Regional Castles and Fortresses
Italy has one of the most unbroken historical lines of any country in the world, and, particularly in Le Marche, evidence of each piece of the bloody and dramatic line is still clear in city and country landscapes. From ancient dolmans, to Roman amphitheatres, to Medieval cobbled village streets, to Renaissance palaces and Risorgimento fortifications - examples of each are easily available for the delight of the dewy-eyed historical tourist. Castles and magnificent fortifications are everywhere visible, towering over the landscape as a constant reminder of the bellicose past. Due to the Italians’ pride in their history, many are beautifully restored and open to visitors to enjoy a taste of past conflict, the opulent lifestyle of the aristocracy, and magnificent vistas of mountain, ocean and verdant rolling agricultural land from the battlements.
Below you will find a list of Castles and Fortresses arranged according to the distance from Montefiore dell'Aso (from closest to furthest).
Fortress of Acquaviva - Province of Ascoli Piceno
This majestic fortress is one of the largest and best-preserved architectural delights in Le Marche. Originally built by the Acquaviva family around the 13th century, it was restructured periodically right up to the 19th century. After it had been destroyed by an army from Fermo it was rebuilt in 1447, probably by the great Florentine architect Baccio Pontelli who also designed several other fortresses in the region.
The interior was completely restored in the 19th century by the notable local architect, Giuseppe Sacconi. The castle also houses the charming Museum of ‘Pajarola’ which is the local craft of straw basket weaving.
Pre-booking required: 0735764518
Opening Hours: 10:00am - 12:00, 17:00 - 19:30 and 22:00 - 24:00 every day
Castello della Rancia - Province of Macerata
This imposing, four square castle owes its name to the ancient granary, (after “grancia” after the Latin “granica”) which was used by the Cistercian monks from the nearby Fiastra Abbey at the end of the 12th century. At the time it would have looked more like a fortified farmhouse. In 1350, Rudolfo II expelled the monks and created a fortification to defend the Chienti valley and control the Roman road that ran parallel to it. The architect Andrea Beltrami completed the castle in 1357. By 1581 the Castle had lost its military importance and again became a religious establishment, with a large farm and a hostel for pilgrims on their way to Rome. In 1782 it was granted into the ownership of the noble Bandini family. In 1974 The last descendant gave the Castle to the Municipality of Tolentino. The Battle of Tolentino of 1815 is now celebrated in a festival which takes place every year in the countryside surrounding the castle. It has a 30 metre high tower and crenelated walls, and the underground dungeons are particularly impressive.
The castle houses the Civic Archaeological Museum "Aristide Gentiloni Silverj" which was one of the first to be set up in the region. It focuses on both prehistoric and pre-Roman materials from the Piceno necropolis just outside the town, and also artefacts from the Roman era.
The Castle at Urbisaglia - Province of Macerata
The impressive, trapezoidal medieval castle at Urbisaglia offers yet another reason, apart from the wonderful archaeological site, as to why you should visit this town. It lies on a strategically important junction of the roads to Fermo and Ascoli, and with a dominant position over the Fiastra valley. The present fortress was completed at the beginning of the 16th century on top of previous fortifications on the old Roman wall. The town was ruled by the Tolentinos from the 12th century onwards, much against the wishes of the local people, and the castle was started as defence from local rebellion. It probably stands on the site of the old Roman Citadel.
There are four corner towers and a gate tower, with many well-preserved architectural details that take the visitor back to the violent and dangerous world of Medieval and Renaissance Italy.
There are two interesting footnotes to the history of the castle and the town. The first is the mention of the town in Dante’s Divine Comedy, where it is cited as having suffered a tragic decline from great
power and status to an abandoned ruin, due to political in-fighting between the Malatestas and the Tolentinos.
The second is a somewhat less exalted, Hollywood connection. In 1981 a film, Masada, was produced starring Peter O’Toole. He plays the role of a famous son of Urbisaglia, Lucius Flavius Silva Nonius Bassus (48 -81 A.D). He was a senator and soldier, who served in the Senate under the Emperor Nero. He reached the exalted rank of Praetor in the Vespasian period. He was responsible for building the amphitheatre in his home town, and a street is named after him here. His fame lies in his action during the First Jewish-Roman War, in which he led a Roman legion in the assault on the fortress at Masada, a southern district of Israel. After the successful ‘liberation’ of the castle he was given the title of Governor of the province of Judaea. It is not known exactly how he died, but he may well have been murdered in a purge of popular generals by the next Emperor, Domitian, who was afraid of potential rivals to his rule. All records of the period were subsequently expunged from Roman archives.
Tel: +39 0733 506566
Rocca di Offagna - Province of Ancona
This impressive monumental castle was one of the most important of the network of defensive castles in the Ancona region. It was built in 1454 and represents the transition between the medieval and the renaissance eras. After many major periods of restoration it is now in very good condition. It houses the Rocca di Offagna museum, which has a fascinating collection of armour and weapons for hunting and warfare from the prehistoric period up to the modern era. Interestingly, it also includes rare weapons from the Wild West of America.
