The architectural appearance of medieval castles in Italy. More reminiscent of impregnable fortresses. Reflected not only the romance of love intrigues. But also the tragedy of bloody battles, numerous wars, and disputes over inheritance. Many of the castles built to defend against enemy attacks and uprisings of disgruntled peasants. Only after a while the fortresses settled down, perked up. And became the embodiment of the greatness and rich cultural heritage of Italy. Today, some of the castles have turned into museums, some have been given to city municipalities. And some still privately owned. But the most important thing is that they have survived. And ready to tell colorful stories from their rich past.
The famous Aragonese Castle rises on a small volcanic lava island 220 m from the southeastern part of the island of Ischia. The view of the castle, floating like a ship, right on the water surface of the Gulf of Naples, is really spectacular. Today, the castle of the d’Avalos family has become the hallmark of Ischia and its most popular attraction. The Aragonese castle built back in 474 BC. e., soon two observation towers appeared in the neighborhood to monitor the ships sailing in the surrounding waters.
Apart from a few minor battles, nothing worthy of attention happened on the island, the castle disappeared into oblivion. This continued until the 15th century when the Aragonese rulers made Ischia the center of political, cultural, and spiritual life at the same time. The rock connected to the island by a stone bridge and the fortress was fortified with powerful walls.
Valentino Castle is one of the main attractions of Turin. The building is located in a picturesque place of the park of the same name in the very center of the city. The Po River flows nearby, the vegetation smells fragrant, in a word, thanks to such an environment, an already bright building looks very impressive. It got its name from the nearby St. Valentine’s Church. The castle arose as a small fortified fortress-residence of the House of Savoy in Turin erected in the 13th century.
The construction of the Castel Sant’Angelo began in Rome back in 135. During its almost two-thousand-year history, it was rebuilt several times and functioned not only as a castle itself, but also was a tomb, the residence of the popes, a storehouse, and, of course, a prison. Currently, the Castle of Saint Angel houses the Military History Museum, where tourists can see the Secret Archives, the Hall of Treasures, the Papal Apartments, the Paul III Loggia, the Clement VII Hall, the Alexander VI Courtyard, and much more – more than 50 rooms that make up a real labyrinth!
The building got its name in 590, when, during the plague, Pope Gregory the Great saw the Archangel Michael on the roof, sheathed his sword. This meant that the raging disaster was over. It was after this that the fortress became known as the Castle of the Holy Angel.
The Fenestrelle Fortress in the Piedmont Valley is a complex of numerous forts, earthen fortifications and ramparts, and defensive walls 5 km long. The history of this outstanding fortification dates back more than 3 centuries, but it has never been used for its intended purpose. Until the middle of the last century, the fortress served as a prison, then it was restored and turned into a museum complex.
Castle of Malcesine
Towering over Lake Garda, the castle is named after the aristocratic family of the rulers of Verona, although the Scaligers owned it only until 1387. But it was they who, in the 13th century, turned the building into an impregnable fortress, and all the main architectural details of that time have survived to this day, including the battlements of the towers and walls in the form of a swallow’s tail. Today there is a historical museum, wedding celebrations are held, concerts are held in the palace amphitheater.
The castle with numerous towers acquired its present appearance in the 16th century. Although the first mentions of a fortification in the mountainous area of Valle d’Aosta date back to the 13th century. Despite its inaccessible appearance, the castle did not have to participate in battles and long sieges, so it has been preserved in excellent condition. Its particular value is the 15th-century frescoes in the courtyard. One of the towers of the palace is called Pigeons, and pigeons live in it, as in the Middle Ages.
Castel Nuovo or “New Castle” was built in Naples in the 13th century by the order of Charles of Anjou. There was already one castle in the city, Castel del Ovo, so the issue with the name was solved simply. It was built in 3 years, Karl officially moved the capital from Palermo to Naples and planned to equip a royal residence here. But the locals staged an uprising against the French authorities, so only his son, Charles II, could settle in the castle.
Nuovo has survived more than one attack by strangers and local residents and an earthquake, despite which it is well preserved. In different centuries, it was completed and rebuilt – fortified against the threat of the enemy, expanded areas for the convenience of local authorities. Until 2006, the City Council met in the building, now the Municipal Museum is open in the castle.
