Castles and fortifications in Italy

Castel Sant'Angelo

Castel Sant'Angelo is a towering cylindrical castle, initially commissioned by the Roman Emperor Hadrian as a mausoleum for himself and his family. The building was later used by the popes as a fortress and castle, and is now a museum. The castle was once the tallest building in Rome. The tomb of the Roman emperor Hadrian was erected on the right bank of the Tiber, between 134 and 139 AD. Originally the mausoleum was a d ...
Founded: 134-139 | Location: Rome, Italy

Vernazza Castle

Vernazza Castle was built in the 15th century as a lookout tower to protect the village from pirates. It"s now largely a ruin except for the circular tower in the centre of the esplanade. 
Founded: 15th century | Location: Vernazza, Italy

Torre dei Conti

The Torre dei Conti was one of the most impressive towers that dominated medieval Rome. It was built in 1238 by Richard Conti, brother of Pope Innocent III as a fortified residence for his family, the Conti di Segni. The tower stood on the border of the territory of the rival family of the Frangipani. Currently standing at 29 metres, it was once 50–60 m tall, and gained the nickname of Torre Maggiore (Major Tower) for ...
Founded: 1238 | Location: Rome, Italy

Sforza Castle

Sforza Castle was built in the 15th century by Francesco Sforza, Duke of Milan, on the remnants of a 14th-century fortification. Later renovated and enlarged, in the 16th and 17th centuries it was one of the largest citadels in Europe. Extensively rebuilt by Luca Beltrami in 1891–1905, it now houses several of the city"s museums and art collections. History The original construction was ordered by local lord ...
Founded: 14th century | Location: Milan, Italy

Riomaggiore Castle

The Castle of Riomaggiore was built in the 13th century by order of Marquis Turcotti, lord of Ripalta, and it is one of the most important historical edifices in Cinque Terre. Indeed, the construction works were initiated by the marquis in 1260, but they were completed by the Genovese, after a period during which the property passed to Nicolo Fieschi. Back then, the Republic of Genoa was interested in strengthening the ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Riomaggiore, Italy

Sirmione Castle

Sirmione castle was built near the end of the 12th century as part of a defensive network surrounding Verona. The castle was maintained and extended first as part of the Veronese protection against their rivals in Milan and later under the control of the Venetian inland empire. The massive fortress is totally surrounded by water and has an inner porch which houses a Roman and Medieval lapidary. From the drawbridge, a stai ...
Founded: 12th century | Location: Sirmione, Italy

Castel Sant'Elmo

Castel Sant"Elmo is a medieval fortress located on a hilltop near the Certosa di San Martino, overlooking Naples. Documents date a structure at the site from 1275, from the era of Charles d"Anjou. Known originally as Belforte, it was likely a fortified residence, surrounded by walls, its entrance gate marked by two turrets. In 1329, using designs by the Sienese architect Tino da Camaino, king Robert of N ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Naples, Italy

Palazzo Corvaja

Palazzo Corvaja is a medieval palace in Taormina, dating from the 10th century. The origins of the palazzo incorporate an early Arab fortress, which in turn was constructed on Roman foundations. It was subsequently added to over various periods up until the 15th century. Its main body is an Islamic-style tower, and it has an inner courtyard where the Islamic influence can be seen in the arched windows and doorways. A 13th ...
Founded: 10th century AD | Location: Taormina, Italy

Castelvecchio

Castelvecchio ('Old Castle') is the most important military construction of the Scaliger dynasty that ruled the city in the Middle Ages. The castle stands on the probable location of a Roman fortress outside the Roman city. Lord Cangrande II della Scala had it built along with its bridge across the Adige River as a deterrent to his powerful neighbors such as Venice, the Gonzaga and the Sforza families. Construction was ca ...
Founded: 1354 | Location: Verona, Italy

Dragonara Castle

According to some historical sources, Dragonara Castle was built in the first half of the 13th century. In the second half of the 14th century, the castle, to ensure the safety of the fishing village of Camogli, was repeatedly reinforced, receiving the necessary weapons from the Republic of Genoa. In the 14th century, the Dragonara Castle was attacked several times. Well documented are the assaults made by Gian Galeazzo ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Camogli, Italy

Porta Nuova

Porta Nuova is a monumental city gate of Palermo. It represents the entrance of the Cassaro (the main and most ancient street of the city) from Corso Calatafimi (the way to Monreale) and is located beside Palazzo dei Normanni, royal palace of Palermo. According to the historian Tommaso Fazello the original gate was built in the 15th century. After the Charles V"s conquest of Tunis, the Emperor came to Sicily. He ent ...
Founded: 1535-1584 | Location: Palermo, Italy

Porta Soprana

Porta Soprana is the best-known gate of the ancient walls of Genoa. After major restorations carried out between the 19th and 20th centuries, it has regained the appearance it supposedly had at the time of the construction of the so-called Barbarossa walls (1150 ca.).
Founded: c. 1150 | Location: Genoa, Italy

