Castello di Vincigliata

Giardini Fiesolani

Going beyond the Castel di Poggio, along the Via di Vincigliata in a very woody area, there is the Castello di Vinci gliata which in the last years of the 19th century appeared as the perfect realisation of the Romantic dream of the epoch. In remote times, already in 1013, on these steep slopes uphill the houses of the Maiano and Coverciano, the powerful Visdmonis have their houses and towers. Later on, the property belonged to the Usimbardis, then to the Ceffinis da Figline, to the Bonaccorsis and in the end to the Albizzis. When a branch of the Albizzis, due to political reasons, changed its name into Alessandrinis, they became owners of the estate and the castle — at the time called “the tower”. The Alessandrinis owned it for various centuries, but without giving too much importance to it. Therefore, the castle gradually became just a heap of ruins. These ruins soon attracted painters and writers who every so often used to climb up there to portray the unstable walls. For instance, these walls can be seen in a sketch by Burci drawn in 1837 and in some old photos (Alinari’s Archives). The property has been kept in this state until John Temple-Leader — the very rich British gentlemen who at this time used to live in Piazza Pitti in Firenze —fell in love with these ruins and bought them in 1827. The reconstruction ofVincigliata is the characteristic example of the re-stylishing ofa medieval castle, conducted by Giuseppe Fancelli, an architect of San Martino a Mensola (Fiesole 1829-1867) who has also conducted the works in the Temple-Leader’s villa in Maiano. The works, conductedfrom 1855 to the 1865, were very expensive. Few ruins have been “buried” in the new building where mannerism and rhetoric theatrical imagination have been united to realise a grand construction. The complex unit, surrounded by the trapezoidal-shaped walls long almost 400 metres, includes a main block, a tower, a courtyard, a loggia, a cloister in style with the medieval fortification. The palace itself built on the fortress with original ruins and copies of the original shape. The interiors were decorated by the restorer and painter Gaetano Bianchini with the features drawn from the Christian legend imitating medieval art and from a series offirscoes which were taken by the painter himself in a chapel Via della Scala in Firenze. Temple-Leader was the great merit to have reforested the hills, once closed the various stone quarries, having united in a single estate. The gentleman managed to create for himself the charm of a feudal lord by striking medal with Johannes Temple Leader Vingigliatae Dominus”, by having as guests at his castle all the aristocrats (among them, even Queen Victoria) who have visited Firenze during that time and by placing memorial plaques remem-bering these visits. This can be considered a real Almanach de Gotha carved in stone. A lot of publications describes with many details the castle and its various parts, its history and the real and false objects which used to represent for the high society during the fin de siecle come to us from a 1888 faded photos by the Marquis Filippo Torrigiani, which portraits this disappeared world in the book by Leader Scott “The Castle of Vincigliata” printed in 1897. At the death of Temple Leader, the castle and its many annexes passed to his heir Lord Westbury.

Ines Romitti.

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