An unexpected marvel, one of the few Italian examples of nineteenth century Orientalist architecture. We are talking about the Castello di Sammezzano, an impressive building a short distance from Florence that has been closed and abandoned for years.
The main part of the building dates back to 1605 but the renovation was carried out between 1853 and 1889 when Ferdinando Panciatichi Ximenes d’Aragona redesigned and financed the works and had the Sammezzano park and castle created as they are now.
Over more than forty years he gave full reign to all his talents in order to transform a building that had until then maintained its typical characteristics as a palace – fortress into a treasure chest created according to his own vision, a representation of his way of seeing the world and unique and extraordinary as a result.
A succession of colourful rooms, each different from the next, decorated with stucco, capitals, arches, fan vaulting and domes inspired by the Alhambra in Granada; large labyrinthine rooms that inspire awe and wonder on account of the colours and endless decorations.
From the windows it is possible to admire the park where there are numerous species of exotic trees, in particular the Californian redwoods which arrived from England and were bought by the Marquis in Florence in 1874. Among these, there are the so-called “twin sequoias” which are over 50 metres high with a circumference of 8.4 metres and which together with other monumental trees in Italy form part of the small circle of “150 trees of exceptional environmental and monumental value.”
This is a structure in which Western and Eastern worlds meet and intertwine, merging into a unique example that represents the union not only of cultures but also cultural artistic styles; a union that results in a feast for the eyes and the soul, capable of astonishing anyone who comes across it.
Until the end of the 1960s the Castello was a private residence. It was then turned into a luxury hotel with 17 rooms and large halls for lunches and ceremonies. However, at the beginning of the 1990s, the hotel closed because the maintenance costs were too high for such a building.
Since then it has never reopened.
Last September the “Save Sammezzano” group was formed which aims to draw as much attention to the castle as possible in the hope that it will be easier to find a potential purchaser interested in restoring it to its former glory.