A journey through the more remote eastern culture to the arabian atmosphere of Granada, from one room to another, between Greek, Sanskrit and Latin words, through the evidences of life, masonic symbols and anti-clerical “gibes”. All this is collected in a single reality: the Castle of Sammezzano at Leccio, Reggello, not far from the better-known shopping Mall, in state of abandonment for the past twenty years.

Sunday 10 March, in the 200th anniversary of the birth of the Marquis Ferdinand Panciatichi Ximenes d’Aragona, the Castle of Sammezzano reopened again its doors to over 250 people who booked the visit on the web.
In many however showed up even without reservation, walking for more than a half hour  through the woods, under a dense hailstorm and paths that now are transformed into the torrents of slime, sign of the great interest that the event has attracted.
The Committee FPXA, initials of the Marquis, promoted the intiative to open the doors of the castle for a day.
Twenty years ago Sammezzano was a luxury hotel with 17 rooms and large lounges for dinners and ceremonies, often wealthy weddings. Then the structure closed and today the Italian-English company Sammezzano Castle Srl owns it, while waiting to realize an ambitious plan for the recovery and enhancement. The Committee estimated 300 million euros for the purchase of the castle, without counting the works of recovery.
At the moment some windows, broken by vandals, were replaced with parts recovered from an old greenhouse, at least to avoid the infiltration and contain the damage of colors on the plaster covered walls.
Another problem is the so called ‘ecomonster’ of Sammezzano: a construction “designed” by architect Spadolini, cousin of the well-known politician, with the purpose of adding a hundred rooms to the castle, never finished and that eventually will have to be destroyed.

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Hard to understand what Tuscany has to do with such a creative construction if you don’t know the story of the Marquis.
Ferdinand is practically a spin doctor, high profile politician both in Florence and in the Kingdom of Italy, where he was a member of parliament and resigned after the approval of a law in support of the clergy.He has a passion for architecture and an idea: the western art derives from the east. He fight with everybody about this bizarre conviction that, however, continues to defend at all costs. Ferdinand is the Marquis Panciatichi Ximenes d’Aragona and is rich, very rich. Owns a building in Valdarno, Sammezzano, part of a huge and ancient hunting estate since the time of Cosimo I de’ Medici, and decides to finance a pharaonic project: design and build a castle capable of representing and merge all Eastern styles, from Syria to India, passing through the Moorish style.
The project immediately starts: Ferdinand hires local craftsmen, some of them even from North Africa, builds a furnace in which prepare ceramics, designing a building of 365 rooms (one for each day of the year) and a park of several hectares where he plants exotic species (for example the giant sequoias, which currently have a trunk of 10 meters in diameter).
We are in 1853 and, while Italy is in the middle of its Risorgimento, Ferdinand in forty years realizes a castle from the arabian nights.
The motto of the Marquis “Todos contra nos. Nos contra todos” (All against us. Us against all.) gives us a vivid impression of his stubborn character. Every room of the castle represents a style, and expresses it faithfully. The Sala Bianca (white hall) is modeled on the Alhambra of Granada; the Peacocks’ room – the dining room – is Indian with theperfect reproduction of moghul style; the Music Hall has excellent acoustics; and many other rooms with curious names, as Sale dei Gigli (the Lilies Halls), la Sala degli Amanti (Lovers Hall) , Sala delle Stalattiti (Stalactites Hall), Sala degli Specchi (Mirrors Hall).
A riot of extraordinary colors and shapes if you think that Ferdinand Ximenes of Aragona has never been outside Europe and that he has studied the oriental architecture only on books.
The 200th anniversary was also the occasion to launch the project, promoted by FPXA as well, for the recovery of the tombs of the nobles of Sociana, small fraction of Reggello, a few miles from Sammezzano. The objective is to give glory to the cemetery in such a way as to ensure that the memory of a character so eclectic and nonconformist as the Marquis Ferdinand is not wasted. In these times of lack of funds for the historical and cultural heritage, once again the volunteering is a new example of how it is possible, getting together for the common good, to be able to reach a goal and, why not, get some satisfaction.

Jacopo Zucchini

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