Castles and fortifications in Italy

San Giovanni Castle

San Giovanni Castle, located on a high rock spur near Bondone, has a breathtaking panorama. It was first mentioned in 1086 and formally in 1189. In the 15th century the castle was occupied by Milanese troops. The abandoned and decayed castle was bought by entrepreneur Milan Luigi Cavalli in 1956 who began a renovation to turn it into a private residence. Today it can be visited.
Founded: 11th century | Location: Bondone, Italy

Illasi Castle

Illasi Castle was built in the 12th century. The structure, composed by a fortified palace and a single tower, surrounded by a wall, is extremely peculiar and almost unique in Europe. It is still unclear which lord built it. It already existed when the tyrant Ezzelino da Romano used it as a base for his wars. Later it became one of the main strongholds during the domination of the Della Scala family, lords of Verona. It ...
Founded: 12th century | Location: Illasi, 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

Rotund Castle

Rotund castle was built around 900 by the bishops of Chur. In 1150 the bishop give the castle to noble family Rotund. After the family line died out in 1288 the castle has had several owners. It was restored in the 15th century. The ruin is freely accessible but there is a risk of collapse.
Founded: c. 900 AD | Location: Tubre, Italy

Castellano Castle

The Castle of Castellano is a fortified manor house built around 1000, located in the village of Castellano, in the municipality of Villa Lagarina. It is one of the most famous castles of Vallagarina, offering a panorama of the entire valley. Owned by numerous noble families, of which the most important was the Lodron, it was later transformed into an Austrian-Hungarian fortress in World War I. It once housed frescoes, ...
Founded: c. 1000 AD | Location: Castellano, Italy

Vigolo Castle

The castle of Vigolo was erected during the Renaissance in a strategic position over the pass between Vigolana and Marzola, in order to defend the town. The first record of castle dates back to 1214. In 1254 it was besieged and destroyed. In 1424 the castle passed to the family of Murlini and later in 1477 to de Fatis, whose descendants are still the owners. The de Fatis acquired the castle in ruins and rebuilt it almost ...
Founded: 15th century | Location: Vigolo Vattaro, Italy

Villafranca Castle

The Castle of Villafranca di Verona was built starting in 1199, after the Battle of Ponte dei Molini (Mantua), and was completed in 1202. The purpose was to defend the population of Villafranca in casa of sudden attacks from Mantua. Serraglio, a defensive wall unique in Europe, was built in 1345. It is about 13 miles long. It started from Borghetto and linked five castles: Borghetto, Valeggio, Gherla, Villafranca and Nog ...
Founded: 1199 | Location: Villafranca di Verona, Italy

Spine Castle

Spine Castle was built in the late 12th century and destroyed in 1348. In the 16th century the castle ruins was converted into a hunting lodge. In 1933 a serious fire almost led to complete destruction, only the southern buildings were saved while the other wings collapsed and were never rebuilt. Today only part of the castle is habitable while the rest lie to ruins, although impressive. Spine castle is not open to the p ...
Founded: 12th century | Location: Comano Terme, Italy

San Pietro Castle

Verona was founded to the site of current Castel San Pietro. This green hill, crowned by cypresses, is home to the remains of the first settlements dating back to the 7th century B.C. From this magnificent vantage-point you can enjoy the view of the whole city spreading out, with its network of Roman Roads, its walls, tall towers and steeples and, if your eyesight is good, you can even make out part of the Arena and the P ...
Founded: 1393 | Location: Verona, Italy

Issogne Castle

Issogne Castle is one of the most famous manors of the region, and is located on the right bank of the Dora Baltea. As a seigniorial residence of the Renaissance, the Castle has quite a different look from that of the austere Verrès Castle, which is located in Verrès, on the opposite bank of the river. Issogne Castle is most noteworthy for its fountain in the form of pomegranate tree and its highly decorated portico ...
Founded: 12th century | Location: Issogne, Italy

Cly Castle

Cly is a castle in Saint-Denis, overlooking the Dora Baltea river, belongs to the so-called primitive style of castle, consisting of a keep with a surrounding wall. The ruins rise from a bed of metamorphic rock, on the edge of a fault line which extends to the Castle of Quart. Cly was first mentioned in a document from 1207, in which the 'chapel sancti Mauricij de castro Cliuo' is mentioned among the good ...
Founded: c. 1027 | Location: Saint-Denis, Italy

Aymavilles Castle

The castle of Aymavilles is certainly the most characteristic and recognizable element of the Aymavilles for its position and architecture characterized by the four cylindrical towers crowned by 'murder holes' that enclose a central body with a square base. The building, the origins of which date back to 12th century, was repeatedly reconfigured, changed its use from defensive to that of elegant lordly resi ...
Founded: 12th century | Location: Aymavilles, Italy

Rocca di Asolo

According a tradition there has been a defensive complex here since pre-Roman times. The Rocca fortress was built in the late 12th and early 13th centuries. The last military operation took place in 1510 and after that Rocca was moved as hospital and private use.  The fortress was involved in his latest war episode in 1510 . Gradually Persa"s strategic importance, the structure was used as a variety of uses also be ...
Founded: 12th century | Location: Asolo, Italy

Desenzano Castle

The ancient Desenzano castle was originally built around the year 1000. Enlarged at the end of the 15th century, the castle never became a real military fort, but served primarily as a refuge for the population. The plan of the castle is an irregular rectangle, with the tower that stands out at the entrance on the northern side, protecting the drawbridge, which loopholes for the chains are still preserved. The castle is o ...
Founded: c. 1000 | Location: Desenzano del Garda, Italy