Entrance Fee: €5.00 (Concessions €3.00)
Caldarola - Castello Pallotta - Province of Macerata
This fairytale castle stands on the top of the hill outside the town of Caldarola. It is medieval in origin dating back to the middle of the 10th century, but was transformed into a stunning renaissance residence in the 16th century for the affluent Cardinal Evangelista Pallotta. Over the centuries it has been visited by many illustrious house guests, including Queen Cristina of Sweden.
It was badly damaged by the earthquake in 1997, but has reopened to the public, with every detail beautifully restored, including the surrounding walls with battlements and the drawbridge. There is an extensive collection of armour and weaponry, and also a valuable collection of carriages and saddles and bridles. The residential part of the castle is complete with furnishings from the 16th and 17th centuries, and original wall hangings and curtains. Of particular interest are the kitchens, complete with pans and dishes made from copper, ceramic and terracotta, the reception hall, the elegant guest bedroom, and the dining room set with locally made 17th century ceramics.
There is also a wall frieze attributed to Simone de Magistris, the great painter from Caldarola.
The Fortress of Senigallia - Province of Ancona
Senigallia (once Sinigaglia, as Dante calls it, in old Italian) is mentioned by Niccolò Machiavelli in his most famous work The Prince, as he was there when an episode narrated in the 8th chapter of the book took place, in 1502.The town (44,000 inhabitants) is today renowned for its “velvet” beach. It is the place where a tribe of “Senones” Gauls settled in the 4th Century B.C.
The Romans conquered the area in the year 295 B.C., after the battle by the Sentino river. The town was named Sena Gallica, to distinguish it from another colony in the present Tuscany: the Etruscan Sena, now Siena. In the year 207 B.C. the Roman legions left Sena Gallica to reach and defeat the Carthaginian troops in the battle of the Metaurus, where their commander Hasdrubal, Hannibal’s younger brother died bravely. Senigallia’s rich history includes the sack of the Visigoths, guided by Alaric, in the year 400 A.D.
Later it was part of the Byzantine- Adriatic Duchy of Pentapolis (A.D. 554 -752), together with the towns of Ancona, Pesaro, Fano and Rimini, before falling under the power of the Lombards. It was ruled by powerful and famous families like the Malatestas, the Borgias and the Della Roveres.
The most prominent historical construction in Senigallia is the Rocca Roveresca, which summarizes the history of the town. The stronghold, wanted by Spanish cardinal Albornoz, was built in the14th Century around the original Roman tower; it was enlarged in two steps the next century, by the Malatestas first, and then by the Della Roveres.
The present structure (two strongholds, one inside the other one) was wanted by Giovanni della Rovere, nephew to pope Sixtus IV, as a residence protected by a defensive (mainly from the Turks) structure. The architect who first designed this evolution, including its drawbridge, was Lorenzo Laurana, who also worked at the Palazzo Ducale of Urbino. After his death the work was continued by another then famous military architect: Baccio Pontelli. The inner building is further protected by a set of ramparts and four large, imposing circular towers.
On visiting the beautiful building by the sea, one will see all around (including the wide terrace) the Latin inscription IO DUX – IO PRE which refers to the major titles Della Rovere had: Iohannes Duke (of Sora) – Iohannes Prefect of Rome.
La Rocca di Mondavio - Province of Pesaro and Urbino
This is one of the best preserved 15th century castles in the region. It houses a museum containing an impressively wide range of old weaponry, armour, uniforms, battle strategies and siege weapons. A trebuchet is on display in the moat. Special attractions are torture re-enactments held in the dungeon, and annual period banquets in the great hall. It was commissioned by Giovanni della Rivera in 1492 and is a wonderful example of the work of the architect Giorgio Martini.
Summer: 09:00am - 12:00pm, 15:00pm - 19:00pm
Winter: 09:00am - 12:00pm, 15:00pm - 18:00pm
Castello di Gradara - Province of Pesaro and Urbino
This impressive fortress rises up from a rock 142 m above sea level in a strategically dominant position. Not only the exterior is impressive. The internal rooms recall the splendour of the powerful families that ruled here: the Malatesta, Sforza and Della Rovere. The castle dates back to the beginning of the 12th century but additions and reinforcements continued until the second half of the 15th century. The names of the architects are not known, but there are some interesting features such as the three polygonal towers, and the double city walls with three drawbridges, which rendered the city almost impregnable.
Dante's Divine Comedy: Paolo and Francesca
This castle was also the location, in the 13th century, of probably the most famous love stories in European culture, next to Romeo and Juliet. The legend of Paolo and Francesca has been inspiration to poets and artists throughout history, beginning most notably with Dante in the Inferno
of the Divina Commedia. It concerned the beautiful young Francesca da Polenta, who was married off to the elderly and ugly Lord of Gradara, Giovanni Malatesta, for political reasons. She was often left alone in the castle for long periods, reading French romantic novels in company with her husband’s young and handsome brother, Paolo. Giovanni, or Gianciotto, discovered them ‘in flagrante’ and murdered them both. He flung his brother’s body into one of the wells of the castle, and his beloved wife’s body was placed in an ancient sarcophagus. Five centuries later a sarcophagus was unearthed which is believed to be the original resting place of poor Francesca.
Entrance Fee: €6.00 (Concessions €3.00)
Monday: 08:30am - 13:00pm
Tuesday to Sunday: 08:30am - 18:30pm