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‘I live in a 900-year-old fairytale castle and it’s made me a TikTok star’

Meet the Italian 22-year-old who’s proud to show off the reality of living in her palatial home to millions on social media

For some, living in a 900-year-old castle with canopy beds, stained-glass windows and a frescoed ballroom worthy of a Disney film is the stuff of fairy-tale dreams. For others, it is just their everyday reality.

Ludovica Sannazzaro Natta, 22, moved into the family residence, Castello Sannazzaro, when she was four. Now, she spends most of her time showing her millions of social media followers what life is like in her palatial home in Italy.

“It’s beautiful, it’s interesting and it’s my life,” she tells i. “So why should I hide it?”

Located in Giarole, a village about 70 miles east of Turin, the castle was built by the Sannazzaro counts in the 12th century after Frederick Barbarossa – the German king who was crowned Holy Roman Emperor after marching on Rome – granted the knights of Sannazzaro permission to build a fortified residence wherever they liked on their own land.

Sannazzaro Natta’s father, the current count, inherited the medieval residence in 1980, meaning it has now been in the family for 28 generations.

The castle boasts 18 bedrooms and nine bathrooms, as well as crenelated turrets, elaborate neo-Gothic stonework, secret underground passageways and a 23,000-square-metre English garden.

Sannazzaro Natta’s The Castle Diary pages on TikTok and Instagram, – with 4.3 million followers combined – have lowered a virtual drawbridge, opening up the lavish abode to the world.

In one recent Instagram post, she reenacts the Broadway-inspired musical number “Be Our Guest” from the Disney film Beauty and The Beast, when the castle’s staff of enchanted objects welcome Belle with a feast.

In another, she recreates a scene from The Princess Diaries, the coming-of-age comedy film, by surfing down a staircase on a mattress.

Ludovica Sannazzaro Natta Castello Sannazzaro Giarole Northern Italy Image via Writer James Imam
Castello Sannazzaro in Giarole, northern Italy (Photo: James Imam)

“It is pretty much a full time job,” Sannazzaro Natta says. “There’s a lot of research behind every post.”

Prior to the castle, she lived in a city apartment in Milan with her father, a history buff who, she says, is “very passionate” about his family’s past, and her mother, who she describes as from a “normal” Roman family.

Her parents, who both worked in finance, were determined to “completely turn their lives upside down”, so moved the family into the castle full time in 2006, turning one wing into a B&B the same year.

“My father was convinced it should be lived in 365 days a year,” she says. “He wanted it to be enjoyed by the public.” For the young Sannazzaro Natta, the castle proved to be the perfect place to play. “While children pretend to be princesses, I could do it inside a castle with my friends,” she says. “That really amplified everything.”

A simple game of hide-and-seek would last hours when young visitors got lost in enormous rooms and winding corridors. Sannazzaro Natta and her friends loved dressing up as princesses, knights and dragons in itinerant plays they put on in the castle.

But when she started secondary school an hour-and-half’s drive away in Turin, moving into a city apartment so that she could fit in evening theatre classes, she became more guarded about where she lived.

Ludovica Sannazzaro Natta Castello Sannazzaro Giarole Northern Italy Image via Writer James Imam
Ludovica has amassed a TikTok following (Photo: James Imam)

“I never quite knew how or when to reveal this thing about the castle,” she says. “I had already been judged by it in the past.”

Things began to change when she moved to the US to study musical theatre in LA and New York: “The fact that in the States the idea of somebody living in a castle was so alien meant people were more fascinated than malicious.”

She moved back to the castle during the Covid-19 lockdowns and, seeking ways to pass the time during isolation, plunged into the world of social media in 2021.

“People were using social media to recount their daily lives, and I thought, ‘Why don’t I do the same?’” she recalls. “That way I could also dismantle those stereotypes that terrified me every time I told people about my home.”

One early post showing the negative aspects of life in the castle – bad WiFi, endless cleaning and cold drafts – bringing in her first million views.

Now, she invites her followers to suggest what content they’d like to see – and has great fun with subverting their expectations.

“Living in a castle is not always as you’d expect,” she says.

Ludovica Sannazzaro Natta Castello Sannazzaro Giarole Northern Italy Image via Writer James Imam
Ludovica wants to hold balls in the castle (Photo: James Imam)

Her social media profiles have become a family enterprise, with her father fishing historical documents from the archives to spice up scripts with colourful facts, and her mother stitching period ballgowns for her to wear in photos and videos.

“There was a period when she was making a costume every three days,” she says. “We’ve had to empty a whole room to store them.”

Next, Sannazzaro Natta is keen to devise new ways of helping people get into the mediaeval spirit.

“My vision for this business is to open the doors of the castle and go back in time,” she says. “I’m thinking historical reenactments, theatre in costumes, dinners in costumes.”

She also says she’d love to throw a masked ball under the sumptuous frescoes.

“That’s what my social media followers really want,” she says. “I get requests for a ball at least once a day.”

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