FEATURES: stone walls, wooden beams, terracotta floors, paved courtyard, crenellated walls, towers, panoramic terrace, country houses to be restored, Italian gardens, vineyards, olive grove
The majestic and fabulous Castle of Vincigliata dominates the historic center of Florence, set as it is in a very panoramic and convenient location. Finely and masterfully restored at the end of the 19th century, the castle (2,300 sqm) has a very ancient and rich history spanning almost a millennium: since its inception in 1031 it has been embellished into a charming and unique gem that was used as a background for once-in-a-lifetime events and ceremonies. The buildings all around the castle (over 1,300 sqm) offer an incredible development opportunity to start an accommodation business or start again the production of wine and olive oil.
Services are all at hand, no more than a 5-minute drive to the nearest town, and the historic center of Florence is just as close, easily reached by car in less than ten minutes. Also, the airport of Florence is just half an hour away from the castle and features many international flights to several destination of Europe.
The castle (985 sqm – 10,598 sqft, up to 8 bedrooms and 12 bathrooms) revolves around a beautiful central courtyard on the ground floor (150 sqm – 1,614 sqft). All around this outdoor area are five beautiful halls with vaulted ceilings and the bathrooms for the guests. All these reception rooms feature classical finishes, such as ribbed vaults, marble floors and wooden fixtures. On one side of the floor is the stairwell (going both up and down) and the elevator.
Climbing the staircase one reaches the first floor, made up of four reception halls, bathrooms and a closet. Outside, a walkway leads onto a stunning panoramic terrace (75 sqm – 1,248 sqft) located right above one of the reception halls below.
On the third and last floor of the castle, are seven rooms with exit onto the chemin de ronde running around the whole castle. At one corner, a door opens into the main tower of the castle. The terrace at the top of the tower ensures a breathtaking view over the surrounding hills.
Back to the ground floor, a series of staircase descends into the old dungeons that mimic the above floor in layout but with a corridor running all around the perimeter and accessing each of the rooms here. On the lowest level is also a paved cloister used for events and ceremonies.
A tower (65 sqm – 699 sqft, 3 bedrooms and 3 bathrooms), set in the corner of the external perimeters, stands on four floors: the ground floor is a spacious living room with cooking corner, while the three floors above have all been converted into three bedrooms with their own private bathroom.
Not far from the castle, farmhouse N°1 (315 sqm – 3,389 sqft, up to 6 bedrooms and 6 bathrooms) is currently in non-usable condition but was originally split between a workshop and a farmer’s house. The apartment (on two floors) is made up of a spacious living area with fireplace and cooking corner on the ground floor, plus a sleeping area on the first floor composed of a master bedroom with private bathroom, a sitting room in the middle, three more bedrooms and a bathroom. The storage area is split into several connected rooms with two bathrooms, but these could easily be converted into habitable spaces to create a second apartment.
Right next to the previous building is farmhouse N°2 (505 sqm – 5,434 sqft, 4 bedrooms and 3 bathrooms) on three floors. The lower ground floor, restored at the end of 1990s, could be used as a reception area with offices, a kitchen/bar and a bathroom. Right next to it, with separate access, is the old orangery (50 sqm – 538 sqft), a spacious room that could be converted into a meeting hall. The upper ground floor retains its original destination as a wine cellar, albeit currently unused, while the first floor is split into two apartments accessed via a shared staircase.
- Apartment A: living room, kitchen, two bedrooms and bathroom;
- Apartment B: living room with cooking corner, two bedrooms and bathroom.
The old foundry (250 sqm – 2,690 sqft), set just outside the outer walls of the castle and in need of renovation, is a very simple rectangular building that was once the workshop of a sculptor. The building is currently unused and in precarious shape. Given the presence of a private 1,800-sqm garden around the building, it could be an interesting opportunity to restore and rework the foundry into an accommodation for the guests.
Vincigliata is a stunning castle standing on a hill to the north of Florence, whose history began long before Arnolfo di Cambio was summoned to work at Palazzo Vecchio. The first faint evidence of the castle (probably more of a fortified tower than a castle as we imagine it today) dates back to 1031, when the area of Vincigliata was dotted with properties belonging to the Visdomini family.
In the following centuries, the properties is listed as a possession of several notable families of Florence. In 1335 it was bought by one Paolo Giudice from Figline for the sum 4,060 florins. The Bonaccorsi family owned the castle until they went bankrupt in 1345, when the property was bought by Niccolò degli Albizi. The family (that later changed its name into Alessandri for political reasons) kept the castle until 1827 but they never took care of it and the keep was nothing more than a pile of rubble at the time.
As Giuseppe Marcotti remarks, “Vincigliata was dead, and was being buried by degrees; only a few broken bones of the skeleton being visible under the stony cover which time had thrown over it”. This was until a wealthy English nobleman, John Temple Leader, fell in love with the place and decided to buy it to bring it back to its original glory. Over ten years (1855 – 1865) and under the direction of architect Giuseppe Fancelli, the property was rebuilt from the ground up in the neo-Gothic style. But the castle was not enough for Temple Leader: he also bought the surrounding land and planted numerous trees along the hills, creating an impressive English park. From all over the world, people flocked to Vincigliata and among these was Queen Victoria in 1893. Temple Leader was also the inspiration for the silent movie Il Sire di Vincigliata (1913).
