You know how Pinterest has some ridiculously beautiful travel pictures that look too good to be true? Like most people, I often pin these pictures as they show up on my feed. Maybe unlike most people, however, I am a little OCD about my Pinterest page so every once in awhile I go through all those travel pictures I’ve pinned and look up whether those places exist or not. This is because a lot of these too good to be true pictures that make the rounds on Pinterest are actually photoshopped in some way or are not labelled properly. So where am I going with this?
Well, a “too good to be true” picture that frequently shows up on my feed is one that looks a little bit like this:
To make it even more unbelievable, it is usually labelled as a castle in Tuscany. Obviously, this place does not at all look like a Tuscan castle, so I did a little research on it during one of my Pinterest purges, and found out it was indeed a moorish-style castle in Tuscany. In short, the picture survived my Pinterest purge and I promptly forgot all about it. It wasn’t until a long time after, when my fellow Italy blogger Gillian at Gillian’s Lists, wrote about how she managed to score a tour of this amazing castle, that my interest was renewed.
Turns out, to visit this private castle, you kind of have to be really lucky. Your first step is to follow the Facebook page Sammezzano-Comitato FPXA. This page is run by a committee of volunteers that, according to their brochure, “promote the knowledge of the castle and the park by studying the personality of Ferdinando [the original owner of Castello Sammezzano].” Whenever the castle is open for public tours, this group sends an announcement through the Facebook page of the date of the opening as well as the date one can reserve their tour through an online form. Because of the limited spaces available on visit days, tours are usually booked in less than a minute after the form becomes available online!
In our case, it had been so long since I had liked the page that I didn’t really hold our hope that the castle would be open while we were still in Italy. Fortunately, on a random day in April, Jaime saw on his Facebook timeline that there would be an opening on May 2nd! We filled out a form about a week or so before that day, and while our form was received 34 seconds after 9 pm, we were more than halfway down the list of 800 reserved spots!
We made the drive to Reggello, about 15 minutes outside of Florence (and right next to the amazing designer outlet The Mall) for the May 2nd weekend and arrived a little early for our 10 am tour. We even brought Arya along and though she wasn’t allowed inside the castle, one of the volunteers gladly watched her for the hour we were inside!
The tour basically covers the first floor of the castle. The tour guide was very passionate and knowledgable about the original owner and the property, but really most of us were there to go camera trigger happy! While I did my best to pay attention, Jaime really went all out and took some amazing pictures of the place.
We learned that Ferdinando Panciatichi Ximenes d’Aragona acquired the land and the building in the mid-1800s and renovated it to its current state by 1889. This man was a little bit of an eccentric, if you ask me, because though the decorations throughout the castle are extremely impressive, it’s hard to imagine actually living there. According to the guide, the moorish inspired architecture is due to a wave of “orientalism” that spread through Florence during that time. I do not think that he had any heirs, so after he died in 1897, the castle remained pretty much abandoned.
In the 1970s, the castle was a hotel for a period, but later closed in 1990. Since then, the castle is owned by an English society who plans to renovate (the castle has no running water or electricity) for example and re-open to the public as a tourist attraction, but no action has been taken as of now. Indeed, many Italians (and I expect foreigners, as well) would be very happy to be able to tour such a beautiful place!
Overall, it was a great experience and of course, the fact that it is so difficult to see Sammezzano only makes us feel luckier that we had the opportunity to see something that most people don’t see (or even know about, if we are being honest).
Though all the rooms we saw were very beautiful, I was particularly excited about the rainbow room (that’s what I call it, anyway), which is the one you usually see on Pinterest!
If you want to visit Castello Sammezzano, as I mentioned above, it is not easy. If you’re only going to be in Italy for a few weeks, more than likely you will not coincide with one of the days it is open to the public. However, if you live in Italy (or are staying in Italy for a long time), I definitely recommend liking the committee’s Facebook page and keeping a lookout for the next opening. Since May 2nd, the castle has been open at least 5 more times throughout June and July. However, the committee says there will be no more openings until October. As of now, entrance is free, though donations are accepted (the committee hopes to use the donations to restore the sepulcher of Ferdinando that is collapsing on itself). Even if you live a little far away from Castello Sammezzano, it is definitely worth the drive if you are able to score a reservation!