The Lower Park of the Gardens of the Reggia is home to the largest Potager in Italy, that covers an area of 10 hectares in the vicinity of the Cascina Medici del Vascello farm. In the 17th and 18th century, this area was part of the vast Gardens, while in the 19th century extensive farming was carried out here by the Royal Farmers.
Farming activities are attested in several historical documents and the Potager (that included an orchard and a vegetable garden) was located in the southern portion of the Upper Park, an area used today by the military.
The current project to restore the ancient plots according to their original layout takes the form of a square made up of cultivated plots, water ponds, fountains, fruit trees espaliers and pergolas where flowers and vegetables are grown. Careful examination of ancient documentation has helped experts to identify and reinstate the species that were originally grown in these orchards and vegetable gardens, thus reviving the historical vocation of the place that appeared irretrievably lost.
The area extends to the east and west of Cascina Medici del Vascello, where orchards and vegetable plots cover around 10 hectares. The decorative portion of this area, designed according to the principles of agroecology, was designed to be the site of leisure, aesthetic, educational, historical, and gastronomic activities.
The vegetable gardens recreate a contemporary version of the original 17th-18th century potager where produce was grown for eating. This square-shaped area was home to vegetables and fruits, fountains, and pergolas for summer strolls.
Period documents provide detailed descriptions of the species that were grown here: today's rendition of the original potager follows these indications scrupulously and inspired the new project for the vegetable garden and orchard of Venaria Reale.
The orchards, located near the 19th century farmhouse known as Cascina Medici del Vascello that was built when the Reggia was turned into a military ground, are found in a 10-hectare area in the Lower Park, the best suited for cultivation.
The recreation of historical references, the geometrical layouts, the greenery and the fountains, as well as the farmed plots, provide an open-air museum that changes with the seasons with different produce and blossoms. Its constant evolution is typical of a living natural environment. The didactic path illustrates the matching of aesthetic requirements – perspective view, shapes and colors – and agricultural considerations, like plant variety and the pace of vegetation growth.
In the orchard the landscape changes. A vertical pattern leads visitors to the center of the Potager Royal, to the path connecting the farm to the Alley and the canal that links together the remains of the Fountain of Hercules to the foundations of the Temple of Diana. The Potager Royal continues symmetrically across the path, but plant varieties and the garden’s layout are different here.
The orchard, located near the Cascina Medici del Vascello farmhouse, is home to 1700 trees that were planted in 2010. The selection of plant species was guided by their suitability to the local climate, their traditional presence in the area, and the organoleptic characteristics of their fruits.
In this orchard plants are grown against an espalier in order to maximize their yield, creating a scenery that is particularly pleasant to the eye. The distance between plants is greater than it would be in intensive farming, also allowing for green grass and plots, paths and open spaces. Trees of the same variety were planted together in order to facilitate plant care and fruit picking. Nothing is thrown out and the fruits are used to make preserves or sold directly.
Delights from the Potager Royal
The Delights from the Potager Royal (Delizie del Potager Royal) are products made using the fruits and vegetables grown in the orchards and vegetable gardens of the Gardens of Venaria. They are on sale at the Caffé degli Argenti café.
Visitors can choose among the following products:
- rennet apple, apricot and peach compotes;
- sweet pumpkin, pepper and eggplant sauce;
- apple and pear puree; apple and apricot puree - ideal for children.