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If you have visited northern Italy’s tiny Aosta region, then you already know that it actually resembles Switzerland and France more than it does Italy. Aside from the endless amount of outdoor experiences available in this natural paradise, there is also a lot of culture for visitors to enjoy. One of the most popular destinations is the Savoy Castle in Gressoney-Saint-Jean in the Lys Valley (also known as the Gressoney Valley).
The castle was the summer residence of Queen Margaret of Savoy (also spelled Margherita) and she definitely chose this location wisely. With views of Mount Rosa (at 4,600 meters and the second tallest in the Alps after Mont Blanc) and the stunning Lys Valley, the castle sits at the foot of Ranzola Hill. Building began at the turn of the century, so although it looks like something out of a medieval fairy tale, it is actually just over one hundred years old.
Architect Emilio Stramucci, who was also responsible for part of Turin’s Royal Palace and the Quirinale in Rome, designed the Savoy Castle in what is known as “Fifteenth Century Lombard”. The grey stone was mined from nearby quarries.
The castle is composed of three floors, although the second floor is closed to visitors. There are also magnificent botanical gardens, a cellar, and a guest house. Upon entering the ground floor, visitors will be greeted with coffered ceilings and a large hall with columns. There is also a luxurious dining room with lavishly decorated walls.
A grand double helix staircase with exquisite carvings leads to the queen’s apartment. Notice the incredible detail including the Savoy coat of arms on the winged lions’ chests. The staircase was carved from choice Durmast oak and designed by Michele Dellera, who also designed parts of the Royal Palace in Turin.
Queen Margaret’s quarters obviously enjoyed the very best view of the entire castle and included panoramas of the entire Lys Valley and Mount Rosa, snowcapped the entire year.
The kitchen wasn’t located in the main castle but instead, connected by an underground passageway with a railroad system that would deliver food to the castle.
Less than ten years ago, the castle’s botanical gardens were completely redone allowing access to all guests. The native Alpine species are both local and also imported from other European Alpine regions. A rose hybrid was created in 1904 and named Reine Marguerite d’Italie.
Savoy Castle is open year-round with various hours and special closures. For exact hours and ticket information, visit the official website.
For a more complete guide to Gressoney-Saint-Jean, read our article Issime in Aosta Valley’s Valle di Gressoney
Photo credits: (cover) Kabu96, CC BY-SA 4.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0, via Wikimedia Commons; (castle in snow) MAGDALONG, CC BY-SA 4.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0, via Wikimedia Commons