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Many Phoenicians regularly drive by Tovrea Castle (5041 E. Van Buren St., 602/256-3220, www.phoenix.gov/parks) on Highway 202 (Loop 202) and have no idea what it is, but the three-tier wedding cake-style house is hard to miss.
In 1928, Italian immigrant Alessio Carraro purchased 277 acres of undeveloped land east of downtown Phoenix, armed with grand plans for the desert hilltop. He envisioned a luxury housing development that would be crowned by a massive cactus garden and a posh resort, which he designed as a rococo castle inspired by his native Italy.
Those dreams were soon dashed, though, when Edward and Della Tovrea began ranching land adjacent to his would-be oasis—the addition of a slaughterhouse didn’t help matters. With few options, Carraro sold the castle to an anonymous buyer in 1931: Della Tovrea.
Edward died the following year, and Della would live in the castle most of her life until 1969, when burglars broke into the home and beat the 80-year-old woman. She eventually died from her injuries.
Today, the city of Phoenix has renovated the abandoned home and garden, which has been replanted with 5,000 cacti, including 352 saguaros. The garden just opened to the public for the first time, and the restored castle is expected to commence tours in late fall 2010. Call for details.
© Jeff Ficker from Moon Phoenix, Scottsdale & Sedona, 1st edition