Restoration and preservation operations of the Castello di Castelfalfi
The current stage of the restoration and preservation of the Castello di Castelfalfi forms part of a long series of operations to which the village of the same name has been subjected over the centuries, without ever undermining the fascination of this estate sitting between the provinces of Pisa and Florence.
Built around 700 A.D. by Faolfi from Lombardy, hence the origins of its name, the village changed hands several times over the years until finally becoming the property of Giovanni di Francesco Gaetani, husband of Costanza de’ Medici, who restructured it in 1475 and transformed it from a defensive medieval fortress into a stately residence for entertaining and official functions.
In 1530, Giovanni's son, Pietro started new renovations. During these years, the fortress and the surrounding village were the site of numerous battles, undergoing damage and partial reconstruction.
The Biondi family gradually took over the property from the Gaetani and became the sole owners. The eighteenth century marked a period of great prosperity and the family decided to turn the Castle into a manor worthy of its new standing. The construction of the straight walls and erecting of the two angular towers date back to this era. However, dissatisfied with the results, the family abandoned the Castle which remained in disuse until the early twentieth century when new renovations were carried out to build the wine cellars.
In the summer of 1944, the retreating Germans blew up part of the building. The destroyed sections were immediately rebuilt with the original stones found on site, but only up to the level of the ramparts, while the upper volumes were replaced with the viewpoint terrace facing west.
Even though the vicissitudes of history changed the village and its destination, the surrounding countryside maintained its natural features.
The village of Castelfalfi, set on an estate of just on 1,100 hectares, spreads over a hilly area with woodlands forming part of the Torrente Carfalo Natural Reserve.
The Castle overlooks a panorama with unmistakable Tuscan features that can be enjoyed in all its calming beauty from both the viewpoint terrace - soon to house the outdoor tables of the restaurant - and the rooftop terrace on the southern side.
The restructuring operations on the Castello were carried out along two main lines. The first was the creation of the modern “La Rocca di Castelfalfi” restaurant, with all necessary adjustments, and the second, the maintaining of the historic integrity and Tuscan identity of the building, preferring local traditional materials such as timber, stone and plaster.
The aim of the project was to maintain the overall harmony by turning the Castle into a suitable venue for the restaurant without taking anything away from its historical nature. By exploiting the various levels of the building and the two towers, reopening arches, harmonising the existing spaces, redesigning the paths and passageways, introducing the necessary facilities so as to maximise the accessibility and ergonomics, the result is the Castle as it appears today with functional, liveable interiors for the staff, and beautiful, evocative, and very comfortable areas for guests.
The ground floor, with a surface area of approximately 334 m2, consists of the restaurant (246 m2) and adjacent kitchen (88 m2), with the pantry on the mezzanine floor, laundry, pastry-making room and wine bar covering another 40 m2. A stone fireplace has been built in the reception area, and a wooden ceiling erected which is a replica of the one in the main room of the restaurant. The space designed for serving food is not limited to the indoor areas but also extends onto the large terrace, the entire perimeter of which is surrounded by a charming stone-paved walkway and faces east, making it the perfect spot to admire the beautiful sweeping view.
Located on the first floor, with a total surface area of just on 332 m2, are several multipurpose rooms (150 m2), a room used as a kitchen with facilities for holding cooking classes and shows (25 m2), reception-cloakroom, bathrooms for the public (27 m2), staff bathroom and changing room (45 m2), plus lobbies and corridors (85 m2). Also found on this floor is the “Pink Room”, which after careful restoration has been returned to its original colour and décor. Wooden coffered ceilings have been erected in two of the multipurpose rooms.
On the second floor are the bathrooms and changing rooms (40 m2) for the staff housed in the northern tower where there is also a room for private events (50 m2) and a scenic rooftop terrace (28 m2) used as an outdoor lounge. The terrace has been paved in terra cotta to match the colour of the roof.
The décor of the restaurant has been completely designed and created in a personalised manner, from the furniture to the selection of fabrics. The Tuscan style is the common denominator linking all the various furnishing components. The tables and chairs are in wood, the floors in the restaurant areas and towers are in stone and oak, while for hygienic reasons, the kitchen floors are in stoneware. The bathrooms are decorated mainly in stone, the washbasins created from solid Santa Brigida sandstone, and the floors in stone.
In some cases, indirect lighting has been preferred to direct lighting. The design of the indoor and outdoor light fittings has been studied ad hoc to discreetly integrate with the elegant structure of the Castle. Accent lighting exalts the beauty of the stone façades with brushstrokes of light emphasising several features. For this purpose, bronze coloured fittings have been created to re-evoke the lines of certain medieval elements, such as the torch-holders and military helmets.
A succession of bronze coloured plaques has also been installed along the walkway, and on the viewpoint terrace, the light fittings at the bases of the trees create a magical atmosphere at dusk.
The internal lighting is produced by large standard lamps with stone bases, wall fixtures identical to the ones outside, although smaller, and LED lamps concealed in the capitals for illuminating the vaults. It is possible to manage the entire indoor and outdoor lighting systems with personalised configurations based on the various requirements.
The renovations in a modern key have been introduced in a subtle manner, designed to enable the original elements, such as the sixteenth-century staircase and the commemorative plaques for the 1475 and 1530 restoration works, to harmonise with the obligatory installation of the elevator and bathrooms for staff and guests of the restaurant.
Faced with the historic significance of this building, the rigorous design and style have been the tracks along which it was necessary to direct the operation. The fact of changing the destination of the Castle did not entail any distortions to its shape, but rather, the correcting of the damage of the years. The original layout has been conserved as much as possible, with great care taken in the selection of materials and a keen eye to detail, in order to offer inhabitants of the village and future guests in the restaurant an experience with a modern flavour, and a warm, lingering aftertaste of history.
Toscana Resort Castelfalfi is an 800-year old medieval hamlet in Tuscany lovingly being restored and developed to welcome visitors by its present owner, TUI AG, the world’s biggest tourism company. The Toscana Resort Castelfalfi project started in 2007 following a decades’ long migration of its inhabitants in the ‘60s, when locals moved to bigger cities for work. Only five inhabitants were living on the estate when TUI AG purchased the property. Castelfalfi covers more than 2,700 acres of vineyards, olive groves, woods, and lakes.