Castel del Monte
The castle of Castel del Monte is called the “Crown of Apulia” and is considered one of the most mysterious buildings not only in Italy but throughout Europe. Within these walls 8 centuries ago, amazing, mystical, and, possibly, terrible things happened, about which much is still unknown.
Castel del Monte (or castle on the mountain) is located in Italy, in the Puglia region. Its construction was started by the order of Frederick II, presumably in 1240. It is interesting that just a year before this, the financial condition of Spain was so deplorable that Frederick II stopped the construction of several military fortresses. But not Castel del Monte.
Malaspina Castle (Fosdinovo)
The first defensive structure in the city of Fosdinovo was mentioned in the II century. The current fortress was built in the XII century, and from the beginning of the XIV century to this day it has been in the possession of the Malaspina family. The castle has the shape of a quadrangle with round towers at the corners; inside there is a living room, a dining room, a throne room, a prison, and a torture chamber. Today, a museum is open here, frescoes, wall paintings, Dante’s room, collections of coins and weapons are of particular value.
From the 13th to the beginning of the 19th century, the castle in the city of Trento was the seat of bishops. Then it housed military barracks, a prison, in the 20th century it was restored, and now there is a museum there. Over the course of several centuries, the territory of the castle expanded, new buildings appeared. The result is a whole complex of buildings of different styles and eras, surrounded by impregnable walls. The special value of the castle is the unique precious frescoes in the Gothic style.
Rocca Imperiale Castle
This is the common name for the Italian city on the Ionian coast and the ancient castle located at the very top of the cliff. It was built in 1225 by the Roman emperor Frederick II. The place was not chosen by chance; the mountain offers an excellent panoramic view of the Gulf of Taranto. At present, separate fragments of the surrounding walls, dilapidated bastions, and bridges have been preserved from the castle. Restoration works are being carried out there under the auspices of UNESCO.
Castle of Castelvecchio in Verona
The Gothic Castelvecchio castle in Verona erected in the 8th century as a defensive fortress. Later, the Scala family made Castelvecchio their residence, the rulers of the city took refuge here not only during attacks on the city but also during periods of dangerous urban revolts. Subsequently, the castle managed to play the role of a dungeon for prisoners, served as an arsenal during the years of Napoleonic occupation, and then as an artillery school. Castelvecchio opens to the public at the end of the 19th century. And in the next century undergoes numerous renovations. During which three castle towers restored. Castelvecchio Castle included in the UNESCO World Heritage List. For the company with other sights of Verona.
Genoa castle fort Diamante Liguria
The fortified defensive structure of the 18th century got its name from the Monte Diamante mountain, on the top of which it is located, at an altitude of 670 meters above sea level. The fortress served as a powerful defensive bastion for Genoa against invasions from the north. From its terraces, the entire city, stretching along the sea coast, and its surroundings are clearly visible. The defensive system of Genoa has a number of well-preserved fortifications to this day.
Castle of Rocca Calascio
The tallest building in Italy began to be erected in the Apennine mountains in the 10th century. From the walls of the ancient fortress, all the surrounding environs were clearly visible, troops were stationed in it. Unfortunately, as a result of several strong earthquakes in the 15th-18th centuries, the fortress walls turned into ruins, only the towers survived. Nowadays, the building has been partially restored; this place is popular with tourists and filmmakers.
Not without castles in Milan. The most popular of these is the Sforza Castle, built in the middle of the 15th century. It will be interesting for tourists from anywhere. Why is the castle so remarkable? First of all, the shape of the towers and the crown of the crowning wall of the battlements are like two drops of water similar to the Moscow Kremlin. There is nothing surprising in this: the Milanese architects, who were invited to work on the project of the Moscow Kremlin, took the appearance of the Sforza fortress, hence the similarity.
The castle contains rare canvases, various sculptures, busts of great Italians, there is a hall dedicated to the work of Leonardo da Vinci. By the way, he was personally involved in decorating this castle. Also here are furniture, clocks, household utensils, bed linen, which, since the 15th century, were in use in the homes of nobles. In addition, in the castle museum, you can see the last (unfinished) sculpture by Michelangelo, Pieta Rondanini, paintings by Mantegna, Giovanni Bellini, Filippino Lippi, Correggio, and Pontormo, as well as an interesting collection of musical instruments.
