. Once a symbol of the economic and commercial wealth of Varzi, the castle now showcases the gastronomic treasures of the area, including prestigious wines, almond cake, mushrooms and DOP Varzi Salami.
All between folk legends and famous stories, like the one about the castle’s tower, known as “Tower of the Witches”. Some say that during the Inquisition, twenty-five women and a handful of men were imprisoned between the 170-centimeter-thick walls of the tower, accused of witchcraft and later burned at the stake in the square right next to the building.References:
Royal Palace of Naples was one of the four residences near Naples used by the Bourbon Kings during their rule of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies (1734-1860): the others were the palaces of Caserta, Capodimonte overlooking Naples, and the third Portici, on the slopes of Vesuvius.
Construction on the present building was begun in the 17th century by the architect Domenico Fontana. Intended to house the King Philip III of Spain on a visit never fulfilled to this part of his kingdom, instead it initially housed the Viceroy Fernando Ruiz de Castro, count of Lemos. By 1616, the facade had been completed, and by 1620, the interior was frescoed by Battistello Caracciolo, Giovanni Balducci, and Belisario Corenzio. The decoration of the Royal Chapel of Assumption was not completed until 1644 by Antonio Picchiatti.
In 1734, with the arrival of Charles III of Spain to Naples, the palace became the royal residence of the Bourbons. On the occasion of his marriage to Maria Amalia of Saxony in 1738, Francesco De Mura and Domenico Antonio Vaccaro helped remodel the interior. Further modernization took place under Ferdinand I of the Two Sicilies. In 1768, on the occasion of his marriage to Maria Carolina of Austria, under the direction of Ferdinando Fuga, the great hall was rebuilt and the court theater added. During the second half of the 18th century, a 'new wing' was added, which in 1927 became the Vittorio Emanuele III National Library. By the 18th century, the royal residence was moved to Reggia of Caserta, as that inland town was more defensible from naval assault, as well as more distant from the often-rebellious populace of Naples.
During the Napoleonic occupation the palace was enriched by Joachim Murat and his wife, Caroline Bonaparte, with Neoclassic decorations and furnishings. However, a fire in 1837 damaged many rooms, and required restoration from 1838 to 1858 under the direction of Gaetano Genovese. Further additions of a Party Wing and a Belvedere were made in this period. At the corner of the palace with San Carlo Theatre, a new facade was created that obscured the viceroyal palace of Pedro de Toledo.
In 1922, it was decided to transfer here the contents of the National Library. The transfer of library collections was made by 1925.
The library suffered from bombing during World War II and the subsequent military occupation of the building caused serious damage. Today, the palace and adjacent grounds house the famous Teatro San Carlo, the smaller Teatrino di Corte (recently restored), the Biblioteca Nazionale Vittorio Emanuele III, a museum, and offices, including those of the regional tourist board.