Chinese building, royal residence of the Bourbons

Palermo, a beautiful Sicilian capital, is a riot of architectural styles also very different from each other, expression of the various peoples who inhabited its territory in the millennia that make up its history.

Among the most interesting buildings stands the Chinese building, also known as Real Casina Cinese: it is a beautiful villa that, as a main feature, has a style inspired by Asian art. 

Brief history of the Chinese Palace

The origins of the Palazzina Cinese date back to 1799, when Don Giuseppe Riggio, Prince of Aci, requested the concession of the casina dei Lombardo, baroni della Scala, at the request of King Ferdinando, and then give the architect Giuseppe Venanzio Marvuglia the mandate to evaluate the structure to establish the annual list. 

Since the house, which had immediately enchanted the royalty, was not perfectly suited to become a royal residence, King Ferdinand ordered a renovation that, however, should have left unchanged the exotic character and the oriental style. 

The works were entrusted to the same architect who, in a short time, was able to create one of the most original and prestigious buildings that can still be admired in Sicily. 

The exterior of the Chinese Palace

The initial structure, entirely made in oriental style, had a masonry facade with wooden balconies in two orders, painted railings and pavilion roofs. The subsequent embellishment works served only to make the building even more beautiful and, above all, prestigious.

Specifically, the roofs were modified, replacing the side roofs with two symmetrical terraces, and in the central part was erected the so-called Observatory (or Room of the Winds)that is a building with a pavilion roof on an octagonal base surmounted by a pinnacle with a double inverted calyx. 

The north and south façades, however, were enriched with a portico supported by six marble columns placed in a semicircle and covered by a pagoda roof. Two turrets were attached to the flanks of the Chinese Palace. 

Currently, the building is a mix between the original oriental style and neoclassical decorations, typical expression of the nineteenth century. In addition, some yellow, red and grey decorations give the facade of the house an original and extraordinary look. 

The interior of the Chinese Palace

Inside, the house consists of five levels: in the basement there is the large ballroom, several hallways, the bathroom of King Ferdinand, the buffet room called “Sala delle Codine” and the room that houses “the mathematical table” designed by architect Marvuglia. 

On the mezzanine floor, then, there is the representative hall, also known as “Sala delle Udienze”, in full Asian style, surrounded by the private rooms of the king. On the first floor, instead, you will find the lodgings of knights and dames and mezzanines for service staff.

Continuing on to the second floor you will find the most interesting rooms, such as the rooms of Queen Maria Carolina composed of the “Turkish living room”, the “Herculaneum room” in empire style and the bedroom equipped with the beautiful bathroom called “cabinet of stones”.  Finally, on the top floor is the aforementioned “Room of the Winds”, initially intended as an observatory.

Foto : Buona Luna

The pictorial decorations and furnishings

The most fascinating aspect of the interior of the Palazzina Cinese concerns the decorations, entirely marked by the exotic taste that ranges from the Chinese to the Turkish style, passing also between the Pompeian and neoclassical. 

Most of the decorations are the result of the work of the most important painters of Palermo and the main Neapolitan artists of the time, such as Giuseppe Velasco, Elia Interguglielmi, Vincenzo Riolo, Rosario Silvestri, Raimondo Gioia, Giuseppe Patania and Benedetto Cotardi. 

Even the interiors of the Chinese Real Casina have undergone several renovations over time from both a structural and decorative point of view. The last restorations were completed in 2008 and have allowed to recover not only refined architectural elements, but also and above all splendid decorative elements, furniture and numerous artifacts that gave prestige to the ancient royal residence. 

The garden of the Chinese Palace

At the back of the Palazzina Cinese there is a lovely Italian garden, extremely nice and full of hedges placed in order to form labyrinths. Inside you can admire fountains and old trees. 

Finally, where once were the kitchens and stables of the residence, now you can visit the Pitrè Ethnographic Museum: founded in 1909 by Professor Giuseppe Pitrè, from which it takes its name, is entirely dedicated to the arts and popular traditions of Sicily.

For all those who love history, art and architecture, the Palazzina Cinese in Palermo is definitely one of the buildings to visit; and for the occasion, it is recommended to take a tour through the streets of the Sicilian capital, to discover its beautiful beaches, of its mysterious hinterland and, above all, of the typical dishes renowned and known all over the world. 

Copertina: Buona Luna

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