Tuscany has always fascinated the world with its history and architectural beauty. Most British aristocrats would include Florence and Tuscany in their Grand Tour. But not many know that English architectural styles had a strong influence in Italy. Here are three original castles that have Medieval origins but were rebuilt and redesigned in the 19th century: Castello Vincigliata, Castello di Brolio and Castello di Sammezzano. The first two were inspired by the British Gothic revival whilst the last is in the Orientalist style.
Castello di Vincigliata, Fiesole
Vincigliata Castle is located near Fiesole, a picturesque town overlooking Florence. It takes about 35 minutes to reach the castle from the center of the Tuscan capital.
Though the castle looks like it is straight out of the Middle Ages, don’t be fooled. Originally built in the 11th century, Vincigliata was passed from noble family to noble family while it gradually fell apart. In 1855, John Temple-Leader, a wealthy British man, bought the Vincigliata ruins. It took 15 years for the castle to be transformed into a Neo-Gothic masterpiece. Temple-Leader was awarded a knighthood by King Vittorio Emanuele II for his service to Italy.
Castello Vincigliata is now mainly used for weddings and gala dinners. If you are interested in visiting, there is a wine tasting that includes a tour of the castle. The wine tasting is accompanied by cheese and cold cuts.
Make sure to contact the castle before heading there. All events are currently on hold for restoration work.
Castello di Brolio, Gaiole in Chianti
The powerful Ricasoli family has owned the castle since the 12th century. In 1835, Bettino Ricasoli decided to renovate the castle in the Neo-Gothic style which was very popular in England at the time. The property combines the old stone part of the castle to the more recent construction in red brick with Tudor windows. Even the gardens combine the 16th century giardino all’italiana to the romantic English style added in the 19th century.
The Ricasoli family has a long standing history of winemaking. Bettino Ricasoli, also known as the Baron, spent most of his life experimenting with grape blends until he came up with the recipe we still use today for Chianti wine. A visit to Brolio Castle must include a wine tasting. The castle offers different types of tours. Some are centered around the winemaking process while others focus more on the family history.
Castello di Sammezzano, Leccio
Sammezzano Castle is about 50 minutes from Florence in the direction of Arezzo.
Originally a farm built in 1605, the property was transformed into an incredible castle by Ferdinando Panciatichi Ximenes d’Aragona. Inspired by the Orientalist movement that swept Europe by storm, Panciatichi Ximenes completely renovated and reinvented Sammezzano, transforming it into something between the Alhambra and a raja’s palace. The project took over forty years to complete. Panciatichi Ximenes even trained local artisans in Middle Eastern and Asian techniques.
Sammezzano’s glory days have come to an end. After WWII, the castle became a luxury hotel and also the set of many films, but by the end of the 20th century it was mostly abandoned. The castle doesn’t currently have an owner and has been on the auction block more than once. Sadly, until the situation is resolved, Sammezzano isn’t open to the public. You can always add your name to the waiting list though!