About 30 kilometers south of Florence, located in a large park famous for harboring the largest number of redwoods throughout Italy, we will find the magnificent Sammezzano Castle.
It served as a luxurious hotel in the past, but since the facility was closed in 1999, the building has been in a state of semi-abandonment. However, what still remains is the tradition of opening it at least twice a year for the public to admire closely the beautiful rooms designed by Marquis Ferdinando Panciatichi Ximenes d’Aragona, born in Florence in 1813, who bought the old castle in 1853.
Panciatichi, a character who seems to come from the Italian Renaissance, was an eminent architect, botanist, engineer, bibliophile and political benefactor in Florence, who fought for the unity of Italy during the Risorgimento. To him, we owe the current Moorish appearance of the building, reminiscent of the Taj Mahal in Agra in India, or even to the Alhambra in Granada, Spain.
The castle has 365 rooms, one for each day of the year, and seventeen large halls, among which especially noteworthy are the White Hall, the Hall of Mirrors, the Octagon Fumoir, the Sala dei Pavoni, the Hall of lilies, the Hall of stalactites, the Spanish Hall, and even a small chapel. They are spaces decorated with all kinds of columns and windows, arches, spires, domes and cupolas adorned with Latin inscriptions such as Non-Plus Ultra and phrases relating to world literature from works by Dante Alighieri, Ariosto and other classics.
The rooms and halls play with the sunlight and the colored mirrors, the plaster motives and the Arab style ceramics with geometric shapes, all mingled in an eclectic mix of architectural styles as diverse as the Romanesque, Gothic, rationalism, Hindu and Arabic.
Today the castle is being restored thanks to the intercession of a group of prominent citizens from the city of Holm, who in 2013, to mark the bicentenary of Panciatichi, created the Committee FPXA, an acronym alluding to Ferdinando Panciatichi Ximenes d’Aragona, with the firm intention to promote the preservation and spread—in Italy and worldwide—the figure of Panciatichi.
A clear example of the strong legacy left by the architectural movement called cultural Orientalism that swept Europe from the early nineteenth century. In Italy—especially in Florence— was a trend of great importance and distinction that will endure thanks to the Sammezzano Castle.
Photos: COMITATO FPXA ■