Notes from Puzzle Palace

Tuesday, May 24, 2022


 (Drumroll please)  We at Puzzle Palace have Breaking News.

On 28 April, George and I took a tour of the Etruscan necropolis in Tarquinia.  After going through the tombs, we were taken to the museum. This museum sparked a thought and is usual for us, we ran with it.  

I made a few jokes in my blog post on May 2nd about wanting to buy a castle.  Well, we did it! Now here is the real story of how this happened:  

After we finished our museum tour on the 28th, we went across the road and had a coffee. While George played a bridge game on his phone I googled "Castles for sale in Italy".  I showed him a few and he grunted at me.  A clear indication he with wasn’t interested, or he wasn’t listening.  I stewed over this for the rest of the day, but it was only a dream.  

We went in the afternoon for a pedicure and manicure when we returned to the ship. I sat and teased George while he reluctantly got his done, and then it was my turn.  All thoughts of castles were gone from my head.  

When I returned to the room George said he had something he wanted me to see.  And then he showed me Castillo di Panicale. It looked too good to be true and we wanted to know what was wrong with it.  But by now it was 6 pm and we couldn’t contact anyone.  We went to dinner and the wheels were turning in both of our heads.  When we returned, we talked it over and decided to get a cab to Panicale in the morning and go see the castle. 

Should I add here that we had just finished watching Under the Tuscan Sun a few days before?  For the record, Panicale is in Umbria.  If we spit in the wind though, it might end up in Tuscany. 

On the 29th we woke up knowing that we were going to drive to Panicale to look at a castle that George found online.  Neither of us slept very well that night for obvious reasons.  After all, this is a big step.  We left the ship as soon as we docked in Livorno and went out to find a cab driver.

The first guy that came up spoke pretty good English and we engaged his services for the day. There was a bit of confusion at first when he thought we just wanted a driver for the local area.  Eventually we got it through to him that we wanted to take a 3 hour drive to see a castle that we wanted to look at.   After negotiating a price, we took off for Panicale, Italy.  

The drive was pleasant. I love the Italian countryside and the driver was very talkative.  He told us the route he was taking and I approved of it.  I had planned the same one last night when we were deciding if it was too far to go. 

While in the car, I texted 2 relators in the hopes that we would be able to get into the castle.  You see, we left without knowing.  We took a leap of faith and off we went.  Around 10:30 I got a reply back from one saying she would try her best to get us in.  A few minutes later the other had a viewing for us!  

At 11:30 we arrived at the castle and took a walk around.  We were inspecting the walls and the foundation as one should do when purchasing a house.  Silly us.  This place has been standing since 1419.  I think it has a good foundation.  

The Realtor and her boss arrived and we were taken into the castle to look around.  About 1/2 way through the first floor I asked if I could take photos and it was approved.  

The first floor houses an old stable which has been converted into a garage and an events hall.  There is a dungeon and a very simple bathroom in the back corner.  There used to be a drawbridge but at the unification of Italy in 1861, all of the moats were filled in.  We now only have remnants of one in the form of a dirt pile and a lot of heavy chains.  There is barely enough room for a car inside.  We will need to buy a tiny 2-seater.  We've spent much of the trip after purchasing the castle looking at small cars and trying to decide what to buy.  I'm leaning towards a classic roadster or a Smart Fortwo.  Sadly, until Tesla comes out with a longer range, smaller model we are stuck with an ICE machine.  

The next floor holds an apartment and a separated sitting room/entry room. 

On this floor we saw the light for the first time and you know that feeling you get in your gut when something good is about to happen?  Well, I had that when I saw the stellated dodecahedron lighting throughout the staircase.  

We toured the third floor living quarters which has 2 bedrooms with ensuite baths, a rather large living/dining room, a beautiful fireplace, and a typical Italian kitchen. 

The fourth floor has a number of completed rooms, a full bathroom, a rather large library space, and a fireplace. 

The 5th floor holds a very long attic and a loggia that has amazing views of the area surrounding the city. 

There was also one final factor that helped us decide to purchase this castle: a puzzle mounted on the wall.

There are two turrets, a square one which has the loggia at the top, and a round one that has had the staircase removed.  The rooms on each floor have been extended to hold the area of the round turret.  This allows for greater floor space. There is also an elevator which will come in handy when moving in all of the puzzles and display cases.

We went back down to the 3rd floor to meet the owner of the castle. He is a Count and the castle has been in his family since it was built. (At least that was the translation our taxi driver gave us.) His wife passed around 5 years ago and he has no offspring. Besides, he has another castle in the Piedmont so he doesn’t need 2.  The castle has been completely remodeled in 2006, and that includes plumbing, electric, and heating.  It comes with a housekeeper and handyman.  We told him the lights and the puzzle had to stay and we would have a deal.  We shook hands on the sale just a little after one hour from our arrival time in Panicale.  

As we walked around, the cab driver was with us all the way.  He looked for problems in the structure, cracks in the walls, mold, you name it.  He also helped us by acting as a translator and he further was a photographer for us and finally, a negotiator.  He helped get a drop in the price!

We went to lunch at one of the local places in the square and had a glass of wine to toast to the new residents of the commune. The drive back to the ship was filled with shocked disbelief at what we had done.  We knew at dinner that night we would have a lot to talk about.  For the record, on a small ship like this word gets around fast.  I think with in a week everyone knew what we did.  There were people I still hadn’t met coming up to me asking if we were the ones who bought a castle.  

