Sunday, March 4, 2012

When Torture Chambers Become Life Changing Ideas...

I have found inspiration once again, and this time it is from a very, very unlikely source.

Torture Chambers.


The Medieval kind. 

Before you write me off as completely-crazy-and-so-sadistic-you'll-never-even-let-me-near-your-dog, please let me tell you WHY I found inspiration in the dark, cold chamber of torture.


Please take a moment to observe this castle:

Castello di Amorosa

This 107 room, 121,000 square foot castle is not in Italy. In fact, it's not anywhere NEAR Europe. It stands majestically in the hills of California's Napa Valley. But don't let its modern location fool you. It's got all the right parts: murder holes, dungeons, a moat, great hall, church, stables, loopholes (archer windows), room of whispers (MY FAVORITE!!)'s even got a "working" drawbridge! (I say "working" because California regulations prohibited the "working" part. The crank and pulley system is now cemented.)

We paid for the tour, and it was about as private as you get. No, really. We lucked out because no one else had signed up for our tour time (group sizes average around 15). If you ever tour this castle, you MUST MUST MUST ask for Wendy. She was fabulous - knowledgable and spunky and soooooo much fun!

Me, Wendy, Margaret

Ben and me at entrance.

Iron work designed in Assisi - hooks used for tying horses

View from tower

Imported armor in weapons room

More imported. See the one with the huge gash?
The one with the pointed nose was used during jousting tournaments

Aaaaaaaaand construction all started in 1994. 


Now, why, oh why, would someone decide to build a medieval castle in the 21st century?

This is where I (and hopefully you) become inspired.

It all began with a man named Dario Sattui.

He is a fourth generation Italian immigrant - his great grandfather founded the V. Sattui Winery in 1885 in San Francisco - and he was bound and determined to bring a piece of Italy, mixed with his passion for medieval architecture, to our own Napa Valley.

After 15 years of research, and importing a man from Austria with experience in medieval architecture, Sattui began building his dream. But that dream didn't come without challenges. 1000 pound doors, authentic stones and bricks , iron work from Assisi, a real Iron Maiden *shudders* - just a fraction of items hauled over from Europe. The entire project took 14 - FOURTEEN! - years to complete, and Sattui talks about a time when there was "No End in Sight."

Not to mention, people in the valley scoffed and sneered at "the man trying to build a castle." Try dealing with that when you're pouring everything you are into building your dream. Even if it happens to be the first modern-day medieval castle.

That night, we watched Moneyball (you know, the baseball movie with Brad Pitt). A line in that movie really stood out to me: "The first one through the wall always gets bloody."

And then I thought of Sattui.

When people do great things - the ones that really change the way the world works - those "successes" aren't met overnight. Sure, we see a gorgeous castle on a hill that happens to make great wines and we think OF COURSE it would be successful. Or we see a world-changing book series like Harry Potter (had to slip Harry in there somewhere :D ) that has movies and theme parks bringing it to life. But what we NEVER see is how those people struggled to get to that point. The times of doubt and despair, the sleepless nights and overwhelming sense of failure. But in the face of all the varying adversity, what all "the greats" have in common is that they never quit trying.

Even if all they wanted was to build a non-functioning, authentic torture chamber in their medieval castle. :)

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