Castello di Gropparello

The Gibelli Family were lucky to buy a castle with at least four ghosts, a Roman column and a true Celtic sacrificial altar

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Artiom Ganin from @Castles_and_palaces had a chance to talk to Chiara Gibelli, one of the daughters of the owners of Castello di Gropparello, a castle in the province of Piacenza in the region of Emilia Romagna in the northeast of Italy. The beautifully set castello dates back to some thousand years ago and proudly stands on a steep cliff which once was the site of a Roman camp.
Chiara Gibelli, one of the owners of Castello di Gropparello
Chiara Gibelli
Chiara's parents - Maria Rita and Gianfranco Gibelli – bought the castle back in 1993 when Chiara and her sister Francesca were children. Imagine your parents buy a castle! Gianfranco is a professor of mathematics while Maria Rita is an expert on ancient musical instruments. Now Chiara and her sister are both married. Chiara has two children - Mikael and Sophia. And Francesca has two twins - Eva and Leonardo! Chiara's husband Matia is a musician, who is in love with the Medieval and Celtic atmospheres. Her brother-in-law Gabriele is an extraordinary gardener and he takes care of everything outdoors. Thanks to him the gardens are beautiful, tidy and the roses are full of big and scented flowers. This truly Italian family runs their castle on a daily basis. They all live in the property and enjoy it to the fullest.

To run the castle Chiara's parents founded company Passato&Futuro which takes care of the castle, its history, traditions and nature. Passato&Futuro organizes events and builds bridges with like-minded people.

THE HISTORY IN THE MAKING

Castles_and_Palaces (CnP): Chiara, why have your parents decided to buy this castle?

Chiara Gibelli (CG): My mother was not originally from Milano, she was born in a little medieval city near Rome, called Viterbo. She grew up between history, ancient music, ancient churches, beautiful hills and typical gastronomy. She came to Milano when she was very young, as my father's spouse. But she dreamed of living in a romantic countryside cottage. At the end she got this Castle!

In 1993 they discovered this ancient little castle on sale when they looked for… a fortepiano! It seemed too good to be true; but it was true! From the first sight they fell in love with the Castle. It had been abandoned for about 15 years, but it was intact. Long negotiations with the seller followed. But in the end we won! As my father uses to say: it looked like a Stone Giant that wanted to come back to life. And we were the right family to do the miracle. With great love and faith my parents did the big jump. And in about one year, we were here, without much money, without our relatives.
CnP: What did it feel like back then? Wasn't it scary during the first nights in the castle?

CG
: No, it wasn't scary. The first days were very thrilling! Every new noise, smell, animal cry, creak - everything was surprising! We have always lived in a big city where the night was full of street lights and noises. In the Castle the night is deeply dark, the sky is cold and full of stars. The morning is sparkling, you can smell the rain or the night's humidity on the stones. The Castle is set into the rocks with a torrent at the bottom of the rocky gorge; so in autumn and winter sometimes you can't see anything all around because of the mist! But you can hear the torrent roaring 85 meters down there. It's unreal and frightening and wonderful too. Of course, from November to April it's very cold!! We have to warm up with work or hot baths, cups of hot tea or broth, woolen clothes and socks!!! But this is a lovely and charming feeling (mostly when I remember it in the summer). And we have good fireplaces.
It looked like a Stone Giant that wanted to come back to life!
CnP: But I bet you refurbished the building and added some modern amenities which help to survive winters, didn't you?

CG
: We have the 1970s heaters in my wing (my parents don't have them), WiFi for Netflix and digital channels, a Bimby robot to cook fast in the evening and - very importantly - a big washing and a drying machine. That's all. For the rest we love to live here respecting the nature of the castle. We also cook in the clay pots, mixing ancient traditions and technology to obtain the best results in less time. My mother is a genius in kitchen! She can cook a delicious traditional dinner in about one hour even after 18 hours of work. She can make bread with Bimby, with her favorite mix of black flours, honey and pepper, put it to bump up in a microwave oven for just half an hour, and cook it in the oven using a silicon container or a clay plate. In about twenty minutes you can smell the incredible aroma of an ancient spicy bread!
Traditional pork roast with plums and almonds sauce

SHARING THE RESPONSIBILITIES

CnP: Yummy! Speaking about who does what - what are your roles in the castle? Is everybody involved in managing the property?

