30 best castles in Italy
The architectural appearance of medieval castles of Italy, more like impregnable fortresses, reflects not only the romance of love intrigues, but also the tragedy of bloody battles, numerous wars and disputes over inheritance. Many of the castles were built to protect against enemy attacks and the rebellions of discontented peasants. It was only later that the castles were made habitable, freshened up and transformed into the embodiment of greatness and the rich cultural heritage of Italy. Today, some castles have become museums, some have been given to urban municipalities, some are still in private ownership. But most importantly, they have survived and are ready to tell colorful stories of their rich past.
The most interesting castles in Italy
The best medieval fortresses, photos with names and descriptions.
This ancient Roman castle with a statue of an angel on the roof had to go through a lot of events during its long history of existence. Emperor Hadrian built it at the beginning of the II century as his own tomb; years later other monarchs were buried there too. Then the mausoleum was a military fortress, a papal residence and a keeper of Catholic treasures, a prison for the prisoners of the Inquisition, Galileo and Giordano Bruno were among them. Today it houses a museum.
The grandiose structure in Naples, built in the 13th century during the time of Charles of Anjou, was given the name New Castle to avoid associations with the earlier Castel del Ovo. The palace, with its sumptuous interiors, served as the residence of the kings of Anjou. The outside of the castle is a powerful trapezoidal structure with five cylindrical towers, between two of them there is a triumphal arch with statues and bas-reliefs. There is now a museum in the castle.
Castel del Monte
Castle on the mountain in the Italian region of Puglia was built under Frederick II in the middle of XIII century. There are many legends associated with it, and so far it is not known why it was built. One version is that it was built for practicing the occult. All its planning is based on the number 8 – the building has an 8-cornered shape, 8 towers of the same shape, 8 halls on the first and second floors of the castle, 8-cornered shape of the pond in the courtyard, and more. Today the castle is open to visitors.
The famous landmark on the Italian island of Ischia sits on a pedestal of volcanic lava rising out of the sea. The castle and observation towers next to it were built as early as 474 B.C. The ancient structure is connected to the Ischia coast by a dike and bridge built in the XV century. At different times there were churches, a monastery, a seminary, a military garrison and a prison. Today the castle is privately owned and open to visitors.
Fort Bard acquired its architectural look, which we can see today, in the 30s of the century before last. Overall, the history of the fortified complex located in the Valle d’Aosta region goes back about 15 centuries. During this time it was used to control the historical route between Italy and France, fulfilling defensive and protective functions. In the 2000s it opened the Museum of the Alps and held art exhibitions.
Built in the 14th century in Milan, the castle originally served defensive functions, but a century later it was reconstructed by the Duke of Sforza and turned into his residence. It was then that the inner courtyards, the beautiful square, and the luxurious interiors, which can still be seen today, appeared. In the palace are open several museums – dishes, musical instruments, furniture. The main attraction is the art gallery with works of famous artists.
A massive defensive structure with towers, surrounded by a moat, was built in the city of Ferrara at the end of the 14th century. But over time its owners, the ruling d’Este dynasty, began to improve it, lavishly decorate it, and turned it into their residence. The dungeons of the castle once housed a famous prison, where the nobles who had done wrong to the d’Este family were imprisoned. Today the castle houses the town’s administration and part of the premises are open to visitors.
The white-washed castle on the Gulf of Trieste was built in the middle of the 19th century for the Archduke Maximilian, future Emperor of Mexico, and his wife Charlotte. Today the castle is open to the public and its numerous rooms retain their 19th century splendid furnishings, paintings, jewelry and everyday objects. The castle is adjoined by a marina and a picturesque park with exotic trees and bushes and colorful Mediterranean flowers.
From the walls of the castle, situated on the highest peak of Naples, the hill of Vomero, one can see the whole city as if on the palm of his hand. The castle was built in the XIV century on the site of a small church. In the XVI century after the earthquake it was reconstructed and gave the form of a six-pointed star. For several centuries it housed a military prison. There is now a museum with famous works of Italian artists and an art history library.
Castel del Ovo
The famous “Castle of the Egg” stands on a small island connected by a bridge to the mainland of Naples. Its name comes from the legend, according to which the poet Virgil hid an egg on this place, and as long as it does not break – all is quiet in Naples and its surroundings. The castle got its present appearance in the XII century under the reign of Roger of Sicily, becoming his residence. Later the building was fortified and used for military purposes. Today there is a museum, exhibitions, concerts.
From the 13th century until the beginning of the 19th century the castle in Trento was the residence of the bishops. Then there were military barracks and prison, in the XX century it was restored and now there is a museum. Over the centuries, the territory of the castle expanded, new buildings appeared. The result was a complex of buildings of different styles and eras, surrounded by impregnable walls. The castle’s special value is unique precious frescoes in the Gothic style.
The tallest structure in Italy began to be built in the Apennine mountains in the X century. From the walls of the ancient fortress you could clearly see all the surrounding countryside, it housed the troops. Unfortunately, several major earthquakes in the XV-XVIII centuries, the fortress walls turned into ruins, only the towers survived. In our time the structure has been partially restored, the place is popular with tourists and filmmakers.
