Max and Joy Ulfane, a South African couple, started looking for their ideal Italian home around 28 years ago. They had no idea they would end up buying a decaying castle in Tuscany.
Be that as it may, the business people, who are situated in the UK, immediately experienced passionate feelings for Castello di Fighine, an ignored middle age military post with a joined villa, when they went over it back in 1995.
Since then, the Ulfanes have turned the castle in the municipality of San Casciano dei Bagni, close to the Umbria border, into a very expensive second home. The castle is 2,130 feet above sea level.
“We’ve put a lot of effort and affection into this, facing and overcoming obstacles. And a great deal of money to revive this location, Joy Ulfane tells CNN. And to think that we had never desired a castle or owned one.
Before coming across the hilltop castle surrounded by olive groves and forests, the couple claims they had looked at dozens of unsuitable properties in Italy.
Joy adds, “One day the salesperson told us ‘oh, there’s this place in Tuscany but it’s not for you, you won’t like it.'”
They went to the hamlet of Fighine to see the castle because they were interested. There, they found a neglected building covered in ivy with high vaulted ceilings and several rooms, including a wine cellar.
The Ulfanes thought Castello di Fighine was the right place for them, despite the fact that it was decaying and full of rubble.
The octagonal towers and small round turrets attached to the 1.5-meter-thick defensive walls that still surround Fighine also captivated the Ulfanes.
Joy Ulfane says, “We visited Fighine and it was just very romantic even though the castle was falling apart, covered in ivy and moss.” You couldn’t walk through it.
They bought the stronghold, which evidently had a place with a noble family at that point, for an uncovered total that very year, and before long got to deal with what might end up being a four-year remodel process.
When they started destroying the vegetation covering the palace, a pinnacle was found that hadn’t been noticeable beforehand.
The Ulfanes later chose to buy a portion of the summary houses in the encompassing villa, and started redesigning them whenever they’d finished the majority of the work on Castello di Fighine. Eight to ten more years were needed for this procedure.
They are extremely proud of the project as a whole and consider it to be a real accomplishment, especially considering that they had to constantly communicate with the town hall in the area, San Casciano dei Bagno, and Soprintendenza delle Belle Arti, the Italian government office in charge of heritage properties, throughout the process.
Joy Ulfane adds, “The castle is classified as a historical property, so we couldn’t even overturn a single stone without the necessary permits from the Belle Arti.”
As indicated by Italian regulation, any primary changes that could modify the first engineering and reason for a notable property should be managed and approved by the suitable office, putting numerous limitations on the sort of work that should be possible during this kind of update.
Be that as it may, the couple zeroed in on restyling the rooms and making the property livable once more.
The Ulfanes’ perseverance paid off, and they are delighted with their beautifully restored fortress, even though the renovation process was not easy. The castle’s rooms have been completely remodeled, and the results are stunning.
Indeed, even the old stable has been revamped into a banquet room, while the palace gardens highlight wonderful box fences, cypresses, lemons trees, grape plants and roses.
The Ulfanes love Fighine and frequently visit their private retreat, where they feel at home.
Joy Ulfane states, “We come here once a month from London to relax. We love the peace, tranquility, and complete privacy of our castle.”
“The nurseries, the olive trees and the fantastic view from this slope set at 650 meters of height, I simply needed that.”
The Ulfanes, who keep the castle to themselves, remodeled the houses next to it into five stunning villas with pools and two apartments that they rent to tourists.
They then bought the old village school in the hamlet, which they turned into a high-end restaurant called Ristorante Castello di Fighine.
Incredibly popular German gourmet specialist Heinz Beck fills in as chief at the one-Michelin star café diner, which has a patio concealed by wisteria.
Even though the Ulfanes now own much of Fighine, there are still a few locals who refuse to leave the old hamlet and have kept their homes.
Fighine offers stunning views of southern Tuscany and is close to cities like Siena, Orvieto, Montepulciano, and Pienza.
The hamlet’s narrow alleys, the tiny piazza, and the flower-adorned ancient stone walls can all be explored by visitors.
Additionally, Fighine has a private theater and a remodeled chapel from the 16th century, both of which are used for weddings and other special occasions.
Castello di Fighine was built in the 11th century as a military watchtower. It is connected to the main road by a single, unpaved public path.
The Visconti, Medici, Orsini, and even the Pope fought for centuries to control the castle and its territory.
As per Paolo Morelli, a previous city hall leader of San Casciano dei Bagni, Fighine started to decrease during the 1700s when its essential guarded job wound down.
Local families fled the hamlet in search of a brighter future elsewhere as the town’s living conditions worsened.
The hamlet had just 17 families living there in 1746, making it only 60 people in total, according to Morelli’s historical documents. The castle survived, but it was neglected for many years.
“In 1606 it passed under the control of an aristocrat from Rome who was named marquis of Fighine and whose relatives lived in the post for almost four centuries, until it was offered to the Ulfanes,” says Morelli.
The population of Fighine appears to have decreased to around a dozen by the time of Italy’s post-World War II economic boom.
Gloria Lucchesi, an artist and history enthusiast from San Casciano who has conducted interviews with various locals about life in the past, says, “There was no electricity, running water, or toilets, just a nearby freezing cold fresh water source that fed Fighine’s historical stone wash house where village women gathered and can be visited.” Fighine’s historical stone wash house was where village women gathered.
One interviewee, an old woman named Angelica who as of late died, had lived in Fighine since the 1950s and said that she’d not even once thought about leaving.
According to Lucchesi, “Fighine has always held a special place in the hearts of everyone in the valley; school children are taken here on tours and tourists can’t miss it.”
“Its previous magnificence actually resounds, it’s the greatest palace nearby and the most gorgeous.
“The remodel has made it sparkle once more. One can experience life in a medieval village in Fighine, which is like going back in time.