CG: Yes, we are all involved. We have built our family life and our work all around the castle. To us, this is the best way to live!

My mother works from her office, she deals with marketing, projects, she meets the future newlyweds and clients, she takes care about the restaurant, she works with our secretary regarding booking. Everything about work management and development.
We have built our family life and our work all around the castle.
My work is keeping in touch with public, like tour guides or cultural projects for schools; I make artistic objects, like jewelry or paintings; I study every theme related to our work: history, literature, art, mythology, and I do my best to dig up new information about the castle in the archives in Piacenza and Parma; I take care of public relations and I keep in touch with bloggers, professionals in the field of wedding and tourism, journalists, etc. I got in touch with a person who studies ghosts and other paranormal phenomena. We are going to open a new cycle of researches and conferences, both in paranormal and historical ways. A few months ago we started Facebook lives, and they proved to be a success! People love to learn about us, our story, our relationship with the castle. They ask a lot of things!
The Gibelli family enjoying the view of the mountains on the terrace
CG: My sister's work is above all administration. But she also makes a lot of things like running a book shop, tickets, office, restaurant service. Everything is required. Now she is taking care of the on-line shop (we also have a little shop) and the website too.

My father's work is to be the best and the most charming guide of the Castle! He looks after our guides too, to make sure they can have every support they need to be good guides.

He is a good teacher and a big lover of history and the Middle Ages. He has studied castles, weapons and armors since his childhood. He loves the castle very much and when he speaks about it, his dark eyes are full of inspiration and sparkle! He wrote two autobiographical novels focused on our family history in the castle, from the first discovery to the purchase, to the first taste of living here. And, of course, our meeting with the ghosts!

THE PARANORMAL CASTLE

CnP: Ghosts?

CG: Right! Through the years we have counted a lot of different presences, in various parts of the castle. We have something like a medieval knight or a soldier in the main tower, but he is not alone. There is also the old Lord of the Castle, Pietrone da Cagnano. My mother has seen him at the entrance, as if he was guarding the castle! She saw him on the fourth day after we moved here!

CnP: How did it happen?

CG
: She arrived in the morning with furniture and the men to move it. When they finished the men left, my mother exited the honor hall of the noble wing, and looked at the inner courtyard. To the left, on the top of a communication trench, she saw a man, with black hair and beard and eyes peering "through" her with a terrible and sad sight. He wore an ancient military dress, and held a big iron sword. It was impressive. She told us about this vision a few months later.
One branch of the Gibelli family comes from the north of Europe and have a particular hair color that is not simply red, but precisely "Tiziano red"
CnP: What about the other specters?

CG: There's another one called Rosania. My grandfather saw the young "princess" of the castle (she was Pietrone's wife) when he woke up at night as he needed to go to the bathroom. He looked at the music hall as he was entering the bathroom and stopped - he saw a white thin figure standing in the corner. When he rubbed his eyes and took a closer look - she turned to a white cloud and disappeared. But my grandfather said she had a white long simple dress, a veil on her hair, under the veil she had braids fixed on her head. It was an ancient hairstyle. A legend says Rosania was murdered by her husband Pietrone because she was accused to have had an affair with a young Ghibelline knight from Piacenza, Lancillotto Anguissola. This is why the ghost of the young lady has no peace and still keeps walking the halls of the Castle.
CnP: So you have a knight, the old Lord of the castles, his wife, anybody else?

