The Castello has been home to art and culture for over 100 years, since the days when the Countess Ada Telfner would invite the Perugian aristocracy and the greatest exponents of Italian and foreign culture.
At present it is run directly by the Temperini family, owners of the complex since 1975. Even during the years of Fascism and World War II the castle's park was the scene of interesting botanical meetings organized by Countess Natalie Vitetti, the wife of Count Amb. Leonardo Vitetti, ambassador to OECE, United Nations and in Paris.
The Castello dell'Oscano is just five miles from Perugia, in the village of Cenerente.
The name Cenerente comes from the word cenere, ash, which was deposited in this area following the volcanic eruptions of nearby Mt. Tezio.
Geological surveys confirm the presence of ash in the surface layers of the soil. The Oscano spring, from which the castle takes its name, flows down the slopes of Mt. Tezio and eventually empties into Lake Trasimeno. The human settlements (villages) of Cenerente and Oscano have been present in the area since the 13th century, the period of the greatest urbanization and fortification of the countryside.
By the 15th century, although the village Oscano has disappeared, we still find mention of Santa Maria di Cenerente, which since the 1200s has had its own parish church.
The town was a crossroads, with routes leading west toward Corciano and Lake Trasimeno, northwest toward Capocavallo, and north toward the Tiber Valley. It is important that these roads, often quite inaccessible, be reconstructed, because they were the trade routes for livestock, wool, foods and products used for crafts in town. Thanks to these routes, Cenerente was able to retain a certain degree of importance over the centuries, whereas the village of Oscano seemed destined to disappear.
Indeed, following the Black Death (1348) and the resulting population crash, many settlements, located in less favorable positions from both an economic and defensive standpoint, were abandoned.
There are numerous reports from the 16th century regarding this locality, a sign of the settlement’s continuing vitality. The properties of the Church of Santa Maria di Cenerente were registered in 1500; in 1559 the parish was combined with that of the neighboring parish of Santa Firmina, and in 1564 the existence of a baptismal font is recorded. Looking at the Gregorian map of Cenerente, it is possible to see the original state of the road network, which when compared to the successive cadastral maps shows the changes that have been made. In the register of changes in the Municipality of Perugia, no. 17b, the sale of various plots of land by the attorney Alessandro Bianchi to the Municipality of Perugia are registered, which constituted the new road route. The deed of sale is dated June 18, 1901.
Precise bibliographic documentation of the origin of the castle is lacking, but the examination of its structure and analysis of the area and its history (given above) allow us to suppose that in the Middle Ages there was a fort there with a square tower, the remains of which can still be seen in the lower stairs of the castle. The first written reports on the Castello dell’Oscano go back to 1364, when the papal militias of the White Company arrived from Tuscany and invaded the Perugian territory, devastating it. The entire zone around Cenerente – and thus that of Oscano – was considered strategic at the time, as it was an important crossroads between Lake Trasimeno, Capocavallo and therefore Tuscany, Pieve San Quirico, Gubbio and the Marche.
In the 1400s the Antognolla counts extended their possessions there. In the vicinity there was also the castle of Catrano, which gave origin to the Perugian noble family of the Ansidei. After the mid 1800s, the Oscano estate of Cenerente belonged to the attorney Alessandro Bianchi (1835-1905), a famous criminal lawyer from Perugia called the “Prince of the Court.” He amassed a large fortune as the attorney for the bishop and for various local nobles in the most important cases of the time. He defended the bandit Nazzareno Guglielmi, known as “Cinicchia” (who is said to have confided to him the place where a rich haul was buried). He also defended the bank robber Odero, who had stolen more than a million from the Banca di Siracusa. Bianchi owned the building named after him that he had built in Perugia across from the Morlacchi theater, Villa Oscano and various estates with villas in Valfabbrica, and in 1889 he purchased from the Municipality of Perugia the land where the old Turreno theater stood, and had it rebuilt at his own expense.
Bianchi died with his throat slit on August 30, 1905, during a solar eclipse, inside the building that he had had built and where he lived, in the center of Perugia across from the Teatro Morlacchi. Guido Casale, age 28, was accused of the crime, and in 1908 he was convicted in L’Aquila and sentenced to thirty years in prison. Various theories were formulated regarding the cause of the murder, but the one most accredited by historians is that Casale fell in love with Guglielmina Ranaldi from Casacastalda, who was employed as governess to Bianchi’s nephew. No one ever knew whether she was Bianchi’s daughter or lover, but Guglielmina was the main beneficiary of the estate of the seventy-year-old attorney who, once he learned of her carnal relationship with Casale, changed his will.
In 1895, Countess Telfner’s old lemon house at Villa Oscano was the site of a duel between Count Vittorio Cesarei and Placido Ciucci held over a quarrel that had taken place at a café. They were both wounded and made peace with each other. In that same year, due to the financial difficulties encountered with the construction of the Teatro Turreno, Alessandro Bianchi had sold the Oscano property to Ada and Giuseppe Telfener (Telfner), who had sold Villa Salaria in Rome, which in fact was called Villa Ada, to the Savoy princes. The Oscano estate was still represented by an 18th-century villa, and where the present-day castle now stands there was an old manor house called "CasaTorre."
