On a recent train trip through four European countries, I booked as many unique accommodations as I could find. One was a 16th-century castle in Italy called Castello di Roncade.
Rapunzel was locked in the tower. Belle falls in love with a magical clock, a teacup, and a beast among candlesticks. Cinderella sweeps the church where her stepmother takes her. Everything I know about castles comes from literature.
More specifically, I grew up watching Disney movies about princesses and princes living in luxury or trapped in grand castles with defensive walls and stunning architecture.
But until recently, I had never seen a castle in real life, except for the one at Disneyland.
On a recent train trip through four European countries, my partner and I were looking for a unique lodging and were delighted to find Castello di Roncade outside of Venice, Italy.
I saw this castle on Airbnb, which is known for its variety of unique hotels, but I booked it through the company’s website and paid $360 for three nights, including daily breakfast.
I really wanted to know what castles were like outside of movies and magical stories. Here’s how my stay went and the amazing things I learned about living a fairy tale.
One of my biggest surprises about Castello di Roncade was learning that it’s not technically a castle. It is actually a villa, but it looks like a castle, hence the name.
When my partner and I arrived at the castle, Castello di Roncaide thought the medieval walls and towers looked very authentic.
But speaking to a representative of Castello di Roncade, I learned that it was a Venetian villa built in the 16th century to be used by an agricultural company producing fruit, vegetables and wine.
Originally named Villa Giustinian after the Venetian nobleman who built it, one source told me that locals often referred to it as a castle because of its walls and towers, which were built more for decoration than defense.
In 1930, Baron Tito Ciani Bassetti bought the villa to live with his family and converted the grounds into a vineyard and winery, according to the company’s website. When married after purchasing the property, they decided to change the official name to Castello di Roncade, the representative said. Later in the 1980s, Ciani opened an apartment in the tower and main villa of Vincenzo Castle for the Bassetti family, according to the same source.
I was surprised and amazed to discover that the villa looks like a castle and even has the official title of a castle.
I did not expect that the main building would be built when I arrived.
To me, the castle in the movie seems to stand the test of time with its castle and walls.
But in reality, according to The Foundation Experts, a Canadian restoration and maintenance company, old buildings often need to be restored to last for hundreds of years.
When we arrived at Castello di Roncada, we expected to see an elegant facade on the main building, but the exterior was being restored. According to a representative of Castello di Roncade, new plaster work is being done on the balconies, columns and arches, as well as an attempt to restore the historic artwork that decorated the facade.
Reconstruction work began in 2020 and is expected to be completed in 2022, the same source told Insider. However, it is taking longer due to some delays, the source said, adding that they hope to complete it in the spring of this year. The year 2023.
I was also surprised to learn that there is a working winery on the grounds of the castle.
I always thought of castles as a means of protection for royalty before. But when I booked my stay at Castello di Roncade, I learned that the property had another, more unexpected purpose—it’s a winery with 270 acres of vineyards, according to its website.
When the Ciani Bassetti family bought Castello di Roncade in the early 20th century, they established a winery of the same name, a company spokesman said.
My stay included a tour of the wine cellar. I had never been to a winery before, and as a non-drinker, I didn’t know what to expect. But I found it interesting.
Our tour guide led us and a couple from Colombia who were also staying at the house into a dimly lit room full of more wine barrels than I could count. The air smelled of wine and wood. Walking down the narrow path between the two lanes, I was shocked to see how big the wine barrels were. A single barrel was hovering over me on its side.
I was surprised to learn that this old cellar was built 500 years ago, said a representative of Castello di Roncade, who also said that wine is the castle’s main business, producing 400,000 bottles a year.
I stayed in one of the towers of the castle. I thought it was much shorter than the Rapunzel-like building I had in mind when I ordered it.
When I booked a room in one of the castle’s towers, I thought I might feel like Rapunzel trapped at the top of a tall medieval structure.
But Castello di Roncade’s towers were built for decoration rather than protection, and mine was only three stories tall, a company representative told Insider. In reality, he wasn’t as high above the countryside as I had imagined.
Our room was on the top floor and not as high as I expected, but I still had a view of the property. I enjoyed waking up in the morning and looking out the window to the sound of birds chirping.
I was also impressed by the high-tech interior of the 16th-century tower. It has an elevator and energy saving technology.
Castles are often steeped in history, so I was surprised to see the high-tech features inside the tower.
While the tower was built in the 16th century along with the rest of the castle, a spokesperson for Castello di Roncade told Insider that it will be restored in 2021 and turned into a guest house. Before that, the tower used to store wine, according to the same source.
Inside the building, I expected to climb three flights of stairs, but the tower had an elevator. I thought it made my vacation more relaxing.
In addition, in order to use the light inside the room, you had to put your room key in the lock near the door. It’s an energy-saving feature I’ve seen in modern hotels, but I never expected to find it in a castle, and I appreciated it.
I was surprised at how modern my room in the tower looked. Aside from the brick walls and beamed ceiling, nothing about the room screamed “castle” to me.
Based on the castles I’ve seen in movies, I felt frozen in my room with classic, ornate decorations like knight’s armor or ancient paintings. But aside from the exposed brick walls and beams, I thought the room looked really modern.
Because the building was renovated in 2021, a spokesman for Castello di Roncadi said, adding that the exposed beams were part of the original building before the renovation.
Also, I thought my room was bigger than the hotels I booked. The 480-square-foot suite features two sitting areas, a queen bedroom, walk-in closet, and bathroom.
While my room was recently renovated, the agent told me that other apartments were renovated in the 1990s and 2010s. While looking at pictures of all the rooms online, I thought that these rooms included more of the decor that I painted, such as the pillows that I painted and the sparkly chandeliers. If I stay in Castello di Roncai again, I will definitely try one of them.
Staying in a castle was not as glamorous as I had imagined, but I thought that Castello di Roncaide gave me a special and memorable experience.
My stay at Castello di Roncade was not exactly what I had imagined from the castles I saw in movies and books I read as a child.
But that might be a good thing.
When I travel, I like to be surprised, so I stay in unique places. I never thought I’d take a tower lift to explore the grounds of a castle-like villa, as it was called one. In the end, it seemed to me to stay in the castle.
Whenever I think about travel, the unexpected moments are the most memorable. My stay at Castello di Roncade certainly gave me a lot of great moments.