Now for THE REAL NEWS.  Puzzle Palace Museum will be moving to Panicale, Italy beginning in the spring of 2023.  

We have had the Hordern-Dalgety puzzle collection for about 10 months and have had it on display for about 8 months.  We have learned much in the way of building and running a museum.  We have also learned much in the way of purchasing puzzles and puzzle collections, museum size, museum location, and museum foundations.  We have determined that we have made several mistakes concerning these matters:

  1. Having the collection sponsored by a foundation in the US means that the puzzles would “belong” to the government.
  2. Having the museum in a gated community makes visits by large groups awkward at best.
  3. The current collection is too large for two houses.
  4. The rate of puzzle accumulation is too high for current accommodation.
  5. The current location is devoid of compelling cultural or historical interest.

Ergo, we have decided to move the collection to a new location.  We are purchasing a castle in Italy.  We intend to sell our museum in Florida, move to Italy with all of our puzzles, obtain permanent residency, form a museum foundation, and learn to speak Italian.

Although this decision was immaturely spontaneous and marks a momentous change in our lives, it befits the seriousness we attach to the preservation of the collection.  We believe that this decision will benefit you in particular and the world puzzle collectors in general. 

Before you think we are totally crazy, please consider the particular castle we are purchasing.  It is called Castello di Panicale, located on the border of Tuscany and Umbria in Italy an hour and a half from Florence.  It is on top of a hill overlooking the beautiful countryside with a view of Lake Trasimeno.   It is across the street from an embroidery museum and down the block from a religious museum.  Our castle was built in 1419 and is part of the city wall fortification at the entrance of one of the two gates to the town of 50 people.  The castle itself is currently a music museum with accommodation for residency.  Naturally the music museum will close and be replaced by puzzles.  We shall live in the castle/museum.  The castle is VERY LARGE.  It can easily contain all the puzzles from both of our current houses plus plenty of room for other puzzle collections which choose to join this repository of puzzles.  The castle has one meter thick walls and has stood for 6 centuries.  We shall form a foundation for the museum portion.  By living in the museum as our sole residency we shall avoid any property taxes according to Italian law.

Although this means a tremendous nexus in our lives, we are enthusiastic about bringing life and global access to this important collection of puzzles.  It is unclear if we are molding the life of the puzzle collection or the reverse. We hope you will all bless this decision and wish us the luck needed to pull it off.  

It is our hope to have this museum up and running within 3 years.  You see, we will summer in Italy and winter in Florida until I have finally decided that I’m ready to quit the States again.  I’ve only been back for 4 years and Puzzle Palace has only just been finished.  We have worked hard to get it up to where it is today and I want to enjoy it for a while before completely leaving.  We also don’t want to rush the museum build. We know what mistakes we made on the last two prototypes and do not want to repeat them.  By being there only 1/2 of the year, it will give us plenty of time to move forward in the best way possible to develop a truly world class puzzle museum.  

If you missed Boca Bash last year and were looking forward to an invitation to the Puzzle Palace Museum, just wait.  We will be planning a Panicale Puzzle Palace Party in a few years time.  

So, until next time Arrivederci, Happy Puzzling, and we hope to see you in Panicale!


  1. good to hear, for me much nearer than Florida; You can exspect me

  2. Please put us on your mailing list ( We are planning a future visit to Tuscany and would I love you to see your museum when it is completed.

    You guys have taken decisiveness (and puzzle curation) to a new level. Thanks for taking care of the puzzles and being cool!

  4. I bet you will find lots of secret openings. Try sliding a few panels. Listen out for rattling chains. Rotational moves are also acceptable. Good luck to you both.

  5. WOW, is all I can say, they say people are happiest when they are solving problems (puzzles) looks like you have lots puzzle to solve with the move which should keep you guys busy and happy. Good luck.

  6. Congratulations!!! The castle looks spectacular , the view amazing!! Keep us posted on your progress of the move and the puzzle museum!

  7. Love reading your ATW posts! This one definitely answered the question of why you would take a long cab ride from that port! I'll be following long after you disembark...... Best Wishes!

  8. Sue Toorenburg I'm flabogasted. Having visited you in Hong Kong you have gone completely the other way. Where puzzles were stored under your bed in layers. Congrats to you both. I'm still in shock.!!!!!!.

  9. So fantastic! The best of luck and great success!

  10. Wow, this is breathtaking. I am really looking forward to visit you there. You both are not afraid of taking strong decisions, always being open for new challenges.

  11. Spero, che ci vediamo a Panicale tra due anni.

  12. God Bless you both

  13. So cool, I have a secret collection on postcards - over a million - and you have me thinking now. . .

  14. Been to Panicale many years ago……… Nancy Silverton (Mozza/La Brea Bakery) has a home there. Thank you for the great pictures and accompanying story. Congratulations, I’m sure you will be very happy there. Thanks again!

  15. Hi. Absolutely thrilled for your initiative. I live in Abruzzo full time for now 13 yrs ( transplant from FL too). This mornings National news they gave us the news that you collection had arrived to its new unique home. We so look forward to a visit and meeting you both.
    With best wishes for the new museum birth.
    Arlene & Tony

  16. Wow! Congratulations on your braveness!

  17. Still on this deep dive after reading the NYT article. What a fabulous story. My wife and I are in Europe several times a year on account of having family in the UK and France. If you have a mailing list, please add - Puzzle on!