The castle in Verona was built as a fortification during the reign of the Scaligers in the fourteenth century. Its grounds include the royal palace, the armoury and, between them, the inner courtyard. From the bastion across the river Adige stretches the Scaliger Bridge made of red bricks with toothed walls, repeating the shape of the walls of the castle. In the last century there was a museum of paintings and sculptures from the Middle Ages.
The medieval castle, the main attraction of Bracciano, was named after its owners. The powerful feudal family Orsini began building the castle in the 15th century and within a couple of centuries had turned it into one of the most fortified bastions in Europe. In the XVII century the castle was sold to the representatives of the princely family Odescalchi, whose descendants own the building to the present day. Weapons, furniture, works of art, medieval wall paintings have been preserved in the castle.
The mighty castle on a hill, 20 Km from Parma, was built in the XV Century by a nobleman by the Count Rossi for his beloved Bianca. The castle combines an impregnable exterior with a triple wall fence, four corner towers serving a defensive function and a sumptuous interior. The painted walls and vaults of the Hall of Angels, the Golden Room and the Hall of Victories are a source of immense admiration.
The castle with numerous towers gained its present appearance in the 16th century. Although the first mention of the fortification structure in the mountainous Valle d’Aosta dates back to the XIII century. Despite its impregnable appearance, the castle did not have to participate in battles and long sieges, so it is preserved in excellent condition. Of particular value are the fifteenth-century frescoes in the courtyard. One of the towers of the palace is called Pigeon’s Tower, and in it, as in the Middle Ages, live pigeons.
Scaliger Castle in Malcesine
Overlooking Lake Garda the castle is named after the aristocratic family of the rulers of Verona, although the Scaligers owned it only until 1387. But in the XIII century they turned the structure into an impregnable fortress, and all the main architectural details of those times have been preserved to this day, including the teeth of the towers and walls in the form of a swallow’s tail. Today there is a history museum, wedding ceremonies and concerts are held in the palace amphitheatre.
The fortress of Fenestrelle, in the Piedmont valley, is a complex of numerous forts, earthworks, ramparts and 5 km of defensive walls. This outstanding fortification has a history of more than three 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.
The fortress castle, perched on the hill of St. Elias, surrounded by picturesque scenery, towers over the town of Spoleto. The fortress was erected in the fourteenth century on the site of the ancient citadel of the Duchy of Spoleta. It is a rectangular structure with strong walls and six quadrangular towers, inside there are Armory and Court of Honor. For a long time it served as a prison, and today it houses museum exhibits.
The first defensive structure in the town of Fosdinovo is mentioned in the II century. The current fortress was built in the 12th century, and from the beginning of the 14th century to the present day it has been in the possession of the Malaspin family. The castle has a shape of a quadrangle with round towers in the corners, and inside there are a living room, dining room, throne room, prison and torture chamber. Today there is a museum here, of particular value are the frescos, murals, Dante’s room, collections of coins and weapons.
This is the common name of the Italian city on the coast of the Ionian Sea and the ancient castle located on the very top of a rock. It was built in 1225 by the Roman Emperor Frederick II. The place was not chosen by chance, from the mountain offers an excellent panoramic view of the Gulf of Taranto. At present, the castle has preserved some fragments of the surrounding walls, dilapidated bastions and bridges. Under the auspices of UNESCO, it is undergoing restoration work.
Fort Diamante in Liguria
This 18th century fortification takes its name from the mountaintop of Monte Diamante, on which it stands 670 metres above sea level. The fortress served as a strong defensive bastion for Genoa against invasions from the north. From its terraces you can clearly see the whole city, stretching along the sea coast, and its surroundings. Genoa’s defense system has a number of well-preserved fortifications.
An impregnable fortress with strong scarp walls rises on a rock of red jasper, 60 km from Parma. It began with the construction of the main stone tower at the end of the IX century. Then around it for several centuries were built other buildings – barracks, chapel, living quarters, torture chamber, etc. Since the 16th century the fortress ceased to serve as a military building and turned into a mansion of the nobility. Today it is a monument of architecture, open to tourists.
The fortified complex on a hill in the Trentino area is strategically positioned to control the surroundings and the access roads. The fortress was first mentioned in the 12th century. Bezeno is a city with a main square, palaces, halls for parades, cellars for food supplies and a system for collecting rain water. Today the castle hosts festivals, historical reconstructions, and exhibits of armor and weapons.
Castle of Trani
A powerful fortress with thick walls, a moat and square towers in strict Gothic style was built in a small town Trani in Southern Italy in XIII century. Three centuries later, under Emperor Charles V the castle was reconstructed, even more fortified, and the towers were equipped with guns. From the 19th century until the middle of the 20th century the building served as the city’s main prison. Today it is open to tourists and various cultural events are held there.
One of the main attractions of Brisighella in northern Italy. It was built in the 14th century on top of a hill to control the valley and access roads below. Two centuries later the Venetians took over the fortress, and then it became part of the Papal State. It was enlarged, with new walls and a large Venetian tower. In this form it can be seen today. Inside is an exhibition on the history of the fortress.
