Castello Ruspoli

In Vignanello, Italy

by James Conley


Forty miles outside of Rome sits an imposing testament to the intertwining of politics and religion in Italy. Known today as Castello Ruspoli, the origins of the structure date back to 847. It was first used as a monastery for Benedictine monks. In 1169, it became a flashpoint in tensions between the Orsini and Borgia families, and the Church, which lasted until Giulio di Giuliano de‘ Medici (Pope Clement VII), awarded the castle and its environs as a fief to Beatrice Farnese. She converted the fortification into a residence.  

Beatrice Farnese's daughter Ortensia was married to Sforza Marescotti by her uncle, Pope Paul III, and the castle was part of her dowry. Castle Vignanello become Castle Marescotti, and so it continued until in 1704 the Marescotti family became united with the Florentine Ruspoli family.


The Castle reflects the rich history of the families who have occupied it: from Knights Templar to ambassadors, cardinals, and poets, Castello Ruspoli is a microcosm of Italy itself. Fifteen Popes are connected to the family, and on the ground floor is a chapel dedicated to Saint Giacinta, a Ruspoli family member canonized by Pope Pius VII. The family were patrons of George Frideric Handel, who composed more than 50 cantatas in its rooms. In modern times, Fellini and Salvador Dalí were constant guests. Being in the Castle is literally walking though more than 1,100 years of history.

The world-famous box parterre gardens are traced to Ottavia Orsini, but its central fountain is an even older design by Jacopo Vignola. Revived by sisters Claudia and Giada over the past 25 years, the garden has returned to its former glory.


Castello Ruspoli is a special place. Despite its ancient history, it has no ghosts. Instead, it's filled with the energy that has coursed through a Millennium and continues on through today. Never has stone been so vibrant.