In the historic center of the Italian city of Ferrara stands a massive 14th-century fortress surrounded by a moat. This is the most monumental structure of the architectural ensemble of Ferrara – the Estense Castle or, as the first owner Niccolò II d’Este called it, the Castle of St. Michael. The Ferrara Castle is a square structure with strong walls and four corner towers that attract attention and set the general atmosphere. The observation tower on the eastern corner (lion) dates back to the 13th century when it guarded the outskirts of the Old Town of Ferrara, and later three other towers were added to it. The impregnable castle, dominating the surrounding city quarters, was erected to protect the Ferrara rulers from popular unrest, intensified by the increase in taxes.
Fort of Bard Castle
Fort Bard acquired its architectural appearance, which we observe today, in the 30s of the last century. In general, the history of the fortified complex located in the Valle d’Aosta area dates back about 15 centuries. All this time, it was used to control the historical route between Italy and France, performing defensive and protective functions. In the 2000s, a museum of the Alps was opened here, and art exhibitions are held.
Castello San Giorgio in La Spezia
The historic castle of San Giorgio in La Spezia seems to tell the story of the rich and long history of these places with its very appearance. Plus, so that the immersion in the past was as deep and organized as possible, the Castello San Giorgio Civic Museum is open today. History, culture, and traditions come to life in its breathtaking exhibitions, and the view of the red roofs of the city and the Gulf of La Spezia, which opens from the height of the fort, sets you in a meditative mood.
Castle of Torrechiara
The mighty castle on a hill, 20 km from Parma, was built in the 15th century by a hereditary aristocrat, Count Rossi, for his beloved Bianca. The castle combines an unapproachable appearance, including a triple wall enclosure, four corner towers that serve as defensive functions, and luxurious interior decoration. The painted walls and vaults of the Hall of Angels, the Golden Room, and the Hall of Victories evoke immense admiration.
Castle of Bardi
An impregnable fortress with solid sloping walls rises on a red jasper cliff 60 km from Parma. It all started with the construction of the main stone tower at the end of the 9th century. Then, over the course of several centuries, other structures were erected around it – barracks, a chapel, living quarters, a torture room, etc. From the 16th century, the fortress ceased to function as a military structure and turned into a noble mansion. Today it is an architectural monument open to tourists.
The magnificent snow-white castle on the shores of the Gulf of Trieste was built in the middle of the 19th century for Archduke Maximilian, the future Mexican emperor, and his wife Charlotte. Today the castle is open to the public. Its numerous rooms have preserved the luxurious interior of the 19th century, furniture, paintings, decorations, and household items. The castle is adjoined by a marina and a picturesque park with exotic trees and shrubs, variegated Mediterranean flowers.
Sammezzano Castle is hiding in Tuscany, just 40 km south of Florence. It is practically unknown to the mass tourist; it is difficult to get into this amazing abandoned object. Sammezzano is not at all typical for Italy, it is a kind of “Moorish oasis” in it. The building was built back in 780, since then King Charlemagne has been its owners, and then famous Florentine families, including Gualterotti, Medici, Panchiatica.
It was the Marquis Ferdinando Panchiatica Ximenez d’Aragona who rebuilt the castle in the second half of the 19th century. The facade of the building began to resemble the Taj Mahal, and its interior eclectic content – the Alhambra castle in Granada. The Marquis was not only an architect and engineer but also a botanist; nearby he laid out a park with rare and exotic trees. Now the local sequoias, each higher than 35 m, are the pride of the park and the largest group of trees of this species in all of Italy – there are 57 of them.
Situated on a hill, the fortified complex in the Trentino area is strategically positioned to control the surrounding area and access roads. The fortress was first mentioned in the 12th century. Bezeno is a whole city with the main square, palaces, parade halls, cellars for food supplies, and a rainwater collection system. Today, the castle hosts festivals, historical reconstructions, displays of armor and weapons.
