Abruzzo, Italy (Part II of IV) – The Castello di Semivicoli
Moving on from the Masciarelli winery (which you can read about in part I of IV in this series: The Local Wine), I continued on to witness another of its contributions to this beautiful land. The Di Cresenzo family took me next to visit the Castello di Semivicoli which neighbors the Semivicoli village near the enchanted small town of Casacanditella. This restored historic castle brings to life the charm and beauty of ages-old, eighteenth-century architecture. Driving up a steep winding road, we came to the top of a large hill where the castello crowns the top and looks out over bright verdant countryside and distant mountains spread out in an impressive view. From here, my eyes drank in the majestic Gran Sasso and Majella, some of the highest peaks in the Appenini Mountains. On a very clear day, the Adriatic Sea coast can be seen to the east. I was captivated by the charming beauty of this place as soon as we walked through its large gates and through the splendid green lawn, serene and inviting with an array of small stones spread into paths on the ground, trellis’ of roses and vines, and clay pots generously overflowing with myriads of flowers. The front façade extends prominently down the lush lawn, welcoming us through a Romanesque stone arch into the elegant front foyer. The paleness of a pastel blue is softly spread onto the walls and fresh bouquets of flowers are arranged on the ornate antique end tables, giving it the feel of a cozy home amidst the fortified stone walls, Roman arches, and an ancient well that still stands in the center.
When the Masciarelli family purchased the property in 2004, Gianni Masciarelli immediately began a conservative restoration of the castle, which took into consideration the preservation of the historical architecture and artifacts that have been kept as part of the Castle today. The main floor features a spectacularly large open room now used ideally for conferences, weddings, concerts and other special occasions. I loved the large arches that support the high ceilings that come to meet in the middle and then extend down to large wide pillars that separate the area into four sections. From there we saw the original olive mill that is housed inside this first floor. The ancient contraption is enormous and is displayed in such a way that one can walk along it closely to see the detail and size of the stone and wood used in the earlier days of the castle. We then moved on to what is my favorite aspect of the main floor – the winery and old casks room. I have yet to see a more amazing tasting room experience than this one. As soon as we entered, I was astounded at the grandly enormous chestnut wine barrels that still dwell in their original places. They border along either side of the high-ceilinged dome room. Perfectly situated in the middle is a long narrow table made of a rich dark wood and reminding me of a scene from the medieval times. Chandeliers and candles provide a soft light that romantically emanates off the bottles of wine tucked discreetly into their stone cabinets that the large wine casks rest upon.
Continuing our tour, I reveled in the artistic and natural way the ancient and historic has been combined with the modern-décor and contemporary touches that highlight both eras. Before leaving the main floor, I saw the cafe and restaurant that is of exquisite contemporary materials and modern style, with glass and steel complimenting the historic backdrop. Upstairs is an assortment of ten rooms and suites, each customized and comfortably unique. The breakfast room is absolutely enchanting, with many of the original features restored to their beauty and fully used, such as the open-hearth where breakfast is still made fresh. From here the windows look out onto painting-like scenes of the countryside’s rolling green hills. Another room in splendid Renaissance fashion is also available for private tastings and dinners. From here, I was able to see several of the rooms and was once again in love with the contemporary furniture complimented by antiques and the ancient beauty of the architecture. Some had slanted ceilings of dark wood beams and white-washed walls, while others had arches and domed ceilings of brick and open studio-style space featuring a wood-burning fireplace in the center. We finished our enjoyable tour indoors with a pleasant stroll through the gardens and lawn that circle the castle on its high perch. Soft, lush green is what will always stay in my mind from walking those grounds…grape vines grow off to one side of the Castle, while flowers of all kinds, roses of all colors, stand tall along the wood fences and growing up the sides of the old brick garden house.
The historic grandeur of the Castello di Semivicoli has been remarkably restored in such a way that it provides a sense of comfort and beauty. Here, in tranquility, one can appreciate and enjoy the marriage of pristine nature and history’s ancient architecture. It is beautiful to see how such remnants of the past can still be enjoyed today. (Enjoy more pictures by visiting my photo album: Castello di Semivicoli)
Stay tuned and visit back soon for part III of IV, featuring the La Vineria di Salnitro… (postings will be published every other day).