Some of the world’s most glorious sights can only be experienced if you crane your neck. Jonathan Glancey looks up.
Castello di Sammezzano, Leccio, Italy
The mesmerising ceiling, vaults and decor of the Peacock Room in this abandoned Italian palazzo near Florence speak for themselves. Peacocks, and other exotica, were the source of the inspired decoration to be found throughout the seemingly endless empty rooms of this daydream building. The Moorish-style makeover of what was a much older palace was the life work of Ferdinando Panciatichi Ximenes d’Aragona. Although the aristocratic Italian architect, engineer, botanist, philosopher and politician never visited the Levant or the Orient, he imagined a world of exquisite and highly exotic forms and colours that he brought to life in Leccio between 1843 and 1889. A hotel in the 20th Century, the palazzo and its polychromatic Peacock Room are in limbo today.