Castello di Sirmione
Sirmione Castle, also known as Castello Scaligero, is located on an inaccessible strip of land on the southern shore of Lake Garda. Built-in the 13th century, the fortress is perhaps the best-preserved medieval castle in Italy and the main attraction of the half-asleep resort town. A remarkable feature of the citadel is the fact that it is completely surrounded by water. The spectacular defensive complex consists of a central 47-meter tower, three smaller towers, and a fortified inner harbor, unique in Europe.
Castle of Trani
A powerful fortress with thick walls, a moat, and square towers in austere Gothic style was built in the small town of Trani in southern Italy in the 13th century. Three centuries later, under Emperor Charles V, the castle was reconstructed, further fortified, and guns appeared on its towers. From the 19th century to the middle of the 20th century, the building served as the main city prison. Nowadays it is open to tourists and hosts various cultural events.
Castel del Ovo Castle is located on the small island of Santa Lucia in the Tyrrhenian Sea. This castle has a rich history: since ancient times, it has managed to visit an estate, a fortress, a prison, and a museum. It is believed that the “Castle of the Egg”, as its name is translated from Italian, is located in the same place wherein the 6th century. BC e. Naples was founded by the Greeks.
There are de versions from where Castel del Ovo got its name: either it was nicknamed “the egg” for its unusual shape, or because of the magic egg hidden under the castle by Virgil. Now it houses a museum covering all periods of the castle’s life.
Castle of Rivoli
Rivoli is a fairly small and quiet town in the Italian province of Turin with beautiful palazzo, parks, and alleys, but the old castle located in its center, of course, remains the main point of attraction for tourists. The reason for this is not only the large-scale size but also the spirit of antiquity preserved within its walls. It is believed that the castle appeared in the 9-10th centuries, but written evidence of it appears only in 1159 when the castle becomes the property of the Turin bishops. In the 11th century, it was acquired by the royal house of Savoy, and the bishops started an internecine struggle, during which the castle was severely damaged. After restoration, the newly built so-called long sleeve houses the Gallery of Savoy, intended to store works of art. I must say that in the region this is the only building of the 17th century.
One of the main attractions of the city of Brisigella in northern Italy. It began to be erected in the 14th century at the top of a hill to control the valley below and the access roads. Two centuries later, the fortress was captured by the Venetians, and then it became part of the Papal State. It was expanded, new walls and a large Venetian tower appeared. In this form, it can be observed today. Inside there is an exposition on the history of the fortress.
Madama Palace is a popular tourist attraction in Turin. Now in a building that was partially built in the 1st century AD. e., there is a museum of ancient art.
The history of the palace began in the 30s of A.D. e. It was a small fortress in a place called the city of Augusta Taurinorum. In the Middle Ages, the fortress was expanded with the help of extensions, towers appeared, and this is how a castle for the nobility was born. Due to the outbuildings and towers, the former fortress received a rectangular shape.
One of the most ancient castles in Tuscany dates back to the 9th century. And from the 11th century to the present day, the palace and the surrounding grounds belong to the famous aristocratic Ricasoli family. For centuries, the estate’s main income has come from vineyards and olive trees. Today Castello di Brolio is one of the best producers of classic Chianti wine. There is a shop right in the castle wall where you can taste this wine.
Sismondo Castle in Rimini is familiar to many moviegoers from Federico Fellini’s “Clowns”. The medieval fortress is the former residence of the ruler of the city, Sigismundo Malatesta. It is well preserved externally, although it has changed over several centuries. 4 parts of the complex are interconnected: the palaces of Isotta and Maschio, the central building with service premises, a spacious courtyard. Nowadays, exhibitions and public events are held in the fortress yard, cafes work. From the once rich decoration, only traces of majolica remain, inside the building they look austere.
On the hill of Montegalleto, there is a fabulous red brick building – Albertis Castle. It was built at the end of the 19th century for Captain Enrico d’Albertis, a traveler, explorer, and naturalist. The castle was erected to commemorate the 400th anniversary of Columbus’s discovery of America on the foundations of an old Genoese fortress of the 13-14th centuries, according to a project developed by its owner. After the death of the captain, the mansion became the property of Genoa, and now it houses the Museum of the World’s Cultures.
