Racconigi is a nice place to discover thanks to its boroughs, where the charm of the history remains: here nobles used to spend their holidays, but there were also many silk factories. Racconigi for more than two centuries has been one of the main producers of this fine texture.
What to see
If you start from piazza Carlo Alberto, realised in the XIX century, you will find the City Hall, which was built between 1838 and 1841. This square has always been very important in the city life because here it was held the cocoons market. Behind the city hall there is the new wing of the market, created in 1894, where today are held exhibitions and events. Nearby you can find the Società Operaia di Mutuo Soccorso. Corso Principe di Piemonte leads you to the plane trees avenue, on the right side you will see the written Setifici Manissero, which indicates the last silk factory of Racconigi. On the left side, instead, you can see a ditch, called bealera di Macra; it was very important to plump water to the channels of the village and to the water system of the royal park. At the beginning of via Ormesano, the Setificio Chicco, shows the XIX century evolution of a previous silk factory, built in 1681. A short path in via Priotti leads you to the church of San Rocco. The wide garden in front of it hosts the city events and, in particular, the Carlevè ‘d Racunis (carnival).
In via Ormesano you will find two buildings: the Charity Hospital and the ex-neuropsychiatric hospital on the right. From here you can go in via Levis and turn in Via Ospedale and reach piazza Santa Maria, near the church of Santa Maria Maggiore. This square is a small Baroque boudoir on which overlooks the porch of Palazzo delle Anime and a beautiful painted house. If you look beyond the arch of via Santa Maria you will see the Madonna della Porta (1700), with its stucco decorations. Going down towards the mill, in via Vittorio Emanuele III, you will see the Casa dei sogni of the silk traders Franzero and the church of Capuchin. Back in piazza Santa Maria you can take via Principessa Jolanda and go to the church Ss. Nome di Gesù. In piazza Muzzone you can find the municipal tower, it was built as a bell tower for the Serviti convent. The square opens to a late sixteenth century building in whose courtyard the Albergo della Posta was located. Back in via Levis you arrive in Piazza Vittorio Emanuele II, called “Piazza degli Uomini”.
In the Middle-Ages the market was the joining point between Turin and the other villages from Porta di Santa Maria and Porta di Macra. The arcades of via Angelo Spada, the ancient district of the Pozzo, partly preserve the medieval atmosphere. If you proceed you will see the simple façade of the church of Santa Chiara, erected at the beginning of the eighteenth century as part of the Convent of the Dominicans and later of the Poor Clares. A garden replaces the conventual hortus conclusus and opens to the portico from which you can access the civic library and the small silk museum. On the square stand out the brick-red “mole” building and the very tall bell tower of the parish church of San Giovanni Battista. The area is full of nests of storks that occupy bell towers and domes. Crossing via Stefano Tempia, we reach Piazza Caduti per la Libertà. Here, near the medieval gate of the same name, there was the Mill of San Giovanni. Through via San Domenico we arrive at the Church of the Annunciation and San Vincenzo Ferreri. Beyond the church, there is the garden of Piazza IV Novembre, which was the ancient Prato della Fiera. From the large parish church, a few steps lead to another church, the eighteenth-century San Giovanni Decollato, home to the Confraternita dei Battuti Neri (Black penitents), today this space is dedicated to exhibitions. Piazza Roma is the ancient square of the herbs that overlooked the first town hall and held the market for the kinds of cheese. A crescent alley leads to the church built on the birthplace of Blessed Caterina Mattei, where a small Museum of Sacred Art is set up. You return to Piazza degli Uomini: under the arcades you reach the church of Santa Croce, seventeenth-century headquarters of the Confraternita dei Battuti Bianchi. From here we return to Piazza Nuova and to the Castle from which we reach Borgo Macra where there is the Royal Sanctuary of the Beata Vergine delle Grazie, the small Pantheon of Racconigi.
Founded in the Xi century as fortress of the Marca of Turin, the castle of Racconigi passed under the lead of the marquises of Saluzzo and then to the Savoy. The original structure was fortified with two towers and transformed during the XVII century. In 1670 the castle became the residence of the family Savoia-Carignano: André Le Nôtre projected the French garden of the seventeenth-century park inspired to the one of Versailles; in 1676 Guarino Guarini started an important restoration, which has never been ended. Since 1755 the architect Giambattista Borra started new restoration works, but it was only with Carlo Alberto, prince of Carignano, that the castle assumed the current aspect: in 1820 the German gardener Xavier Kurten drew new green areas, while the inside decorations was curated by the architect Pelagio Palagi. Meantime, at the park edges, were built some Neogothic building: the Serre and the Margaria for the management of the territory and the parks of the castle. The first decades of the twentieth century were years of splendor for the castle, which became one of the favorite residences of the Savoy for the holiday, in fact already in 1903 it was equipped with electricity and an elevator. In 1980, Umberto II, in exile in Portugal, gave the castle to the Italian State with the aim of making it a place dedicated to knowledge, so since 1994 it is a museum open to the public.
The Storks Centre
The Centre of Racconigi was founded in 1985 to reintroduce the White Stork in Italy. Since 1989 was developed the Anatidae project, which protects and guarantees the reintroduction of ducks, gooses and swans in danger of extinction. Furthermore in 1995 the centre promoted several restoration works to restore some green areas destined to the migratory birds: the first area extends for two hectares and it will be enlarged for other 15 hectares to provide a comfortable and safety place to the birds. Here, thanks to some observation huts and a shielded path it is possible to practice birdwatching. There is no a best period to observe these animals, because every season is different and gives different and special moments.