CG: The oldest ghost (as some experts believe) is called "the druid". He has a walking stick. One night I heard a strange song, male voices singing a Gregorian chorus. Years later TV guys came over here and managed to film something the shape of a man, who seemed to wear a cowl like a medieval monk, opposite the window-door exactly in that room where I have heard the monks' song.
TV guys came over here and managed to film something the shape of a man, who seemed to wear a cowl like a medieval monk.
CnP: So, four ghosts in a 1000 year-old castle – it does not sounds like too many! I know that the site it stands goes back to the Roman times. Chiara, tell me about any unusual or interesting artifacts you have you found here.

CG: Well, that's correct but to a certain degree. The most ancient thing that we have is an impressive CELTIC ARA (or a sacrificial altar) made of stone, with some drainage channels to collect the blood offerings. This is dated back to the IV century BC.

When we came here nobody knew what it was. People called it "Garibaldi's Tomb", but nobody knows why. Maybe because it looks like a sarcophagus. This is on the other side. In the 1950s there was a wooden bridge linking the two sides of the ravine. Now the bridge is destroyed and it's quite difficult to reach the ara.

A young archeology student came here some 30 years ago. He was shy and he asked us if we could show him what's behind the castle. He was studying the Etruscans. Interestingly he came here because he had a dream. He saw a bull, running throw a stone gorge in our area. He was studying our area because he thought that the Celts could have been here. And when we showed him the cliff he immediately saw the ara and said: look, do you know what that is! And we had no idea!
CnP: You have this great Celtic artifact, anything else from the Roman times?

CG: We do have Roman elements too. Some foundations, in the cellars, are pieces of the Roman walls. And we have a beautiful marble column in the inner courtyard and a Roman brick walled on the facade, beside the secondary entrance. The old keeper said that they found bricks under the courtyard ground floor after the War. They were looking for unexploded mines launched by guerilla fighters, when the castle was a fascist military base.

CnP: Many castles in Europe that managed to survive through turbulent medieval times were severely damaged during the Second World War. What was the state of the castle when you acquired it?

CG: The castle was empty, without furniture and it was a total mess. The ivy grew up all around the windows, the walls, the merlons. It was very romantic and very sad at the same time.
The most ancient thing that we have is an impressive sacrificial Celtic ara
CnP: How long did it take you to restore the castle?

CG: Oh, it was fast enough. The last owner was not a person, but a real estate company. Fortunately we made friends with the old keepers' family. They were so happy that after all those years the castle could finally become a home again! Before we moved into the Castle, they spent three days cleaning, polishing and doing their best to give us a clean and shining castle, as they used to maintain it in the "old Count times"! It was very moving and when my mother thinks about it now her eyes become wet. And mine too. Then, over the years, my parents were able to buy what was missing here and there. Now the castle has returned to its former glory! But we still have a lot to do. For example we want to check if there are ancient paintings on the walls hidden under layers of paint.

CnP: Your castle is old, so it should represent several architectural styles and epochs, have you pinpointed them?

BARBAROSSA AND THE GIBELLI FAMILY

CG: The structure of the castle is rather easy to read! We can see the most ancient stone walls under the Neogothic painting, we can date back every single part, it's very easy. The castle was a fortress under the important Church of Piacenza, and then since the XIV century it became a noble castle. A lot of important Piacenza families lived here. The structure was built from the IX to the XIV century. It was inhabited during the best ages, so we have Renaissance, Baroque, Romanesque elements, you know. But the structure was maintained in all times because it was very difficult to change and it was not possible to expand the halls because of the natural borders of the cliff.

For us the key thing was that the castle was intact. As for the interiors - my parents had very beautiful French and Italian pieces of furniture, objects and tissues from the XVII, XVIII and XIV centuries. Even an ancient embossed silver gun that my grandmother's father got from the Tsar of Montenegro, and two French foils which belonged to my grandfather Giuseppe Gibelli. But the real passion of both my parents since forever is ancient music.
Chiara Gibelli's daughter Sophia looking at the collection of ancient musical instruments
CnP: This is interesting! Do you have a museum of old musical instruments?

