Palazzo Sorbello

June 30, 2011 / Places
Perugia, Umbria

We are drawn to the past. We trawl antique stores, visit ruins, and pore over archives… constantly peering through windows into history, hoping to find some connection with the millenia that have come before.

This is especially true about the home-cum-museum. Who doesn’t love to wander through these domestic archaeological sites and learn about the quotidian routines of their occupants, so similar to and, at times, so incredibly removed from our own?

Palazzo Sorbello is one such “House Museum”, where you might imagine finding richly furnished aristocratic salons arranged in artful domestic tableaux, mannequins posed in period garb, dark corners, a slight musty odor, and lots of dust. I know I was expecting your typical small, private, off-the-beaten-track museum.

Yet I was completely enthralled during my two hour tour! (Standard visit is 30 mins, but I got to talking with a director, Enrico Speranza, and before we knew it…) If a visit to Palazzo Sorbello is a window into the past, the view from here is one of a family with a long history – uniquely interwoven with that of Italy from the Middle Ages to the 20th century – and with an enduring passion for art and culture.

Among the things you’ll see are an extensive library, a carefully curated selection of portraits and landscape paintings, breathtaking European and Chinese porcelain, a priceless hand-blown Murano chandelier, and various oggetti d’epoca.

Perhaps most fascinating however, is the collection of intricate embroidery produced at the beginning of the 20th century by the Embroidery School founded by the American wife of one of the noble family’s descendants. This enterprising Dame, Romeyne Robert, left her mark on the local economy by enrolling rural Umbrian women in the school, teaching them this disappearing craft, and giving them their first taste of economic independence.

More than a simple time-capsule, Palazzo Sorbello is a living lesson in Italy’s social and economic history and one of the most fascinating museums in Umbria.

Rebecca Winke

by Rebecca Winke

Owner of Brigolante Apartments, a restored 16th century stone farmhouse / guesthouse in the heart of Umbria near Assisi, and blogger of life in Umbria. For tips and insider information about visiting Umbria, download her Umbria Slow App and see her writings on her personal website!

8 Responses to “Palazzo Sorbello”

  1. There is a very small hotel in Spoleto I have visited/stayed in. The chandelier in their dinning rooms is very much like the one you show in your pictures. I can just imagine how it must have felt to live in such a wonderful home.

  2. Sigh. Beautiful. And watch for my upcoming story about Palazzo Camozzini in Verona, where a fabulous opera program took place in May. I was so honored to be there. And it’s in someone’s home!

  3. Anne Robichaud

    Rebé, glad you enjoyed this little “gioiello” and you are right, a Perugia treasure(no, UMBRIA treasure!..and we have a plethora, vero!?)

  4. The Sorbello Castle is the centerpiece of the Niccone Valley where I live. All of the case coloniche here were owned by them, so the area is rich with stories. Thank you for reminding me that I must visit this local treasure!

  5. É vero Anne! I wish I had seen this when we lived in Perugia! I don’t believe it was yet open to the public, am I right? Or it just escaped our notice!! That was in 2005.

  6. Valeria SorBello Brandt

    I was taken to Italy a few years ago by my sister and her husband. Being Sorbellos, naturally we went to the Palazzo. It was so much more than expected. I am currently reading a book on the Family purchased there, obviously of interest to a genealogist [like myself] in the Sorbello Family, but the Italian history which has always been rather murkey is becoming clear as
    I study it! Sadly, at the time of year we went, we could not visit the castello, so i am still searching out more info on that part of the family, as well as WHO went to Sicily and WHEN as the majority of Sorbellos are to be found in Giarre, Sicily and their descendants are scattered throughout the US. Anyone who has an interest in the Sorbello Family, i am very interested in a correspondence. Another trip to Italy is not likely to happen!
    I can correspond in
    Italian if need be. [Pretty rusty, but written is better than spoken!]


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