Dominating Turin’s Piazza Castello and with the appearance of two buildings uneasily glued together, Palazzo Madama began life as a fortified castle and has a medieval façade looking eastwards that was built by ruling house of Savoy in the 14th century. The later, ornate Baroque addition faces west and was added by the famous architect Filippo Juvarra in the early 18th century at the request of Marie Jeanne of Savoy, who gave her nickname to the palace. Juvarra was appointed court architect by the Savoy dynasty and went on to design much of Turin’s glamorous arcaded face lift in the 1860s. Palazzo Madama also reveals a Roman gate and foundations, medieval towers and a series of courtyards and apartments constructed in Renaissance times.
Today, the building houses the Civic Museum of Ancient Art (Museo Civico di Arte Antica), a sprawling and roughly chronological collection that leads over four floors, starting off with a small Roman collection in the basement and running on through medieval stonework to Renaissance art in the ornate Baroque galleries on the first and second floors. On the top floor there is one of Italy's largest collections of decorative arts to discover, with examples of precious Meissen porcelain, Delftware and fine embroidered textiles. However, quite the most spectacular artwork on display here is Antonello da Messina’s glorious Portrait of a Man, painted around 1475 and hidden away in the Treasure Tower at the back of the building.
Located in Piazza Castello, Palazzo Madama is open Tuesday through Saturday from 10am to 6pm and on Sunday from 9am to 7pm. Admission costs €10 for adults, €8 for seniors and students, and is free for those under 18. Much of Turin’s Baroque heart is pedestrianized, and it is easy to walk to all the main sights. Alternatively, take trams 4, 13, 15 or 18 to Piazza Castello.