Temple Leader amassed a huge collection of artworks and exotic collectables, but he married late in life and when he ultimately died in 1903 the castle was inherited by his great nephew Richard Luttrell Pilkington Bethel, 3rd Baron of Westbury. He was not as great as an art lover and piece by piece sold the whole collection, never to be brought back together again.
During World War II the castle was requisitioned by the Italian government and transformed into a prison camp for officers and notable individuals (with the official name of Castello di Vincigliata Campo P.G. 12). Among these illustrious prisoners was Adrian Carton de Wiart, a Belgian-born British officer who was captured in Libya in 1941. He was one of the last Romantic heroes, a man who survived countless injuries, fought all over the world and was awarded medals for his heroic deeds. He managed to escape Vincigliata (only to be recaptured four days later) and in his memories praised the castle despite the grim circumstances he visited the building in: “We learned that Vincigliati (sic) had belonged to an Englishman, a man called Temple Leader. We considered he had restored the castello in the most thoughtless fashion, giving all his attention to what went above ground, and regardless of the many underground passages that he had sealed up. He made things very difficult for us”. James Hargest, a New Zelander Brigadiers later commented: “One thing the late Temple Leader had certainly done: he had erected a structure ideal for the purpose it was now put to – a prison”. He was the only one to successfully escape Vincigliata in 1943 and reach England, before being ultimately killed in Normandy in August 1944 after D-Day.
After the war the castle was returned into private hand and has been ever since used as a fantastic background for events and ceremonies, thanks to the charming courtyard and the breathtaking views one can enjoy from the upper terraces. The castle hasn’t been used for several years as of now and needs substantial renovations and restorations in order to be fully used and brought back to its original glory.
Leader Scott, a notable historian and art enthusiast, wrote a detailed book on Vincigliata, the result of a meticulous work of research and personal friendship with Temple Leader, whom the book is dedicated to ("To John Temple-Leader, Knight Commander of the Order of the Crown of Italy, whose estate on Florentine hills, here described, enshrines so much of ancient history, and natural beauty, this book is dedicated."). In the book, Scott traces the history of the castle since the Middle Ages, closing with a very detailed description of the renovation carried out by Temple Leader on Vincigliata (and Maiano).
Click HERE to download the full PDF version of the book by Leader Scott.
The private garden of the castle (3,056 sqm – 32,882 sqft) features a typically Florentine layout, with cypresses and bay trees, while the perimeter is marked with evergreen hedges disposed in a geometric pattern, following the criteria of Italian gardens. The park can be seen as split into two parts: the eastern portion is the one characterized by hedges and flowers, while the western part is made of terraces granting access to the courtyard of the basement.
The estate covers a total surface of approximately 14.0 hectares (34.6 acres) located on the gentle slopes of the hill below the castle. Excluding the gardens and parks of the castle, the remaining land includes a vineyard (6.3 ha) and a huge olive grove (4.2 ha). The rest is almost entirely covered in woodland and meadows.
The vineyards lies on the northern side of the hill of Vincigliata and is entirely registered as Toscana IGT. Plants of Sangiovese, Canaiolo, Foglia Tonda, Trebbiano and Malvasia varieties were planted between 1975 and 2015. Supposing a yield of 4,000 bottles / hectare to maintain a higher quality of the wines, the property could easily produce between 25,000 and 26,000 bottles of wine per year. Currently one would need to rely on a third party to process the grapes, but the property still has the old cellar that could be restarted.
The castle, has been used up until recent years as a background and venue for events, ceremonies and business meeting. By recovering and restoring the buildings around the castle one could also expand the business by including an accommodation business.
The vineyards and olive grove are currently in production but they could be exploited directly by the owners by restoring the old wine cellar in the property to process the grapes without relying on a third party.
Closest services (4km; 5’), Fiesole (5km; 10’), historic center of Florence (5km; 10’), Pontassieve (14km; 20’), Rufina (22km; 30’), San Casciano in Val di Pesa (24km; 30’), Greve in Chianti (31km; 45’), Pistoia (57km; 45’), Vinci (60km; 1h), San Gimignano (61km; 1h), Monteriggioni (63km; 1h), Siena (79km; 1h 10’), Lucca (96km; 1h 15’), Montepulciano (110km; 1h 25’), Montalcino (117km; 1h 50’), Pienza (118km; 1h 40’)
Firenze Vespucci (14km; 30’), Pisa Galilei (96km; 1h 15’), Bologna Marconi (117km; 1h 30’), Perugia San Francesco (161km; 1h 50’), Roma Ciampino (288km; 2h 55’), Roma Fiumicino (304km; 3h)
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