The Giornate Farnesiane: Vasanello and Vignanello
Here are two more residences tied to the history of the Farnese family, both of them open to the public during the Giornate Farnesiane, next October 24th and 25th. The weekend is organized by Associazione Dimore Storiche Italiane (Adsi) – Lazio Chapter to offer everyone who loves beauty a chance to appreciate some of the most gorgeous palaces and castles scattered in Tuscia.
Today we are focusing on the Vasanello Castle and the Vignanello Castle, in the province of Viterbo.
The history of the Vasanello Castle intertwines with the family story of the Farnese, in the person of Giulia “the Beautiful” (1475-1524), who jumpstarted the ascent of the noble dynasty in the region.
Indeed, the sixteen-year-old Giulia – the beautiful daughter of Giovannella Caetani and Pier Luigi Farnese, who also had Alessandro, future Pope Paul III – moved to this building after marrying Orsino Orsini. The wedding was probably arranged, also considering the groom’s questionable physical grace – people called him “monoculus Orsinus” because he was blind in one eye – and his slothful soldier fame.
Giulia’s mother was almost certainly behind the union, which she likely arranged with Orsino’s uncle, cardinal Rodrigo Borgia.
The unscrupulous cardinal – who would become Pope Alexander VI in 1492 – soon seduced Giulia and ruined her reputation, crushed by terrible nicknames such as “Concubina papae” and “Sponsa Christi”.
Nevertheless, her presence brought the Vasanello Castle – originally built in the late 13th century – to the height of its splendor. She had it decorated with paintings inspired by Pinturicchio’s school, which portray the Orsini’s and the Farnese’s coats of arms in triumph.
Later, Giulia’s daughter Laura – who married Pope Julius II’s nephew Niccolò della Rovere in 1505 – contributed to making the castle and all of Vasanello more beautiful than ever.
The Vignanello Castle – now Ruspoli Castle – is known all around the world for its gorgeous garden, including twelve plant sculpture parterres composed with bay trees, cherry laurel, boxwood, laurestine, and lemon trees, which to this day are tended to according to ancient gardening methods that have been maintained since the 16th century.
Beatrice Farnese received the feud from Pope Clement VII Medici in 1531. The gift was later confirmed by Pope Paul III, who mentioned in the papers not only his niece Beatrice, but also her daughter Ortensia, tellingly using the name Farnese for her.
Beatrice Farnese probably shaped the current complex – built on a Benedictine fortress dating back approximately to the 10th century – entrusting Antonio da Sangallo the Younger with the design.
But it was Octavia, daughter to Giulia Farnese and Vicino Orsini di Bomarzo, who thought to create the wonderful, verdant geometric architecture that stems into different sectors: the Secret Garden, the Barco and Barchetto. Most importantly, we owe her the Vegetable Garden on the East side of the palace, which is the best-preserved part of the whole structure.