The Magical & Mysterious beauty of the Castello di Sammezzano

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… All hearts that were made in an empty mould
turned back to clay:
in the womb of their mothers’ den.
Broken like ceramic dreams,
like undisturbed graves,
anticipating loneliness and solitude once again.
But beware,
that voice is out there
somewhere still waiting.  (Knights Sleep by Steve Phillips)

Elle Decor abandoned castle

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Famous for its picturesque and cascading hills, Tuscany is equally known for Renaissance-era art and breathtaking architecure.  Perhaps one of the most captivating, magical and mysterious works of sublime beauty is the Castello di Sammezzano. Now reffered to as perhaps the most beautiful abandoned castle in the world, photographer and Artist Martino Zegwaard wants the world to know about this until now, unknown and lost beauty, as featured in the Designer essential ELLE DECOR.

Elle Decor abandoned castle 3 Front Gate

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The Moorish, magical and moody castle was originally built in the 17th century (1605 to be exact) but underwent a massive expansion and colourful makeover in the 1800’s (according to  During this time period, it was home to Ferdinando Panciatichi Ximenes d’Aragona (now THAT’S a mouthful of a name), a  local politician from a wealthy family who had an obsession for architecture and botany. The castle is literally a labyrinth with 365 rooms, built in a Moroccan-style palatial villa. The extraordinary aspect of the castle is that every room is truly unique and ornately decorated with Ferdinando spending 40 years renovating and building his dream creation (sometimes referred to as Orientalist Architecture).

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However, after the passing of Ximenes heir, the future of the castle became uncertain, especially after being looted by the Germans during WWII (many of the Moorish statues and fountains were stolen). In the post-war years, the castle had a renewed life as a luxury hotel in the 1970s with a restaurant and bar, but after it closed in the early 1990s the castle has sat uninhabited and alone, quietly aging over 20 years in regal silence.

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For me, the most magical and otherworldly aspect of the castle are the ceilings in each of the rooms.  Stunning works themselves, each ceiling is an Artistic and architectural masterpiece.  My favourite of the ceilings from the castle are the following.

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Elle Decor ceiling 5

Elle Decor castle ceiling 2 magic

Elle Decor abandoned castle looking up

All photos courtesy of Martino Zegwaard and ELLE DECOR

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