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. :)


  1. I wanna go see a castle! So jealous. And yes, it is inspirational, and so true. I love it how you tied it all up at the end.

    1. Aww, thanks, Sari! I know, I looooooooove castles! You gotta have some near you, don't ya?

  2. Dude! That's close! How close to Napa is it?
    I'm seeing a trip in my future.

    1. It's in Napa! Well, TECHNICALLY the edge of Calistoga...but if you stay on 29, which goes through Napa, you'll eventually run into it - about 23 miles ;D

  3. Wow, what a place and an inspirational story behind it. Loved the photos!

  4. Okay, well, I have to ask: how far away from here are you? I think I thought you didn't live in this area anymore.

    And, you know, if you want to read the multiple 1st person thing, my book is available >grin<

    What's your idea? Tell me!

    And I'm gonna have to plan a trip to the castle.

    1. OH, yeah :) You're right...we DID move, but we were back visiting my family! SO it was only about an hour away. There's no way I'd drive straight from Phoenix. :D

      YES plan a trip, and let me know if/when you do!

      Aaaaaaand I didn't realize your's was multiple 1st person. Oooo! Well, I can't SAY, exactly (you know how it is, lol) bur you helped me solve an issue I was having with the third book in my series. So. THANK YOU.

  5. Well, I'm glad I could be of help with book #3.
    And, you know, if you're going to ead a multiple 1st person book, I'd say go with mine. But The Pigman is shorter, and I haven't won a Pulitzer.

    I will certainly let you know if/when we get a trip planned. It won't be right away, because everything is just SO busy right now. And we have stuff every weekend through May because my daughter decided to add softball on top of everything else she already does. heh

    Oh, and I do have your 1st book on my list, but I'm so behind, right now, I'm not sure how soon I will get that far down the stack. But it is there!

  6. This looks awesome! About three years ago I had an idea for a vampire screenplay replete with castle, etc. I scoured the web for a location but never say this one.

    I did find a cool castle in Alexandria Bay, N.Y., however. The cost of production would have been prohibitive so I put the idea on a back burner.

    Come to think of it, I've never been to a castle before but your blog has certainly inspired me to finally do so whenever I get back to the states.

  7. My dog drives me batty--you can "play" with him any time!

  8. Oh now that is very neat. There simply arent' enough castles in America, so kudos to this fellow who worked 14 years to bring his dream alive! That is inspiring.

  9. Wow. This is awesome. I can't believe I live 30 minutes away and never knew about this place. Planning trip now... :-)

    BTW Barbara, believe it or not there is another castle (sort of) in this area. If you haven't heard of Castle Greystone, home of the Culinary Institute of America, check it out. They have an award winning restaurant, food and wine classes, etc., in the St. Helena area. Your castle is definitely better though.

  10. I love, love, LOVE this post! A) Because... um, hello? ITS A CASTLE!! and B) That is SO true what you said about doubt and despair and success not coming overnight. Sometimes I think I forget that... okay, I forget it ALL the time ( : Its good to be reminded that all good things take time!

  11. Really cool. Thanks for sharing this Barbara! Perseverance really is important in anything, isn't it?

  12. Great post, Barbara. I mentioned it in the comments I made in giving you The Versatile Blogger Award: It's a pleasure to do so.

  13. That's awesome. It does look vaguely Tuscan. You can go on a great tour of torture chambers in British castles, of course it's more disconcerting to know they were actually used for torture - like the pit at Berkely Castle where Edward II was killed with a red hot poker and the bottle dungeon at St Andrews - there was only one way in and no way out. Happy times.


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