An overlooked Italian marquis left behind one of the finest examples of Moorish Revival architecture in the world … yet only a handful of people each year get a chance to bask in its glory.
Located in the midst of a sprawling wooded estate, the Sammezzano Castle occupies the same spot as a royal palazzo first established in 1605 by a Spanish nobleman of the name Ximenes of Aragon. Though long-lasting, the original was deemed unfit by Marquis Ferdinando Ximenes Panciatichi, who in 1853 undertook a complete rebuild of the site.
This historically overlooked marquis retreated from Florence’s increasingly toxic political climate and decided to hire artisans and construct his ideal retreat in the form of what is now known as Sammezzano Castle. It was built entirely on-site over the course of 40 years.
Meandering through the castle, it’s clear just how far the marquis went to ensure his architecture allowed visitors to feel utterly transported from their current circumstances. Embedded in the walls is the motto Non plus ultra, “nothing farther beyond,” in reference to the uniqueness and originality of his creation. Though no two rooms are alike, among the most jaw-dropping are the Room of the Lilies, the Room of the Lovers, the Room of the Stalactites, the Room of the Mirrors, and the Room of the Peacocks.
After the marquis’ death, Sammezzano was converted into a luxury hotel. The castle’s commercial turn thrived in the post–World War II era, but as revenues dwindled, the hotel was shuttered and subsequently abandoned in the 1990s. Only in 2012 did the FPXA committee (short for Ferdinand Panciatichi Ximenes d’Aragon) acquire the property, since which time they have sought to secure funds to properly restore the masterpiece. In conjunction with their mission, the organization will invite visitors to Sammezzano for tours in its current, unrestored state.
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