2011 and 2012 Restoration
The Campatelli Palace and Tower is located in the heart of historic San Gimignano. In the 13th century, the Tuscan town became the seat of a wealthy urban aristocracy that affirmed its political and social power through the construction of towers. Indeed, each noble family vied with its rival to build the tallest tower, so that at its peak, San Gimignano boasted over 70 of these stately structures.
Donated to FAI in 2005 by Lydia Campatelli, the Campatelli Tower and House is one of San Gimignano’s 14 remaining medieval towers. The structure dates back to the late 1100s, but its current composition is the result of a series of complex procedures to transform and fuse multiple buildings that took place over a period of 800 years. The structure is somewhat of an anomaly in San Gimignano in that it is a rare example of a Pisan-style “tower-house”. Because its walls are not as thick as those of the city’s other towers, the building’s lower floors could be used for commercial and residential purposes, while the higher levels served the traditional defensive function.
Not only is the property fascinating from an architectural standpoint, but it also provides a glimpse into the lifestyle of the Tuscan upper classes of the 19th and 20th centuries. Along with the property itself, the colorful and strong-willed Lydia Campatelli bequeathed the entire contents of the palace to FAI. The building’s 18th and 19th century furnishings are now on display, as well as Miss Campatelli’s ceramic collection, and a selection of paintings by her maternal uncle, the noted Florentine painter Guido Peyron.
In order to make the palace and tower accessible to visitors, the property has undergone a scrupulous restoration process that included, among other steps: the reconstruction of the roof, the restoration of the palace’s façade, the renovation of the interior walls, and the creation of a visitor service area on the ground floor of the palace. Moreover, the building had to be equipped with fire safety measures and certain structural reinforcements were added so that guests may visit the tower’s fascinating interior.
The first phase of the restoration began in May 2012 and was completed in August 2012. This portion of the project concerned the exterior and interior of the tower itself. Restoration of the exterior involved cleaning the stone walls, repointing the mortar joints, and reinforcing all sides of the structure. Inside the tower, a cement landing constructed in the 1980s was replaced by a wooden balcony, similar to what can be found at the lower levels. This substitution has helped restore the structure’s original dimensions. Moreover, the wooden beams supporting the tower’s roof were in very poor condition and had to be replaced with new beams, prior to retiling the roof. During the first phase of restoration, many important details regarding the structure’s history emerged. For instance, it was discovered that many of the cornerstones are composed of a highly porous limestone that is found exclusively in the quarries of this region. Thus the building blocks of the tower shed light on the geological history of this particular part of Tuscany, and the use of its local quarries over the centuries.
In the Fall of 2012 work will begin on the façades and roof of the palace. A program of structural reinforcement and functional improvement will also be carried out on all the palace’s interiors during this phase.
The Campatelli Tower and House was inaugurated on April 13, 2016, and is now open to the public. To learn more about the site and to plan your visit, please click here
Friends of FAI wishes to thank our patrons for their generous support of this project:
Luciano & Giancarla Berti
Carla Bossi Comelli & Marco Pecori
Massimo Cagliero & Mary Greenhill Cagliero
Peter and Merle Mullin
Steven & Harriet Nichols
Miles & Nancy Rubin
Rossana Sacchi Zei
Jan Shrem & Maria Manetti Shrem
Jay & Deanie Stein
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