If you love Italian classics, you have certainly read The Leopard by Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa, or at least you have watched the film by Luchino Visconti. But you probably don’t know that the popular waltz scene played by Claudia Cardinale and Burt Lancaster is set in the ballroom of 18th century Palazzo Valguarnera-Gangi in Palermo. Designed in baroque style, the palace is one of the most important in Sicily, but now it is due to close because of its high maintenance costs.
We have recently written about the closing of Villa Piccolo, the home of ‘The Leopard‘, due to 50 cents loss. And now it’s the turn of Palazzo Valguarnera-Gangi, whose rooms now are open to visitors only by appointment.
Princess Carine Vanni Calvello, recently interviewed by La Repubblica, said: ‘The owners of historic buildings in Sicily feel like we have been abandoned. We were entitled to skip IRPEF (Italian personal income tax) for ten years and this allowed us to make maintenance. But when Mario Monti (prime minister of Italy from 2011 to 2013) was elected, he introduced the tax again and then increased it. We had to use our own savings to keep the palazzi alive, but now we cannot do it anymore’.
Pierluigi Martorana Genuardi, the owner of Palazzo Asmundo, a 17th century building in the historic centre of Palermo that is now a museum, is facing the same problem. In fact he admitted ‘After many years of sacrifices and expenditures, we cannot put up anymore. The costs and the fiscal pressure are too high’.
He made a desperate appeal to find a sponsor, either a company or a a patron, to help with the restoration of the fresco paintings. Otherwise he’ll sell the palazzo, whose price starts at 6,000,000 euros.
The Leopard era is now over and what remains is just dust, debts and good memories of the past. But there is still room for hope.