Visconti-Sforza Castle

The Visconti-Sforza Castle is a Middle Age castle located in the centre of the city of Vigevano, Lombardy.  Luchino Visconti, Lord of Milan and ruler of Vigevano since 1337, began to transform the existing fortification into a local residence for his family. The construction was continued by Gian Galeazzo Visconti, first Duke of Milan, and completed by his heirs, Ludovico il Moro and his grandchild Gian Galeazzo Sforza. ...
Founded: c. 1337 | Location: Vigevano, Italy

Porta dei Vacca

The monumental Porta dei Vacca gate was one of three built from 1155 as part of a defensive wall system. It"s characteristic circular towers are shared by the other surviving gate, Porta Soprana.
Founded: 1155 | Location: Genoa, Italy

Castel Nuovo

The building of the Castel Nuovo began in 1279 under the reign of Charles I of Anjou, on the basis of a plan by the French architect Pierre de Chaule. The strategic position of the new castle gave it the characteristics not only of a royal residence, but also those of a fortress. From the very beginning it was called Castrum Novum to distinguish it from the older castles dell"Ovo and Capuano. During the reign of R ...
Founded: 1279 | Location: Naples, Italy

Castel dell'Ovo

Castel dell"Ovo (Egg Castle) is located on the former island of Megaride, now a peninsula, on the Gulf of Naples. The castle"s name comes from a legend about the Roman poet Virgil, who had a reputation in the Middle Ages as a great sorcerer and predictor of the future. In the legend, Virgil put a magical egg into the foundations to support the fortifications. Had this egg been broken, the castle wou ...
Founded: 12th century | Location: Naples, Italy

Doria Castle

The Doria Castle of Portovenere is a proper example of Genoese military architecture, even though it has undergone some structural modifications due to the progress of fortifications and firearms. When you first glance at Castello Doria, it looks like one solid piece. But it actually consists of two distinct parts positioned at different levels and enclosed in large Cyclopean walls. The exact date of construction of the ...
Founded: 12th century | Location: Porto Venere, Italy

Rocca Castle

Rocca, a medieval castle with quadrangular bastions bounded by a canal with drawbridge, was built in 1124. It was the fortress of the noble family Scaligeri, who became the Lords of Verona. It was rebuilt several times and it was used by the Austrians as barracks in the 18th century. It is frequently the seat of cultural activities, especially during the summer months. It hosts the Civic Museum and of the Picture Gallery.
Founded: 1124 | Location: Riva del Garda, Italy

Porta San Paolo

The Porta San Paolo is one of the southern gates in the 3rd-century Aurelian Walls of Rome. The Via Ostiense Museum is housed within the gatehouse. The original name of the gate was Porta Ostiensis, because it was located of the beginning of via Ostiense, the road that connected Rome and Ostia where functioned as its main gate. Via Ostiense was an important arterial road, as evidenced by the fact that upon entering t ...
Founded: 3rd century AD | Location: Rome, Italy

Udine Castle

The Udine castle hill is made of drift accumulating during centuries. However, a legend about its origin says that when Attila the Hun (also called the Scourge of God) plundered Aquileia (one of the biggest cities of the Roman Empire at that time) in the year 452, he asked his soldiers to build a hill to see the Aquileia burning. This was made by filling the helmet of each soldier with ground. The first official statemen ...
Founded: 1511 | Location: Udine, Italy

Featured Historic Landmarks, Sites & Buildings

Historic Site of the week

Kisimul Castle

Dating from the 15th century, Kisimul is the only significant surviving medieval castle in the Outer Hebrides. It was the residence of the chief of the Macneils of Barra, who claimed descent from the legendary Niall of the Nine Hostages. Tradition tells of the Macneils settling in Barra in the 11th century, but it was only in 1427 that Gilleonan Macneil comes on record as the first lord. He probably built the castle that dominates the rocky islet, and in its shadow a crew house for his personal galley and crew. The sea coursed through Macneil veins, and a descendant, Ruari ‘the Turbulent’, was arrested for piracy of an English ship during King James VI’s reign in the later 16th century.

Heavy debts eventually forced the Macneil chiefs to sell Barra in 1838. However, a descendant, Robert Lister Macneil, the 45th Chief, repurchased the estate in 1937, and set about restoring his ancestral seat. It passed into Historic Scotland’s care in 2000.

The castle dates essentially from the 15th century. It takes the form of a three-storey tower house. This formed the residence of the clan chief. An associated curtain wall fringed the small rock on which the castle stood, and enclosed a small courtyard in which there are ancillary buildings. These comprised a feasting hall, a chapel, a tanist’s house and a watchman’s house. Most were restored in the 20th century, the tanist’s house serving as the family home of the Macneils. A well near the postern gate is fed with fresh water from an underground seam. Outside the curtain wall, beside the original landing-place, are the foundations of the crew house, where the sailors manning their chief’s galley had their quarters.