Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Cozy Houses

Royal Palace in Torino
"I like cozy, intimate houses."
~ Tori Amos

"What in the name of heaven," I asked Mike yesterday as we toured some royal palace in Torino yesterday, "did the royalty do with all of these rooms?"

"Beats me," he said. "It's quite excessive, isn't it?" Excessive is an understatement, if you ask me.

Let me tell you a couple of things we learned while doing a marathon tour of museums (formerly palaces) yesterday:

1) Cristina of France decided to build a church to St. Cristina. Right next to it across a very narrow alley is the church of San Carlo, built by Carlo Emanuele I. They are called the "twin churches." Why they needed two identical churches side-by-side, I don't know. I do have to admit that St. Cristina is a prettier church, though.

Two more wings of the palace
2) Th ceilings in royal palaces and the residences of the wealthy were very high. The middle class (such as it was) lived above them and had lower ceilings. 'The poorest lived in the garrets with very little head space. (No wonder they all look stooped over in paintings.)

3) In Torino, the Savoys built covered walkways from the palaces to the river so that they could walk between everything without getting wet when it rained.

4) People were pretty short centuries ago. I already knew that, but the tourist information blamed poor diet for lack of height.

5) Some of those royals really liked ugly furnishings. Ok. If you're insulted by that statement, remember that we each have our own tastes, and I apologize if you really like the Baroque period.

6) The royals often built chapels off the side of a number of different rooms so they could pray privately....or they could count their money and jewels in private.

Now, let me ask you this: Why did the king need a throne room? Actually, some of the palaces have separate throne rooms for the king and queen. Why did they need two? Do you ever wonder what they did in the throne rooms all day? Did the queens sit and gossip? Did her handmaids knit? Play bridge? Did the jesters really entertain?

Carlo Emanuele's Throne Room
And how about the ballrooms? How often did they hold dances? How many people attended them? "Where did they keep their guests' coats?" I wondered as we went through one large ballroom that obviously had no closet space.

"They probably didn't wear coats," Mike replied, "although it did snow here. Maybe they had to dress heavily just to keep warm even inside. There are no fireplaces in the ballrooms." That made sense.

"Who," Mike asked me, "had the job of cleaning out the 'throne' room?"

The small dining room

"It was a pretty crappy job, so it was probably was someone who lived in the garret." I tell you, at times we entertain ourselves with nonsense. ;-)

Yes. Yes. I really do wonder about this stuff, and we do laugh over some of it. It's not anything they ever mentioned in World History now, was it?

At any rate, we arrived in Spoleto today after a rather long train ride (again). We're here for two and a half weeks, so no more trains for a bit. We caught up with friends from Las Vegas today, and, as always, we had an adventure involved.

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