Ischia di Castro. Not to be confused with the famous island, here we are in one of the most stunning parts of upper Lazio, between the sea and Lake Bolsena. Castro was the capital of the Farnese duchy and razed to the ground in the 17th century on orders from Pope Innocent X. All that remains are its ruins, wrapped in foliage like an Italian Angkor. Antonio Canova, who had recovered the works of art brought to Paris by Napoleon, was rewarded by Pius VII with the title of marchese of Ischia.
The town is dominated by the Palazzo Ducale, an incomplete work by Antonio da Sangallo and long owned by my friend Stefano Aluffi-Pentini. The Palazzo (or the Rocca, as everyone calls it) is a complex structure that Stefano restored with enviable, painstaking care and an especially rare sensitivity to materials: fireplaces, doors and loggias rescued from years of degradation through the well-chosen selection of stone and marble, from travertine to tuff.
And who knows the secrets of countless Italian residences and extraordinary palaces better than Stefano? In 1996, he founded