CG: Not quite – we do not have a museum but we do have a huge collection of ancient musical instruments. It is our biggest collection. The ancient piece is an Italian popular Viola, from Urbino. The most important one is a French grand piano dated to 1847, made by the great Pierre Erard. It still works perfectly and my father plays our Erard everyday. The rarest artifact is a French Harp, made by Sebastien Erard, Pierre's uncle, in end of XVIII century. It's rare because it is one of the first models with an inner mechanism linked to seven pedals that allow to tighten the strings to obtain semitones. Such a unique instrument!
The real passion of both my parents since forever is ancient music
CnP: You said it is the biggest collection. What other collections do you have?

CG: My mother loves a collection of old toys very much. We use to display them in a beautiful hall during Christmas! We would decorate the castle for Christmas, with real pine branches and slices of dried oranges, cinnamon, red velvet ribbons and we have a 5-meter tall Christmas tree with candles and angels, real red apples and velvet ivory roses. Our Chef Paola makes a lot of traditional sweets, like panforte (according to my mother's recipe!), ginger biscuits which I decorate with colored sugar icing and we also make macarons because, despite what everybody thinks, these are originally Italian sweets! We also have a collection of ancient French clocks (my father is mad about them) and of artistic ceramics and glasses – that's what my mum loves.
CnP: Well, you are a family of many talents. Your family name is Gibelli. Does your family's lineage go all the way back to the Holy Roman Emperor Frederick von Hohenstaufen or his close associates?

CG:We don't know exactly how old our family name is. The oldest living part of the family says that there are two different family roots, but both lead to the same root name. From one way there is a branch of our family that should derive from an Arabian pirate but I don't know exactly when. The root word here is GEBEL that means MOUNTAIN. Our cousin Maria Grazia says that my father and me belong to that branch, with his deeply dark velvet eyes and black hair. The other branch of the Gibelli family comes from the north of Europe. They are very tall and thin, and have a particular hair color that is not simply red, but precisely "Tiziano red" (you know? That's copper red), and grey-green eyes. They descend from an ancient aristocratic lineage and the name Gibelli, in this case, surely comes from the German word "Wibellingen" that used to describe the supporters of Emperor Frederick Barbarossa (copper red beard, of course) in the Middle Ages. My cousin says that their features (tall, red copper hair, thin, etc) prove that they were a noble lineage. I want to tell you another interesting thing! My father's uncle Vincenzo Gibelli (from the red-hair branch) was THE FIRST ITALIAN TO GRADUATE IN RUSSIAN LANGUAGE AND LITERATURE at the University of Venice, Ca' Foscari. He taught and translated a lot of prominent Russian authors, like Chekhov and Turgenev. He is also the author of the 1964 Encyclopedia of the Soviet Music History in 2 volumes, that was praised by the Moscow State University! He spoke a lot of languages, for instance German with a cultural and elegant accent and had real passion for Russia!
My dad and granddad came out of a secret passage all covered in spider web in the middle of a guided tour in the courtyard
CnP: Incredible! This is very interesting, go on, share other interesting facts!

CG: Let me tell you this – it was our 5th year here when we found a secret passage behind a wall! We didn't find it earlier because a little hole in the stone wall was hidden behind wooden panels. It was in a kind of cellar. We didn't use it much and we didn't have time to get rid of the previous owners' stuff. Once my grandfather Pierluigi, who came to stay with us from Viterbo, told my father: let's empty that cellar today and throw away all that rubbish! They removed these panels and discovered a hole in the wall. The hole was not big enough to enter, and so my grandfather, who was very proud of his technological wit, tied his little camera and a lamp to a stick and sent it through the hole. But we couldn't see much. A friend of us, that was an architect, discovered that the hole was closed by a modern piece of wall made of bricks, not stone. And so we decided to open it. It was a narrow corridor, closed by a wall on the right, and on the left it went into a little hall. There was an inscription on the wall with a date and a name. We've learned that it was made by a man from the village, who worked in the castle before the Second World War. He was long dead at that time, but people said that they found bones during restoration works. That was a secret. The old countess didn't want it to be known. But why did this man wrote his name and the date on a hidden wall? Was that a secret message? The passage was probably a leg of an ancient secret way used by medieval soldiers to go outside from the tower when the castle was under siege in the times of wars between Guelfs and Ghibellines. When my dad and granddad came out of the passage they were covered with spider web! It stuck to their hair, shoulders and clothes. Imagine – they turned up when there was a guided tour in the castle' courtyard. The tourists were obviously shocked - where is our guide going to bring us?
The Honor Hall of the castle
CnP: Haha! This is really funny! Well, maybe they all wanted to explore something which has long been hidden from everybody's eyes. The castle is so old and I am sure it keeps more secrets! By the way what's the oldest part of the castle?

