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The Castle at Sala


[image ALT: A large complex of 3‑story stone buildings with tile roofs, forming a cloister-like square about 60 meters on a side, with an oversized cylindrical tower, crenelated and machicolated with a covered watch walk, at one corner, a more ordinary cylindrical tower at another corner, and a small belfry of the type known as 'campanile a vela' barely peeking over the rest. It is set in a small valley delimited at the far end by a line of cypresses then a tall hill rises from there. It is a view of the castle of Sala, near Ficulle in Umbria (central Italy).]

One of the most imposing pieces of military architecture in Umbria, the Castello di Sala in the territory of Ficulle (6 km N), was built in the 14c by the Monaldeschi family, a very warlike group of four families in fact that at various times controlled the fortunes of nearby towns, including Orvieto, just 18 km to the south. The massiveness of the fortress's most striking feature, the twelve-bay watchtower, added in 1450 by order of Angelo Monaldeschi della Vipera, is due to a combination of two factors: it was designed as a safe haven in case the rest of the castle were no longer secure, and gunpowder and cannon, still somewhat new, had been forcing military engineers to rethink such things as the thickness of walls; a relatively slender structure such as the 10‑11c tower in Ficulle, or as the smaller round tower you see in the very center of the photo above, would no longer serve as an adequate defense.

[image ALT: A view from below of the upper part of a massive circular stone watchtower, the uppermost story of which is a machicolated brick room with 12 large arched windows. The tower is joined to a stone building on the left by a stone walkway with a wood and tile roof. It is a detail view of the main tower of the castle of Sala, near Ficulle in Umbria (central Italy).]

The tower is reached from the main corps-de‑logis by a stone walkway with a wood and tile roof.

The castle of Sala is private property, the home of the marquesses (marchesi) Antinori, for whom it also serves as a base for the production of Muffato della Sala, a very fine dessert wine — to this I can speak from first-hand knowledge. Before they acquired it in 1940, Sala had fallen on hard times; with a fine sense of our common patrimony, the family took great care to restore the castle, and today, following that same tradition, they accommodate the visitor, kindly providing free guided tours on advance request; a proper visit of the castle is on my wish list for my next trip to the area.

In 2004 though, I was just walking thru town pretty much on the spur of the moment (see my diary); so for now all I can share with you is a very quick peek into the courtyard.


[image ALT: Three sides of a large courtyard, paved with 40‑centimeter square tiles. The most visible side, in the background, faces us: a ground floor with three doors and three windows, and a six-window upper story. Small standard orange trees and a few other plants in large ceramic planters relieve the austerity, as does a luxuriant wisteria climbing an outer staircase on the left wing of the courtyard. It is a view of the courtyard of the castle of Sala, Umbria (central Italy).]

And just inside the entrance door — behind me and a bit to my left as I took the photo above — a Renaissance chapel features a slightly awkward 15c fresco of the Epiphany under a starry vault:

[image ALT: An imposing round-arched door leading to a dark room; the arch is closed by a decorative grillwork door. The walls around the arch are painted in faded faux-marbre; above, to either side, a large circular medallion with a saint, and squeezed in directly above the door between the top of the arch and the ceiling, a smaller medallion depicting a communion host with rays and the IHS of Christ. It is a chapel in the castle of Sala, Umbria (central Italy).]

[image ALT: A small gilt altar, with a crucifix flanked by four candlesticks; behind it, a frescoed lunette depicting the homage of the three kings to Jesus and his mother. It is a chapel in the castle of Sala, Umbria (central Italy).]


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Page updated: 30 Dec 06