Castello di Sammezzano: The Sad Story of a Magnificent Castle Now Abandoned in Tuscany

Thu, 03/10/2016 - 06:00
Sammezzano Castle

Approximately 25 kilometers south-east of Florence, standing amid a 185-hectare park in the municipality of Reggello, rises a magnificent castle, a prime example of Moorish art in Italy: the Castello di Sammezzano.

Composed of 365 rooms, one for each day of the year, the castle has a long history: the main building was erected in 1605 by Ferdinando Odoardo Ximenes d’Aragona, who bought it from the Grandduke of Tuscany Ferdinando I. The history of the place, however, is much older – historians say it goes as far back as Roman times. It has even been said that Charlemagne, in 780, on his way back from Rome after baptizing the son of the Pope, stayed at the castle. Through the centuries, it belonged to many important families, including the Altoviti and the Medici. Between 1853 and 1889, Ferdinando Panciatichi Ximenes D’Aragona redesigned and restructured the castle, adapting it to the Orientalism trend sweeping through Europe in the 19th century. Vivid colors and geometric decorations, arched doorways and bas-reliefs, Corinthian columns and mystical symbols come together in a spectacular game of contrasts.

The current state of abandonment and neglect then feels even more strident: yes, because the Castello di Sammezzano is currently closed, abandoned since the 1990s, and the object of a judiciary auction, after plans to transform it into a luxury hotel fell through.

The first auction, held in October 2015 for €22M, had no buyers; the second is scheduled for May.

However, in light of its historic and artistic value, a group of volunteers has set up a crowdfunding project, Save Sammezzano, to restore it, safeguard it and re-open it permanently to the public. Rather than being auctioned, which could lead to the castle’s destruction or to an exclusively profit-driven use, the group is working to find an investor willing to initiate the needed restoration work and who would not transform it into a private enterprise, preventing the public from enjoying it.

For more information and to sign the petition, click here

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