A tale of two Genoese palaces - Palazzo Reale and Villa del Principe

3 September 2017

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The Museo di Palazzo Reale (Royal Palace Museum) was on my list of places I needed to visit on my trip to Genoa. When I arrived to purchase my ticket they asked if I’d like to pay an extra €4 to gain entry to Villa del Principe. I wasn’t familiar with Villa del Principe but the sales assistant explained it was another palace located a short walk away from the Palazzo Reale, it seemed like a good deal so I decided to take up the offer and purchase the combination ticket for both palaces.

The Palazzo Reale was built in the 17th century by the Balbi family. They sold it to the Durazzo family in 1677, who transformed it into an impressive Baroque-style building. In 1824, it came into the possession of the Royal House of Savoy, which is how it came to be called the Royal Palace. In 1930 it was passed to the Ministero della Publica Instruzione, who turned it into the museum you see now.

After purchasing my ticket I headed upstairs to begin my tour of the museum. An introductory video is played in the first room and is available in several languages. It is hard not to be distracted by the beautiful crystal chandelier and the ceiling painting in this room.

This theme continued through the next few rooms, as I wandered around gazing at those incredible ceilings.

I then reached the most impressive room of all - the Hall of Mirrors. During the baroque and renaissance period it was common for royal palaces to have a hall of mirrors. The most famous one is located in the Palace of Versailles, and this one is remarkably similar, although on a much smaller scale (and also without the hoards of tourists!).

After visiting all the rooms you can walk out onto the roof terrace where you can admire the exterior of the palace and take in the view over Genoa’s port.

I made my way back downstairs to see the inner courtyard before heading to Villa del Principe, a 10 minute walk away.

After entering the gardens I struggled momentarily to find the museum ticket office (the entrance is located upstairs). I presented the ticket I purchased at the Palazzo Reale and was told I could take photos inside the museum if I paid €4 for a photography pass. This seemed a little steep but I decided to go ahead and purchase it anyway. They also offered me a guidebook to take around the museum to provide more information about each of the rooms, although I had to leave behind a form of photo ID as a guarantee I would bring it back.

In hindsight I wouldn’t have bothered paying €4 to take photos inside. It was a shame I had visited Palazzo Reale first as unfortunately Villa del Principe paled in comparison. It did have some nice ceilings and tapestries but many of the rooms were empty or not well looked after, so it did leave me feeling a little disappointed.

Sadly, the apartment rooms were closed during my visit so it’s possible that I missed out on seeing some of the more impressive rooms of the palace.

I was glad at least that I had got the combination ticket so hadn’t paid full price for entry. I paid €10 to visit both palaces which I think was quite reasonable, however if you visit Villa del Principe alone the entry fee is €9. In my opinion that is overpriced, especially if you then get the €4 photography pass on top. In comparison, the Palazzo Reale on it’s own is just €6 to visit, and it’s a far superior palace.

Another thing to note if you are considering paying for the photography pass is that some of the rooms are not well lit. This is common in these types of buildings to protect the artwork and textiles, however if you plan to take photos in these conditions you will need a fairly decent camera. It would be a shame to have purchased the pass only to find you are not able to take good photos due to the low light.

On a more positive note, Villa del Principe also has a balcony which offers a nice view over the garden and parts of the city.

Visitor information

  • Palazzo Reale is open Tuesday-Sunday. The opening hours vary each day so check their website for the latest information. Entry is €6 but its open for free on the first Sunday of the month.
  • Villa del Principe is open daily from 10am - 6pm. It is closed on Christmas Day, 1st January and Easter. Full price entry is €9, and it’s an extra €4 if you want to take photos inside.
  • The best value ticket you can get if you want to visit both palaces is a combination ticket which costs €10.


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