Perched on majestic mountains, immersed in fairytale landscapes or lapped by the waters… Italian castles, so different from each other, they tell us stories long gone, on the border between reality and legend. Let yourself be led between crenellated walls, towers, curiosities and ancient characters.
10 - Rocca Calascio, Calascio (Abruzzo)
within the Gran Sasso and Monti della Laga National Park, at 1460 m, stands the Rocca di Calascio, in the province of L'Aquila. The imposing medieval structure, all built in white stone, is one of the highest in Italy. Perched in the mountains, it overlooks the ancient village below, now uninhabited. Its undoubted charm has made it a perfect set for several films, including the unforgettable "Lady Hawke" and "The Name of the Rose", but also the most recent "The American" with George Clooney.
9 - Castle of Marostica, Marostica (Veneto)
In reality there are two castles, Upper and Lower, joined by a wall about 1800 meters long. In the pretty town of Vicenza, four doors along the walls allow access to the historic center characterized by the unmissable Chess Square. Every two years there is a real contest game with costumed living characters. Opposite the Lower Castle and the Piazza stands the Doglione, also known as Rocca di Mezzo, once a toll booth.
8 - Aragonese Castle, Ischia (Campania)
It stands on an islet and is connected to the ancient by means of a brick bridge Village of Celsa, now known as Ischia Ponte. Thanks to Alfonso V of Aragon, access to the castle is possible through a tunnel dug into the rock. Before that it could only be accessed by sea. The tunnel, 400 meters long, is illuminated by high skylights which at the time also served as "plumbers" from which boiling oil, stones and other materials were thrown on any enemies. In this castle, in 1952, some scenes of the film "The Green Island Corsair" with Burt Lancaster were shot.
7 - Castel dell'Ovo, Naples (Campania)
And the oldest castle in the city of Naples and, not surprisingly, it is one of the prominent elements in the famous panorama of its gulf. It no longer has its original appearance due to various reconstructions over the centuries.
Its curious name derives from a 'ancient legend: the Latin poet Virgil, also considered a magician in the Middle Ages, hid in the dungeons an egg capable of keeping the entire fortress standing. Its break would have caused not only the collapse of the castle, but also a series of disastrous catastrophes in the city of Naples. During the fourteenth century, the castle suffered extensive damage. To prevent panic from spreading among the people, the queen had to swear that she had replaced the egg.
6 - Scaligero Castle, Sirmione (Lombardy)
One of the most complete and best preserved castles in Italy. It is a rare example of lake fortification. The castle is bathed on all sides by the waters of Lake Garda. On one side there is the dock, once a refuge for the Scaligera fleet. The walls and the three major towers have dovetail battlements. Behind the latter emerges the imposing keep, with below the cells intended for prisoners. It is possible to access the walkways and even get to the top of the latter, as well as enjoy the splendor of the dock.
A sad legend of love he wants Ebengardo's soul to roam the castle in search of his Arice on stormy nights ...
5 - Castel del Monte, Andria (Apulia)
It sure is one of the most mysterious in Italy. Castel del Monte is a thirteenth-century building built by Emperor Frederick II, in today's Municipality of Andria, on a hill at 540 m. Has octagonal plant with a turret in turn octagonal for each corner. No moat or military architectural element, it does not reside in a strategic position, it has narrow spiral staircases that are decidedly uncomfortable for defense and escape functions, slits too narrow to shoot arrows, no stables. It certainly was built according to precise mathematical-astronomical geometries as well as taking into account numerous symbolisms.
But is it really a castle? According to a recent hypothesis, it could be a place for body care based on the model of the Arab hammam. In fact, it has multiple and ingenious systems for channeling and collecting water, tanks and the oldest bathrooms in history. It also has a particular conformation as well as an obligatory internal path. Its unusual shape also seems to recall that of a crown.
4 - Fénis Castle, Fénis (Val d'Aosta)
A scenographic structure: its position on a gentle hill and its elegant crenellated walls lead us to think of an almost fairytale function, rather than a defensive one. IS' one of the best preserved medieval castles in Italy.
Masks with apotropaic function (i.e. useful to drive away evil influences) on the walls, a fresco depicting St. George killing the dragon, the courtyard with a series of essays drawn (one different from the other) holding parchments with proverbs and moral maxims in old French, the surrounding nature… everything brings back legendary lives of a distant bygone era.
Cinematic curiosities: various scenes of "Fracchia against Dracula" and of the television miniseries "La Freccia Nera" were shot in the castle.
3 - Castel Sant'Angelo, Rome (Lazio)
It stands on the right bank of the Tiber, a short distance from the Vatican to which it is connected thanks to a fortified corridor. Modified several times, many rooms were used as prison. There most infamous cell it was the one called Sammalò: the condemned man was lowered into it from above and, because of the very little space, he could neither stand nor lie down. Some cells were reserved for politicians and still others for prominent personalities. The "dungeons" were evasion-proof. There was one luxury cell, reserved only for inmates of a certain value.
The name of the castle derives from the vision had by Pope Gregory the Great: the Archangel Michael sheathing his sword. This vision was interpreted as an omen of the imminent end of the plague, which really happened. To commemorate the event, a statue of an angel crowns the building.
Some curiosities: Puccini set the last act of "Tosca" here; the castle is one of the settings of Dan Brown's "Angels and Demons"; appears in the video game "Assassin's Creed".
2 - Sforzesco Castle, Milan (Lombardy)
It is one of the main ones symbols of Milan and its history. It was built in the th century by Francesco Sforza, on the remains of a previous fortification. Over the centuries it has undergone significant transformations. It is one of the largest castles in Europe. The outer wall of fortifications, called "Ghirlanda", is the oldest part. The four corners are made up of towers, each oriented according to one of the cardinal points. They have two different shapes: South and East cylindrical, North and West square. The whole perimeter is still surrounded by the ancient moat, now no longer flooded. The Torre del Filarete, the highest and most central, is the main entrance. The rear facade is the oldest and here is the so-called Ponticella by Ludovico il Moro: a bridge structure that connected the ducal apartments to the external walls that have now disappeared. Ludovico was locked up in his rooms for the mourning caused by the loss of his beloved wife Beatrice d'Este, later called for this reason "Black rooms".
1 - Miramare Castle, Trieste (Friuli Venezia Giulia)
The Italian castle par excellence to feel like princes and princesses for a day! Surrounded by a lush park, it stands out overlooking the sea, majestically observing the Gulf of Trieste. A prestigious building with an enchanting view! It was built by Archduke Ferdinand Maximilian of Habsburg to share it with his wife Charlotte of Belgium. Definitely a gesture of a true gentleman of the past! A luxurious noble residence that has kept its own precious original furnishings.
In the park there is also the Castelletto: a smaller building that served as a temporary residence for the couple during the construction of the castle.
The only drawback: the sad love story of the fairytale couple. Carlotta lost her reason after the killing of her husband in Mexico and the splendid castle and the romantic Castelletto became the sad scenario of the unhappy fate that did not allow them to enjoy this wonderful home.
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