The origins of the name of the Valentino Castle, bought by Emmanuel Philibert in 1564, after his official arrival in Piemonte, following the Cateau-Cambrésis Treaty and the transfer of the Savoy capital to Turin, refer to the geomorphological nature of the land, already named “Vallantinum”, not flat and even, but marked by the presence of a natural valley with watercourse, called “bealera del Valentino”, which still flows underground.
At first, the riverside residence, with main access from the river, was involved in embellishment works. These works were mainly aimed to modify the interior of the building, not particularly large and consisting in a simple wing parallel to the Po with four floors, enclosed at the sides by a tower with a stairwell to the south and a projecting frontal section to the north.
It was Christine of France, wife of Victor Amadeus I and after his husband’s death first Madama Reale, who promoted the conversion of the building (in XVII century) into maison de plaisance according to the French model, opened up in a wider local context, extended form the City to the hills, where the Duchess’ vineyard, today Abegg Villa, was constructed.
In conformity with the French pavillon-système, the architects Carlo and Amedeo di Castellamonte conceived the construction of an impressive building by doubling the existing architectural structure, enclosed by a pavilion roof and flanked by two tall, slender, lateral towers which are connected with terraced porticoes to two new pavilion roofs, towards Turin and linked by a semicircular exedra. The forepart extending toward the Po can be identified as the symmetrical focus of the whole building. The creation of a broad, double staircase on the city side going up to the loggia which leads directly into the Salone d’onore also gave greater importance to the central section.
At the noble floor, the Salone d’onore is the center of a symmetrical plan designed by two identical apartments, towards Turin and towards Moncalieri, in which famous painters and stucco workers coming from the Lake region (now between Lombardy and Canton Ticino)worked . The fresco in the large panel in the center of the ceiling shows the main theme, evoked in the border at the top of the wall. The stories were chosen by Filippo of San Martino d’Agliè, scholar of Cristina’s Court and by Emanuele Tesauro, author of several publications in rhetorics and the history of the Savoy royal family. In the northern apartment, built for the Duchess, worked Isidoro Bianchi (from Campione) and his partners; in the southern apartment, designed for Carlo Emanuele, a symbolic narration teaches the young crown prince the art of ruling.
At the beginning of the XIX century, no longer used as ducal residence, the building housed the Scuola di Veterinaria (Veterinary Medicine School) and then it was employed as military barracks until it was ceded by the Crown to the State ownership in 1850.
In the middle of the century, on the left side of the Po a large city park was created, whose project was presented on the occasion of the Sesta Esposizione Nazionale dei prodotti di industria (Sixth National Exposition of Industrial Products) by the Finance Minister Camillo Benso Conte di Cavour at the Valentino Castle, restored on the basis of the Luigi Tonta and Domenico Ferri’s project. Conforming to the Eclettism culture spread in that period, through a historicist language, the terraces linking the two towers were replaced by two big galleries. The XIX century works adjusted some stuccoes and paintings of the rooms too and, above all, changed completely the main frontage towards Turin, by marking the change from the idea of palace to the XIX century idea of “castle”.
In 1859, the so-called Casati Law marked the rearrangement of the Italian educational programs at different level (primary, secondary, higher education) and in Turin it symbolized the official opening of the Regia Scuola di applicazione per gli ingegneri (Royal School of Application for Engineers), at the beginning of the Sixties at theValentino Castle.
After many subsequent expansion and restoration works, the Castle began to be used as university seat, place where research and specific studies can be carried out. It also represented a center of scientific and technological experimentations which led to the best choices for the safeguard and preservation of cultural heritage.