In Palermo, the palace symbol of “Il Gattopardo” by Luchino Visconti hides the most precious artistic and manufacturing production in the world since the 15th century, a treasure that has been handed down intact for centuries and of which Giuseppe and Carine Vanni Calvello Mantegna di Gangi are today proud custodians.
A beauty that leaves you breathless. And what most tickles the attentive eye of the connaisseur is the realization that, as one enters the rooms of this majestic 8,000 square meter residence, everything, even the smallest detail, finish or furnishing is completely original from the period in which it was built, including the “philological” restorations.
A rarity – just think that Palazzo Valguarnera Gangi is among the 10 most precious private period residences in the world – which has come to us intact thanks to the love of the current owners. From the 1990s onwards they have in fact constantly dedicated themselves to its restoration and enhancement, committing themselves also to support artisanal processes which are today at risk of disappearing.
My life is dedicated to preserving Palazzo Valguarnera Gangi: beauty fuels other beauty and protecting it is equivalent to improving the world and inspiring future generations.(Carine Vanni Calvello Mantegna di Gangi)
The residence dates back to the 15th century, but the actual look was thanks to Prince Pietro di Valguarnera, then married to Marianna Valguarnera, who in the second half of the 19th century undertook an important renovation of the Palace, enriching it also with the sumptuous Rococo style that was fashionable in France with Louis XV.
At the beginning of the 19th century, the last descendant of the Valguarnera family married Giuseppe Mantegna, Prince of Gangi, who carried out a complete restoration of the property.
With Giulia Mantegna di Gangi, sister of Annina Alliata di Montereale, first wife of the important entrepreneur Vincenzo Florio jr, the residence will see the last glimpses of the splendor of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies, that period of controversial Italian history translated so well by Giuseppe’s book Tomasi di Lampedusa “The Leopard”, from which director Luchino Visconti took his masterpiece of the same name.
In fact, Donna Giulia’s daughter Stefanina will rent the building to the production company, unaware of the fact that that film would change her history and that of Sicily forever, consecrating it as an international icon that still fuels today artists, writers and new film productions.
Guiding us through the most majestic rooms of the Palace is Princess Carine Vanni Calvello Mantegna di Gangi who has lived there together with her husband since they became owners by dynastic line in the 1990s through Stefanina’s children, the princes Vanni Calvello di San Vincent.
Once we have climbed the majestic double staircase of the internal courtyard, after various antechambers, we encounter the dining room, a neoclassical work by Giovan Battista Cascione Vaccarini and recently completely restored.
From there, passing through various lounges, we enter the Yellow Hall, named after the yellow Lampasso silk that covers its walls, the protagonist of the famous dance scene with Claudia Cardinale and Burt Lancaster in the film “The Leopard” and theater of performances by great artists such as Gioachino Rossini, who autographed the piano on display, and Richard Wagner.
From the hall, you can access the magnificent terrace, which overlooks Piazza Sant’Anna, currently undergoing restoration, where in the center you can admire an opera fountain, as well as the statues of the entrance staircase of the palace, by the sculptor Ignazio Marabitti, a triumph of Mediterranean plants and Sicilian majolica.
Until you reach the Gallery of Mirrors which is due to the genius of Andrea Gigante, closed by two boudoirs, with a ceiling unique in the world 12 meters high and characterized by a double-height tunnel designed to emphasize the light of the candles of the large glass chandeliers of Murano. The wonderful floor, decorated in Vietri majolica with The Labours of Hercules and the famous leopards, was completely restored by Carine, not without difficulty in finding the craftsmen who could take care of it.
The poetry of the Princess’s soul and all her love for this Palace are contained in the red roses placed on top of the green velvet poufs: they serve as a deterrent not to sit down and risk damaging them, but Carine wanted this “warning” to also be characterized with gentle ways and not exempt from beauty.
The scenes of Il Gattopardo filmed at Palazzo Valguarnera Gangi remain in cinematographic history also for the obsessive accuracy with which director Luchino Visconti took care of the staging and costumes of each scene, such as having used over 10 thousand candles for the scene of dance or requiring the actors’ white gloves (part of the clothing of the time) to be washed daily.
Palazzo Valguarnera Gangi
Piazza Croce dei Vespri 6
Visits open only by reservation and in certain periods of the year, for information write to firstname.lastname@example.org