CG:The castle is one of the oldest in this area and in Italy too. The first document where it is mentioned is an act by Charlemagne or Charles the Great which dates back to 808. He was the Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire at the time. The emperor was said to be a big friend of Piacenza's Bishop Giuliano II. In the year 808, the Bishop went to Aquisgrana to ask the Emperor for some lands and properties all around this area; the castle was mentioned with its ancient name: Cagnano fortress. Cagnano is a Roman name, used in the Middle Ages too. We believe back then the castle was probably just the keep defended by wooden walls. The rocks and the cliff were its major natural defense. Then after it became the Bishops' castle, it was expanded to host an army big enough to defend the entrance to the valley. They built the palace, a secondary building, other towers, a guardhouse with the main and an auxiliary entrances, two drawbridges (the big and the small one). And of course the stone walls with Guelfs crenellation. Portcullis, arches, loopholes, murder holes. When the artillery was invented, these thin walls were not safe any longer. They were strong enough to withstand catapults but not cannons! And the castle became a private residence for the nobility.
Both counterweight drawbridges have the original mechanisms
CnP: Do you have any mechanisms dating back to the Middle Ages which still operate?

CG: The wooden drawbridges were restored in the XVIII century. But they both have the original mechanism: they are counterweight drawbridges! In the 1950s they still used to lift it up, we have some black and white pictures!

CnP: Your castle stands on a 85-meter cliff over a brook. How do you get water?

CG: From the public aqueduct! The cliff is not isolated. We have water pipes and cables from the side of the mainland.

CASTLE ROUTINE AND ACTIVITIES

CnP: Please, describe your usual working day at the castle.

CG: It depends on a lot of different things: if it is an opening day, like Saturday or Sunday, if it's spring and we are having school class trips, or if we are getting ready for a reenactment. But mostly my day begins with the ritual of the family coffee in the kitchen!

I usually get up early and make my first coffee in the old principal kitchen downstairs. I love my mother's kitchen because it's always beautiful and tidy, with all the ancient copper pots hung on the walls. The burnet is next to a little lovely window from where you can see all the woods and rocks below the castle. It's the first thing I want to see in the morning. Sometimes the air is cold and in winter it's really ice-cold! But I love to feel it and warm up with the stove and my hot coffee.
Just like Roman families we share our plans first thing in the morning before the start of the day
CG: Then I wake up my son Mikael who goes to school. I prepare a breakfast for him and take him to the bus stop. This is when I post some picture on Instagram. I love the sunrise and the morning view of the castle! My son takes the bus and I wait for Gianna's bus! Gianna is our housekeeper. She lives in another little village a few kilometers from the castle. She arrives and we enter the castle together through the main front door. It means that the working day is starting! Then I go and wake up my little daughter Sophia. She dresses up and we go downstairs together. Right on time because Gianna has brewed our traditional coffee – this is my second morning coffee. Gianna is always cheerful and Sophia is very happy to see her. I bring my daughter to her school in the village, and when I come back home I find my parents in the kitchen having their breakfast. It is high time I had my third coffee! We chat about news, work, things of the day, any problems to solve, messages and e-mails we have received, new projects, ideas – basically about everything! This is a very important moment, a source of our inspiration! We charge each other with ideas and get down to work to meet again only in the evening. It reminds me of what the ancient Roman families did: sharing their own tasks first thing in the morning before the start of the day.
Chiara enjoying her favorite fairy tales book with drawings by Italian artist Carlo Chiostri. Pinocchio illustrations are his major known work.
CnP: Now I know that you can't do without coffee and you favorite part of the castle is the old kitchen. All of you love certain corners of the castle or are you all in love with the old kitchen?

