Notes from Puzzle Palace

Monday, August 15, 2022

Hidden secrets

 This morning we had an appointment with the electrician, Antonio, again to discuss work we wanted done and enlisting the aid of a translator.  

As of now, we have been using the google translate app which is working fine, but on occasion makes mistakes.  Antonio has been wonderful in telling me which words are wrongly used and correcting me.  It’s adding to my ever increasing vocabulary.  Today he gave me a verb conjugation lesson.  I love it.  

I had made that list yesterday of all the work I wanted done on the 4th floor as that is most important because it is where the majority of the puzzles will be stored.  The first and most important thing for me is to replace all the windows and seal them up so there are no leaks. I don’t want the weather getting in.  I got a bit of gossip about why this wasn’t already done, but it’s not for repeating.  But it does make for more juicy history of the place.  

We spent an hour going over my list.  During this time George was drawing up the plans for the shelving units we want up there.  I handed it all over to him and gave him the computer to translate.  Antonio asked how many of these units we wanted made and we said we would start with 200.  He was gobsmacked.  To get him to understand we showed him the video walkthrough we did of the two houses back in Boca. 

George explained what he wanted then off we went to take a tour of the "problems in the castle"  I won’t tell you of them because they are mundane repairs that need doing.  I discovered that maintenance on a castle is the same as maintenance on a home but on a much grander scale.  There were only 3 items that struck me as being wildly different.  The wooden beams need to be treated every 10 years to keep the woodworms away (I did notice evidence of them in the attic), The outer walls need grouting periodically to keep the bricks in place, and finally, the inner wall of the round tower is prone to cracking as the original staircase was removed and that kept the wall from cracking.  No, it’s not a structural problem, it’s a cosmetic one.  

And now for the fun part.  We learned that Antonio has "lived in" the castle his entire life.  His mother worked here when he was a child and he had run of the place.  He told us he knows more about it than the engineer who came and did the survey in 2000.  I’ll still trust the engineer who had to make sure the walls were sound.  

We were given a set of blue prints and have been pouring over them. There are 52 rooms in here!  We will have space for puzzles and then some.  Most of the ceilings are over 10 feet high!  That's a lot of puzzles. In doing so, I noticed a few things that really struck me as odd.  The first was the size of the rooms in the smaller apartment we are staying in.  The kitchen is about 3 feet deeper.  As it turns out, when the apartments were built, there was an extra wall added to keep the humidity at bay.  There really is a hidden room behind where I am sleeping.  A long narrow room to be sure but a room all the same.  

As Antonio took us around, he told us many stories of the place.  About the former Countess and the one before her as well.  We also learned of the current Countess and a few of the neighbors and the rapid spread of gossip through the town. This I can attest to because at every restaurant they already knew which property we purchased.

Now on to the fun stuff that we discovered.  The first is that there is a narrow staircase that leads from the outside wall of the castle to the tower. It was blocked off many years ago, but can be reopened and is still usable should we decide to do so.  (I want to for practical reasons, George is against it because he loves the maze of the castle.)

We were told that many of the floors have actually got two floors. One on top of each other with a crawl space in between.  In one case, between the tower, there is a 3 foot space in between. I learned through the conversations with Leonardo that this is done to ensure the stability of the castle.  You see, while the walls are thick and strong. There are earthquakes here and that duplication of the floors with these rickety looking stone pillars between them are purpose built so that when the ground does shift, the castle doesn’t.  As soon as he said this, I felt foolish about asking to support the floor more in the one area looked at.  I realize now that it was an ancient damper.  The building has lasted for over 600 years.  Who am I to change it?  

We were also told of a few foreigners who moved in, made structural "improvements" only to have their buildings come crashing down.  No thank you, I’ll trust to the castle builders of antiquity.

We have seen blocked off arches and wondered where they led to.  I took Antonio on a tour of all of these.  The first was a manger that had been bricked up in the stables.  This room is nifty because you can still see the curvature of the gutters.  Some of the stones in the floors have square holes in them that have been filled in. I discovered this was where the stall walls once were.  

On this same level, we took him over to see another couple of arches that I had wondered about.  Two of these lead to outside the castle.  One leads to the city square area but has since been collapsed due to the work done by utility companies.  The other leads to the hillside below us.  I plan to open these arches dig back about 8 or so feet, then place our treasure chests in them.  Can you think of a better place to get treasure than from a secret passage way? 

Just a few feet away from this is that strange bathroom with no sink and chairs for waiting.  We’ve decided to remove the toilet from here and turn this into George’s Brew Room.

He has a beer every day for lunch, and loves to brew, so why not.  When we told Antonio of this he too got excited.  I think these two will hit it off just fine.  

Right next to the toilet is yet another arch.  Now this is very odd.  This arch leads to the round tower that is not part of the castle. 

Now how is this for a story.  In the 1970’s the last countess was asked by an American if he could use the property to live in for a while.  She agreed, but no paperwork was drawn up.  They blocked off the entrance and he moved in. The following year another American asked the old woman the same of the second floor of the tower.  Again she agreed.  Now these were to be short term usage.  Guess what? The old Countess died, the American’s didn’t move out, and Italy has squatters rights.  So, our lower two levels of the tower are owned by what once were squatters.  I’m not sure if the original people lived here, or if the places have been sold over the years. But it sure explains one reason why there is such disdain for Americans here.

