An 18th century palace, which belonged to the Di Lorenzos, Marquises of Castelluccio, today transformed into a house museum by Jean-Louis Remilleaux, a French entrepreneur and patron of the arts, who brought the “roar” of The Leopard back to Noto in all its splendour.
The construction of the Palace, today one of the most precious testimonies of Sicilian architecture and decorative arts, dates back to 1782, a period of real renaissance for Noto, following the devastating earthquake of 1693 which destroyed the whole valley and the center of this splendid baroque city, UNESCO heritage.
After the death of the last Marquis of Castelluccio in 1981, the palace became the property of the Order of the Knights of Malta, decreeing the beginning of a long oblivion. Until, by fate, it happened that Jean-Louis Remilleux, during a holiday in Noto in 2011, found himself right in front of the property when the doors opened on its fascinating court.
This building has a soul, it’s my duty to protect it.(Jean-Luois Remilleaux)
As he himself will write, for monsieur Remilleaux, a famous French TV producer with a passion for art and history who also restored and opened to the public the castles of Groussay in Montfort-l’Amaury and Digoine in Burgundy, it was love at first sight, to the point that, after his visit, he rushed to Rome to meet the Order of Malta and discuss the details of the acquisition of the property.
The building was in poor condition, devoid of any furniture (apart from the billiard table, the only one that survived the sale perhaps because it was too heavy to move it), and Remilleaux turned to the architect Corrado Papa for the restoration, who has lived since from childhood right nearby, therefore proud to take up this fascinating challenge. While for the décor, in addition to drawing from his personal art collection, he began to search for objects, contemporary with the palace, at the antique dealers of half of Sicily, and in particular Grègoire Vermesse and Rachel Bartoli based in Noto.
After four long years of restoration, what has been returned to the city is a palace imagined at the height of Sicilian splendor during the Grand Tour period, where even the smallest detail has been faithfully restored. From the wonderful wallpapers, reproduced on a design of the original ones, up to the floors, different in each room, in authentic Sicilian ceramic which fortunately has remained intact over time.
Thus, room after room, the visitor is faced with a precious picture of the patrician life of one of the oldest Sicilian aristocratic families, passing through truly original and evocative environments such as the Music Room, the Volcano Living Room, and the Ballroom, up to an original cabinet de curiosités, conceived by Remilleaux, furnished with precious collections such as that of vintage corals and birds’ nests.
While the workplaces, such as the kitchens and the stables, have not been touched, left as if “frozen” in time, precisely to restore the flavor of a not-so-distant past.
Managed by the Gran Tour Foundation, established in 2017 with the aim of promoting this marvel, the Palace is now open to the public and can be privatized for highly selected events.
And if the Marquis of Castelluccio was one of the last “Leopards” of Sicily, Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa’s masterpiece book “The Leopard”, which narrates the passage from the Bourbon Kingdom to the unitary transition of the Kingdom of Italy, was an inspiration for Jean-Louis Remilleaux for the restoration of the building.
In various rooms, from the cabinet de curiosités to the bedroom, one can see a curious “leopard-spotted” flooring, as one might think at first glance, which was also chosen as the cover of the book dedicated to the restoration of the building, A Palace in Sicily. Various hypotheses have been formulated regarding what, in fact, this particular decoration represents, including the idea that it could be the stylization of strips of land following the eruption of Etna, a mountain sacred to the gods and to Sicilian people.
Admittance: 12 euro, 25 with a guided tour