CG: I love kitchen and it is my best place in the morning, my study in the attic is my favorite place for the rest of the day. I use to paint there since I was at school. Every time I enter the room I smell a wonderful perfume of oil painting, clay and other good things. This is a different world where my brain begins to dream and create! The only drawback is that it is too cold in winter. In winter my favorite place is in front of the fireplace! In spring I love the woods. The aroma of spring flowers mixes with a lot of feelings. Every year this is an awakening for my senses and my mind. I love it.
My father loves his study, his bedroom and the music hall, because he loves to play piano and cembalo. But he also spends a lot of his time in the cellars, because he has a big pipe organ too, his main love, and he has to spend a lot of time to make it work and maintain it in a good way! In summer he spends 1 hour on the terrace to take a sun bath. He says it is good for his bones.

My mother loves her bathroom – those gorgeous red walls decorated with gold and big windows overlooking our secret inner garden. She spends her time there in the morning to get ready for the day; she listens to the news on the radio, she can concentrate and text me saying what I should do – she's funny.

Her other favorite place is the kitchen, because she really loves to cook! When she needs to relax, she makes bread, or anything from her youth. In winter she loves to embroider too. We stay in the kitchen, with a pot full of some kind of typical roast cooking on the burnet, and I read something about the ancient story of the castle, while she embroiders and says "a-ha…", and my father writes his books on a computer and sometimes he would lift his head and listen to something interesting that I'm reading. And if I pronounce some words wrong they both correct me in chorus!
Gianfranco Gibelli writing a book
CnP: You have described these cozy corners of your castle in such a detail, I believe many people would love to experience your castle first hand. Is it possible to book a room in the castle?

CG: The Castle of Gropparello is not a hotel, but our home. We have only one "suite", that is the ancient guardhouse, where people can stay to experience the castle and what it is like to spend a night there! You become almost family guests. If you want to be alone, we respect it. But if you want to visit the castle, to know something special, to ask, to explore the gardens we are happy to let you do it! I also prepare special welcome aperitifs and enjoy them together with the guests, we chat and I present the castle to them! Our guests are treated as family guests.
CnP: What about activities in the castle?

SG: Well, you can of course taste the atmosphere, the nature surrounding the castle, the roses, the gardens. We can provide our guests with yoga lesson in the morning on the big terrace welcoming the sun, there's also a horse ride, watercolor lessons, a cooking class, both Italian and historical. You know what I like most of all – it is when I see our guests, sitting in front of the ancient courtyard, reading a good book and maybe drinking a tea or a glass of local red wine. I really like it because it gives you authentic experience as if you are not a tourist but a resident of the castle. I'm sure people will remember this atmosphere and this moment forever! Just like me. For a little moment, we are really sharing our lives, in a very special way. This is touching.

I would like to have more foreigners coming! Now we have just Italian people for the week end. I would like to have writers looking for inspiration, or people interested to discover our territory. I love simple people interested in nature, history, beautiful places and peace.
CnP: Medieval reenactment sounds like a proper event to host in your castle. How often do you have them?