Count Giuseppe di Carlo Telfener was from a noble family originally from the Val Gardena, and had settled in Rome, where he moved in the aristocratic and political circles of the capital, enjoying great esteem even at the court of the Savoys. His affairs had previously brought him far from Italy in order to build important works, such as the railroad across the Rio de la Plata region in Argentina and in Texas. In the United States he met and wed Ada Hungerford, a very wealthy American aristocrat. Count Giuseppe di Carlo Telfener, accompanied by his wife, Countess Ada Telfener and the entire family, moved to Umbria as early as 1879, where in May of that year, accredited with a fortune of 30 million, he was invited to run for political office. He was elected by the radicals and republicans as a member of Parliament from the district of Foligno in a “supplementary” election, and he achieved a fair amount of success, despite harsh criticism from the Il Progresso newspaper.
His election was bitterly contested also in Parliament, such that additional elections were held, in which Telfener chose not to participate. Enterprising engineer that he was, while he was on vacation in the Vallombrosa in 1881 Count Giuseppe Telfener decided to invest part of his capital in the building of a summer resort that was easily reached from the Florence-Rome railroad line. An essential part of this project was the construction of a rack railway to be used by both tourists and the many scholars going to the important Vallombrosa Forestry Institute, which opened in 1891. After having founded the “Società Anonima per la Ferrovia Sant'Ellero-Saltino” in Florence, he worked personally on the project, which was presented in November 1891. The proposal to build the first summer resort in Italy was well received by the Minister of Agriculture Bruno Chimirri, who encouraged Telfener and allowed him to obtain concessions on state lands in a short time. On May 21, 1892, the final design was approved for the construction of the rack railway that would link Saltino and the Vallombrosa with the Florence-Rome line at Sant’Ellero.
Thanks to the government subsidy of 3000 lire per km for 35 years, and with grants from the Province of Florence and the Municipality of Reggello, the works got off to a rapid start on May 23, 1892, and were completed on September 20 of the same year, with the building of a railroad route eight kilometers long with gradients of up to 22%, and having a special toothed rack rail set between the two outer rails, which allowed the locomotive to climb up the hills, the only of its kind in Italy. The first accommodation structure (on a plot of state-owned forest land) was the “Hotel Stazione,” designed and built by Telfener himself in Saltino in the same period. An imposing edifice in the Swiss style with the typical steeply pitched roofs, it had a capacity of 100 bedrooms and, unique to the period and the area, it was supplied with electricity.
Starting on September 25, 1892, the day of the inauguration of the railway, Saltino and Vallombrosa became a holiday destination patronized by the cream of the Italian aristocracy of the time; ministers and men of culture stayed there during the summer, thus creating an elite atmosphere that led to Saltino and Vallombrosa being recognized in Italy and abroad as the “Italian Switzerland.” In the meantime Telfener’s health had worsened, and he passed on its management to other shareholders in the railroad and hotel management company.
At Oscano, in 1895 Countess Ada Hungerford in Telfener had a false medieval castle built in the neo-Gothic style over the remains of an old fortress, with construction lasting about ten years. The castle was inspired by English and Tuscan buildings following the revival movement that was very popular in the period of the Enlightenment, not unlike Miralago on Lake Trasimeno, and the Castello Isabella on Maggiore island, where it was the custom to invite the Perugian aristocracy and exponents of Italian and German culture. The name of the architect is not known, but it can legitimately be assumed to have been (at least at the beginning, from 1895 to December 1897, the date of his death) Giuseppe Telfener himself, who undoubtedly had the skills, but could not have completed the work, which took at least ten years. Another equally legitimate hypothesis is that the architect was – by himself, together with the “count,” or continuing the count’s work – the engineer Censi of Rome, some of whose drawings are now hanging on the walls of the castle. Thanks to the Telfner counts, at the start of the century the castle became a meeting place for culture movements from all over Italy and Bavaria as well, and its fame in the region led to several imitations of the architecture and the arrangement of its garden, which in the early 1900s became the home of an important botanical club. On April 10, 1913 the Telfner counts were notified of a restriction pursuant to Art. 5 of Law 20 June 1909, regarding the “Villa Telfner at Cenerentola or Cenerente, Castello dell'Oscano, of important interest and thus subject to the provisions contained in Articles 5, 6, 7, 13, 14, 29, 31, 34 and 37 of the aforementioned Law.” In May 1913 a garden party was held by the Telfners at Oscano, with gymkhanas, donkey races, etc.. In February 1914, Josè Telfner, one of Ada and Giuseppe Telfner sons, married Pia Marro at Cimar, near Nice. Meanwhile their other son, John Telfner, married Rina Giostrelli and moved to Puglia to help Father Pio in the construction of the Casa della Sofferenza (House of Suffering). In about 1930 the estate and the villa-castle were purchased by the Vitali family, and later sometime in 1935, after a lease period, it was purchased by the ambassador Count Leonardo (son of Ernesto) Vitetti, born in Locri on December 15, 1894.
Count Vitetti, Ambassador to OECE, United Nations and in Paris, lived in the Castle together with his wife Natalie and son Ernesto Guglielmo until 1947, but they continued to spend their vacations in the Castle until 1970, when they decided to sell it. On July 10, 1970, Count Leonardo Vitetti sold the entire property to the Villa Oscano Società a r.l. of Perugia, and after various vicissitudes, changes in management as well as location, first in Milan, then Monza and back to Perugia again, in 1975 the company was transformed into Villa Oscano S.p.a.. In 1976 it was purchased by a well-known industrialist from Perugia, Elvio Temperini, together with his wife Graziella Grassetti and two partners, Benito Pecetti and Rolando Cappella.