Castle of Grinzane Cavour
Grinzane Cavour is the center of winemaking, and in the castle of the same name, built on a hill among fields and vineyards, is the headquarters of the wine producers. Some of the buildings date back to the 13th century; later, the castle was reconstructed many times. Its current appearance is simple and harmonious, it resembles a country mansion, although it once looked like a formidable citadel. Today it houses a museum, an enoteca, a restaurant, a hall of Masks, where gastronomic events are held.
Castle of San Michele
In the central part of Cagliari, on the hill of San Michele, rises a mysterious medieval fortress. The entire area of the hill is occupied by a beautiful park, and a serpentine pedestrian path leads directly to the fortress. The fortress of San Michele looks rather gloomy and even gloomy: no windows, no decor, but only impregnable walls and square towers. However, there is also a solid age of the castle: in some places, the masonry is slightly destroyed, in some places the walls are overgrown with grass. But the fortress is gloomy only at first glance, and behind its harsh walls a completely different world opens up. Let’s just say that San Michele has done away with its military past and now serves as the main creative platform of Cagliari.
Around the end of the 12th century, a castle was built as a defensive structure in the small Italian town of Racconigi by order of the Marquis of Saluzzo. It was a classic square fortress with four corners and one main tower. The castle was surrounded by a defensive moat, over which, if necessary, a drawbridge was thrown. Later it became the property of members of the Savoy dynasty, who turned the fortress into a country residence. According to the new project of Gvarini, two more towers were added in the 17th century, and the facade of the palace was supplemented with a classic triangular pediment and four columns of the Corinthian order. After all these changes, Rakkoniji Castle acquired a neoclassical appearance. In the early 19th century during the reign of Carlo Alberto, he became a monarchic residence, which was followed by another reconstruction.
Castle of Barletta
An earlier and less powerful Norman fortress used to stand on the site of the current castle, but it was destroyed as a result of hostilities. The new castle was built in the 16th century, taking into account all modern trends in modern fort building, and therefore bristled with symmetrical bastions.
Standing on the hill of the same name, the medieval castle of Castel Sant’Elmo was built in the 14th century to protect Naples from the sea and took part decisively in all the historical events of the city. Now it houses the Bruno Molajoli Museum of Art History, and hosts historical and art exhibitions.
The name “Sant’Elmo” comes from the ancient 10th-century temple of Sant’Erasmo, which has not survived, in honor of Saint Erasmus of Antioch. Later the name was given the Italian shade “Ermo” and finally turned into euphonious for the Mediterranean ear “Elmo”.
Orsini Odescalchi Castle
The medieval castle – the main attraction of the city of Bracciano. Named after its owners. The powerful feudal Orsini family began building the castle in the 15th century and within a couple of centuries turned it into one of the most fortified bastions in Europe. And in the 17th century, the castle was sold to representatives of the princely family of Odescalchi, his descendants still own the building. The castle has preserved weapons, furniture, works of art, medieval wall paintings.
The medieval fortress on top of a hill in the province of Siena was built at the beginning of the 13th century to guard the borders in the war against the eternal rival of Florence. To this day, the outer defensive walls with a length of 570 meters, 14 towers, all the internal buildings of this ancient city have remained practically unchanged. At the beginning of July, an annual festival of the Middle Ages is held here, allowing you to feel the spirit of the era of brave knights.
Castle of San Vigilio in Bergamo
The castle of San Vigilio in Bergamo is not very well preserved, but it is still worth seeing, for several reasons.
The first fort on this site was built by the Romans, and it happened in the 6th century AD. e. Several following conquerors supported him, but the first major increase was made only in the 9th century when Bergamo was then part of the Lombard principality. In the 12th century, the city received liberties and rebuilt the castle again, but the biggest changes occurred in the 16th century when the city became part of the rich and powerful Venetian Republic.
At this time, the castle enlarged, the city was surrounded by high walls, and the castle and the walls were interconnected, at the same time a secret underground tunnel was laid between the tower in the castle and the fort of St. Stamp in the city. The castle tower served as the main observation tower of Bergamo: if an enemy approached the city, the sentries gave an alarm signal – they lit a fire at the top of the tower, which was visible in the city. For military purposes, the castle no longer used for a long time, now it is the property of the city and is considered a city park.