The carriage house holds more secrets than just that SD (sequential discovery) door.  There is a rather substantial "room" under the floor.  The Countess opened it up to see what was there and if it could be utilized.  What was discovered was a skeleton. Apparently in antiquity, and I mean antiquity, this castle was originally an Etruscan settlement; there was some sort of altar just below where the car is now parked.  This spooked her so much that she had it concreted up.  When I said I wanted the skeleton, lets go dig it up, I was told it was taken to the church and given a proper burial. Darn!

The dungeon also did not disappoint.  But then, how can a dungeon disappoint?  We noticed a hole in the floor and had different ideas about it. I thought it might be an old fireplace with the hole being a fire pit.  George thought it was where the mechanism for the city gates was.  Both of us were wrong. It was an opening to get into the cistern!  Antonio removed a metal plate from the floor and showed us the cistern.  It is now filled with rubbish, but can be dug out to at least a depth where we can stand up.  YES!  Wine cellar!  We will have it cleaned up, lighted, and kitted out to hold our wine.  This place just gets better and better.

The outer corner of the castle is incredibly thick-13 feet.  I discovered an air vent in one part of it and asked what it was.  Turns out this was a prior embrasure. Inside the wall is a casement that once held a cannon!  I now want a cannon.  The casement has been bricked up from the inside, but can easily be unbricked and opened.  Although, for this one, I can’t see a reason for it.  Where it is placed it would take a great deal of work and remodeling to be able to access it.  Given the fact that blueprints

weren’t made then, I think we’ll leave this area alone for now. 

Also along the outer wall is a faucet.  It doesn’t work, but can be fixed at some point in the future.  In earlier times, there was a fountain there.  I think it would be nice to restore it in a modest way.  This is placed right next to the city gate.  As it turns out, the castle owns the Port Fiorentina.  I guess this means we could put in a portcullis and charge entry to the city.  I can see myself being like the ogre in the three billy goats gruff. And on top of that gate along the edge of the castle there is another one of those blocked off openings. Guess what this is for?  Yep.  To get onto the top of the gate!  The ideas are forming in my little head. 

The final thing we discovered is a preexisting puzzle door!  I’m chuffed. As in Puzzle Palace, I won’t tell you anything about it other than that.  But be sure that we will add another one or two to the castle before we are done.  

Oh wait, there is more.  Did I mention that the entire castle is a maze?  There is no passage that will allow you to get from one floor to the next easily.  Let me explain.  We are staying in an apartment on the first floor of the castle.  Below us is the dungeon and above us are the main living quarters.  Now from my position, I can get to both floors, but no higher.  To get to the third floor, I need to either go through the dungeon, or through the living quarters.  The third and fourth floors are connected but you can not get to the tower from the fourth floor even though it is above the outer corner.  To get to the tower, you must walk all the way to the end of the third floor then take a wooden staircase to the top of the tower completely bypassing the fourth floor altogether.  I guess it is best explained through a video which I will try to put together sometime next week. 

And that brings an end to the secrets we learned this week. I’m sure there will be more to come. 

Later in the afternoon we took a drive to Tavernelle, a bigger town than Panicale that is about 4 km from here.  We went off in search of a photocopy shop, some pillows, and some kitchen utensils so I could cook dinner.  We found the pillow in a mattress shop and while we were there, I noticed one of those kitchen design counters.  I loved what I saw and asked the price of it. Wow!  Only €20,000 for the one on display. Guess who is getting a better kitchen installed.  

We next went in search of our other items but found nothing.  Ah well.  I guess we will just have to go back to Perugia on Saturday.  We next went to a Euro Spin market to buy some food for lunches and dinners.  Yep.  I knew it, that small place in Panicale is well over priced.  I know now to leave home to get food.  Hence the kitchen redo.  I need more than a dorm sized refrigerator if we are going to live this way.

That night we had dinner in yet another of the Michelin restaurants in town.  This one  we first went to when we bought the castle last April.  The quails egg pasta was still very good and George’s pigeon was amazing.  We had another bottle of very nice wine and two appetizers all for the princely sum of €103.  

That night there was a thunder storm.  The sound of the falling rain through the open windows was amazing. Until I heard the sound of a drip. These drips have been the bane of my existence in Florida.  I have finally managed to fix every last one of them in both houses.  To hear drip drip drip here gutted me.  How would I ever find it in a 42 room castle!  Wait, it has to be something else, I’m on the first floor.  The roof is miles above my head.  I walked the apartment only to discover the drip was coming from outside the bathroom window.  The drip was outside!  Relief!  

See you all tomorrow for another laugh at my expense.  I hope you enjoyed discovering the secrets of our new home as much as we did. 


  1. Very exciting to read about your discoveries in your new home. I hope I can visit the new museum and you guys some day.

  2. I am loving reading about your venture! It sounds so exciting. I’m willing you all the way.

  3. Best Wishes! It sounds like Amazing work and Fun! You should have a Film Crew there! :)

  4. For many years I have had a repeating dream. I am in a huge building, which has doors, passages, stairs, rooms, which go every which way. I think I know a way, but then I always end up somewhere which I am unfamiliar with. It's not frightening, more like an adventure. I guess it comes from my job as an engineer, I always have problems on my mind which I am trying to solve. I would love to visit this castle to see my dream in real life!