Ried Castle

Ried Castle is a rather small castle probably built around 1200. It was extended about 50 years later. Towards the end of the 13th century, the castle was owned by the von Wangen family. Today, the well-preserved castle is privately owned and can not be visited.
Founded: c. 1200 | Location: Bolzano, Italy

Fort Bard

Fort Bard was built in the 19th century by the House of Savoy on a rocky prominence above Bard, at the entrance to the Aosta Valley. It has been used for millennia to control the historic route between Italy and France.  The current fortifications were built by Charles Albert of Savoy between 1830 and 1838. It replaced a 10th-century castle that had, itself, been built on an earlier structure founded by Theodoric ...
Founded: 1830-1838 | Location: Bard, Italy

Cles Castle

Isolated on a hummock surrounded by terraced orchards in the artificial basin of Santa Giustina, Cles Castle was built as a fortification to control the Roman road, which used to link the two banks of Stream Noce via a wooden bridge. The original ancient centre was composed of the 'Age-old Tower'. Prince-Bishop Bernardo Clesio had the castle expanded and given a Renaissance style look. At the beginning of the 1 ...
Founded: 12th century | Location: Cles, Italy

Bassano del Grappa Castle

The fortifications in Bassano del Grappa was mentioned already in 998. Bishop of Vicenza donated the town in the late 12th century to Ecelo I, founder of later powerful family of Ezzelini. The oldest structures of castle still present date from the 12th and 13th centuries. In 1411 during the war between the Republic of Venice and the Kingdom of Hungary its fortifications resisted the attacks of Emperor Sigismund of Lux ...
Founded: 12th century | Location: Bassano del Grappa, Italy

Quart Castle

Quart castle is a set of buildings arranged within a fortified perimeter, which respects the natural contour of a difficult rocky slope.The donjon (keep) standing on the highest point of the rock, the functional layout of individual buildings, the chapel and the winding passageways, are evidence of an early or Germanic fortified structure, although current architectural evidence point to more recent periods, as do the fi ...
Founded: c. 1185 | Location: Quart, Italy

Gorizia Castle

Gorizia Castle is built on the hill which dominates the city of Gorizia. The construction can be dated to around 1146, where, for the first time, the title of Count of Gorizia appears, given to Henry IV of Spanheim, which presumes the presence of a fortification on site. It is likely that an initial series of defensive structures such as a small motte-and-bailey fort with a moat and a palisade which had preceded the cons ...
Founded: 1146 | Location: Gorizia, Italy

Featured Historic Landmarks, Sites & Buildings

Historic Site of the week

Königstein Fortress

Königstein Fortress is located on the left bank of the River Elbe. It is one of the largest hilltop fortifications in Europe. The 9.5 hectare rock plateau rises 240 metres above the Elbe and has over 50 buildings, some over 400 years old, that bear witness to the military and civilian life in the fortress. The rampart run of the fortress is 1,800 metres long with walls up to 42 metres high and steep sandstone faces. In the centre of the site is a 152.5 metre deep well, which is the deepest in Saxony and second deepest well in Europe.

The fortress, which for centuries was used as a state prison, is still intact and is now one of Saxony's foremost tourist attractions, with 700,000 visitors per year.

By far the oldest written record of a castle on the Königstein is found in a deed by King Wenceslas I of Bohemia dating to the year 1233. It is probable that there had been a stone castle on the Königstein as early as the 12th century. The oldest surviving structure today is the castle chapel built at the turn of the 13th century. In the years 1563 to 1569 the 152.5 metre deep well was bored into the rock within the castle - until that point the garrison of the Königstein had to obtain water from cisterns and by collecting rainwater.

Between 1589 and 1591/97 Prince-Elector Christian I of Saxony and his successor had the castle developed into the strongest fortification in Saxony. The hill was now surrounded with high walls. Buildings were erected, including the Gatehouse (Torhaus), the Streichwehr, the Old Barracks (Alte Kaserne), the Christiansburg (Friedrichsburg) and the Old Armoury (Altes Zeughaus). The second construction period followed from 1619 to 1681, during which the John George Bastion was built. The third construction period is seen as the time from 1694 to 1756, which included the expansion of the Old Barracks. From 1722 to 1725, at the behest of August the Strong, coopers under Böttger built the enormous Königstein Wine Barrel, the greatest wine barrel in the world, in the cellar of the Magdalenenburg which had a capacity of 249,838 litres. It cost 8,230 thalers, 18 groschen and 9 pfennigs. The butt, which was once completely filled with country wine from the Meißen vineyards, had to be removed again in 1818 due to its poor condition. Because of Böttger, Königstein Fortress is also the site where European porcelain started.

Even after the expansion during those periods of time there continued to be modifications and additions on the extensive plateau. The Treasury (Schatzhaus) was built from 1854 to 1855. After the fortress had been incorporated in 1871 into the fortification system of the new German Empire, battery ramparts were constructed from 1870 to 1895 with eight firing points, that were to have provided all-round defence for the fortress in case of an attack that, in the event, never came. This was at this time that the last major building work was done on the fortress.

Because Königstein Fortress was regarded as unconquerable, the Saxon monarchs retreated to it from Wittenberg and later Dresden during times of crisis and also deposited the state treasure and many works of art from the famous Zwinger here; it was also used as a country retreat due to its lovely surroundings.

The fortress played an important role in the History of Saxony, albeit less as a result of military action. The Saxon Dukes and Prince-Electors used the fortress primarily as a secure refuge during times of war, as a hunting lodge and maison de plaisance, but also as a dreaded state prison. Its actual military significance was rather marginal.

Since 1955 the fortress has been an open-air, military history museum of high touristic value.