Castello di Brolio
One of the oldest castles in Tuscany dates back to the ninth century. From the 11th century to the present day, the palace and the surrounding grounds have belonged to the famous aristocratic family of Ricasoli. For many centuries, the main income of the estate has come from the vineyards and olive trees. Nowadays Castello di Brolio is one of the best producers of Chianti classic wine. Right in the wall of the castle there is a store where you can taste this wine.
Castello di Grinzane Cavour
Grinzane Cavour is the center of winemaking, and 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, and the castle was later reconstructed several times. Its present appearance is simple and harmonious, reminiscent of a country mansion, although it once looked like a formidable citadel. Today, there is a museum, an oenothèque, a restaurant and the Masks Hall, where gastronomic events are held.
The castle is located in the heart of the city of Turin, in the park area of Valentino, on the banks of the River Po. The beginning of its construction is considered the XIII century. From above it looks like a horseshoe, a symbol of luck, and the locals believe that luck helped the castle to survive the numerous military conflicts. The castle changed hands and was rebuilt several times, and as a result, different architectural styles were closely intertwined, which gives it a special charm. The courtyard of the castle is lined with marble mosaics.
Medieval hilltop fortress in the province of Siena was built at the beginning of the XIII century to guard the borders in the war against its ancient rival Florence. The 570 meter long outer defensive walls, 14 towers and all the interior structures of this ancient city have remained practically unchanged to this day. In early July every year the festival of the Middle Ages is held there, which allows you to feel the spirit of the era of brave knights.
Italy’s 10 most beautiful castles
What to see
Italy can boast many valuable monuments and architectural treasures, and undoubtedly castles are among the most spectacular and memorable. Seeing them, almost no one stays indifferent, especially if you have the opportunity to look at the interior and immerse yourself in the amazing medieval atmosphere.
Below I have marked only 10 castles in Italy, which, in my opinion, should not be overlooked.
Fortress of Rocca Maggiore
Rocca Maggiore Castle (12 century) is located in the town of Assisi, near the regional center of Perugia (Umbria region). The castle is located on top of a hill, offering a beautiful view of the town and the local scenery. Tourists can visit Rocca Maggiore throughout the week except Mondays; it is easily accessible from any part of the city.
Aragon Castle is located on the island of Ischia (Campania region). It is a very popular place among tourists, which can be said that the castle is the main attraction of the island and one of the main attractions in Italy, fascinating original architecture. You can also visit the Museum of Torture, which is located within its walls. You can visit the castle all year round on any day from 9:00 until sundown. The price of admission is 10€.
Castello di Fenice
The location of Castello di Fenice is in the village of Nus (Valle d’Aosta). Built amidst amazing landscapes and thanks to a careful restoration, today Castello di Fenice is one of the most beautiful castles in Italy. The rooms of the castle, as in its antiquity, are furnished with precious antique furniture and paintings. To date, only the first floor is open for visitors. Opening hours are from 9:00 to 18:00. Tickets cost €5.
Scaliger Castle is located on the shore of Lake Garda in Sirmione (Lombardy). Scaliger is a true medieval castle (13th century) with towers and battlements completely surrounded by water and considering its antiquity it is preserved in excellent condition. Open every day except Monday from 9:00 to 19:00.
Castel Estense (14th century) is also one of the most beautiful sights in Italy. It is located in the historic center of Ferrara (Emilia-Romagna Region) and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Over the centuries the castle has not changed much in its original appearance. Opening hours: from 9:30 to 17:30, price 6 €.
Monteriggioni is a small town located 15 kilometers from Siena (Tuscany). Its main feature is that it is located on a hill and surrounded by a high fortress. Tourists especially like the view of the castle when approaching (from Siena), but arriving at Monteriggioni and climbing the wall, the view is no less stunning scenery.
Castel dell’Ovo was built on an island near Naples, later joined by an embankment. From here you have a great view of the Bay of Naples, it is also used for conferences, exhibitions, photo sessions and weddings. opening hours: every day from 8:00 to 19:00.
Castel del Monte
The castle is located in the province of Bari (Puglia), is considered one of the most famous in southern Italy. Castel del Monte was built in the 13th century and is an excellent example of medieval architecture, incorporating several building styles of those years.
Sforza Palace (15th century) is considered one of the main attractions of Milan, and indeed of all Italy. Tourists who decided to visit the castle has the opportunity to visit museums and unique art collections. Opening hours of the museums from 9:00 to 17:00.
The majestic Buonconsiglio castle was built on a hill in the 13th century and is now considered one of the main attractions of the city of Trento. Today it has a wealth of museum collections as well as archeological finds, depicting life in the region over the centuries. Of particular value is the castle’s library. It is open from 10:00 to 18:00.
Do not forget that the time to visit sites in Italy may be limited on holidays and weekends. Also important for Italians is the lunch break, so museums are likely to be closed from 13:00 to 15:00 or 16:00.