CG: We have them on a monthly basis for spring, and the last one (my favorite) in October! We begin the season with the Siege in April; two days with medieval tents, weapons, armors and well-dressed knights. They fight and they show every military aspect to people. Then we have the Medieval Fairy Market in May. There are a lot of extras, wearing medieval popular dresses and doing ancient crafts. We call historical associations from Genova, From Castell'Arquato and from Tuscany.
You can smell the sausages roasting on the fire... we use cook according to ancient recipes
In June we have the Medieval Marriage, dedicated to the Rosania and Pietrone wedding day. Then, in October, the last one is the Medieval Banquet, with the big noble scenography of the banquet, with everything cooked by our Chef, and the decoration of the table. We have servants (somebody is an actors, mixed with real artisans of the village!) and we cook in the fireplace. This is in the middle between theatre and real-life experience. You can smell the wood burning and cracking in the fireplace… You can smell the sausages roasting on the fire, red wine with the spices, the sugar caramelized onto the butter crust of the savory pies. We use ancient recipes and cook accordingly. All the rest of the year, every single Sunday we have Medieval experience for families! It's called Fairy Tale Park and children and their parents can live through medieval fantasy adventures in the woods with our great actors! They lead people through the woods and the battlefield fighting against the Witch! That's really thrilling and funny. In September we also do the grapes stomping, for children, with bare feet! And in November we close our season with a Celtic Saga: Charming Merlin
CnP: Wow! This is fantastic – such a long list of events! I can imagine how much efforts you put into all these activities because naturally you have to plan in advance and follow your calendar. This is difficult but what do you think is the most difficult thing in running a castle?

CG: You have to know and learn a lot of things. You have to be everywhere. One day my mother said: the castle is like a very old man with a too short cover; when you try to cover the feet you discover something else. It means that you can't manage and provide every single thing. I've always thought that a castle is not for just one person or few people. A castle was born for a community, and it needs a community to remain alive and safe. So, translated into the modern times, it means a family with friends, collaborators and people coming to visit, to use and to know it. This is very important. The most difficult thing is to be always ready and to be multitasking. Maybe you must learn the gardening, maybe you have to look after the keeper or the bricklayers. And you must keep in mind every little thing, because a castle is a very big and a very old place where things work differently to any other place. For example last winter, one morning I woke up earlier than the others, I went down to the kitchen and I heard an unusual noise of water. I checked on the room next to the kitchen, that was the food storage, and saw an incredible waterfall coming out of the stone wall! We had no idea that there were old pipes in that wall and we really didn't know which valve to close to stop the waterfall!!! There was a lake on the floor! It was a crazy day. Later, with the help of a local bricklayer and a plumber we realized what that old and rusty pipe was for. In some ways these are touching situations, because you can discover forgotten details of the past times, little pieces of other inhabitants' memories - when the old count was alive the pipe was used for his heating system.
A castle was born for a community, and it needs a community to remain alive and safe
CnP: What's your motivation to carry on? You don't want to sell it and return to the city to live a usual life, do you?

CG: No, we don't. Every single day we are happy and grateful to lead this life and to preserve and guard the castle and the nature around it. History and memory are universal heritages. We are here to defend it. And the castle has "a soul", a personality. We feel it deeply! HE is a part of us. We want to share "HIM" with everybody, because such a beautiful and incredible and important thing must be known and experienced by every history lover! This is our life and our mission. I mean staying in a castle is not a usual thing. And often the castle's owners are jealous and a little bit stingy. I think that if I were a "normal" person living in a normal home and I wanted to explore an ancient place intimately, how could I do it and find people who would let me do that? How could I have it for myself, just for an hour? This is what I wish. I want to say: if you feel you must come here, do that. I will open you all the castle's doors! This is a big opportunity, we can't waste it spending time behind closed doors. Do you agree?
Chiara and the castle's previous Chef during a reenactment of a noble banquet and kitchen between the Middle Ages and Renaissance.
CnP: Being open is always a good approach, people love it, that's why it works well and helps to establish close ties. What would you tell those who are dreaming of buying a dilapidated castle, restoring it and turning it into a majestic hotel?

CG: If you feel this is your way, do it! The castle will be grateful and your life will have a good and important project. This is a choice of quality. Enjoy it. And let me know! Maybe we will work together!
We hope you loved the story told by Chiara Gibelli - one of the owners of Castello di Gropparello!

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