Medieval castles in Liguria

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

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

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

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

Dolceacqua Castle

The Doria Castle is situated in a dominant position overlooking the Dolceacqua village. The first mention of the castle and the village, called at the time Dulzana, dates back to 1177 in an ancient document in which abuts the property of the counts of Ventimiglia. Will be in 1270, almost a hundred years later, the feud and its manor house will be purchased by Oberto Doria - the latter founder of the famous dynasty that wi ...
Founded: 12th century | Location: Dolceacqua, Italy

Clavesana Castle

The Clavesana Castle dates back to the 13th Century and is located in Cervo, one of the most beautiful villages in Italy, which overlooks the Diano Marina Gulf. The Castle hosts a permanent exhibit about Ligurian women and the Museum of the Ponente Ligure (West Liguria) with tools and everyday objects of the country life. 
Founded: 13th century | Location: Cervo, Italy

Lerici Castle

One of the main sights of Lerici is its castle which since its first founding in 1152 was used to help control the entrance of the Gulf of La Spezia. The magnificent castle rises on a rocky promontory overlooking the Bay of Lerici and is considered one of the most impressive and beautiful fortification inall of Liguria. Due to its location in the Gulf of La Spezia, it has a rich history of disputes between the naval po ...
Founded: 1152 | Location: Lerici, Italy

Levanto Castle

The Castle of Levanto used to be part of the former defensive system of Levanto, the city walls, dating back to the 12th century, when the region was under the rule of the Malaspina family. The castle and the walls have been repeatedly mentioned in sundry historical documents, such that what is certain is the caste was extensively renovated during the 16th century. During the 17th century, the edifice was used as headquar ...
Founded: 12th century | Location: Levanto, Italy

Apricale Village & Castle

Apricale is a picturesque small village to the north-east of Dolceacqua in western Liguria and surrounded by forested hills, included on the list of the most beautiful villages in Italy. The Lucertola Castle next to the square towards the top of the village dates from the 12th century and you can still see two towers and parts of the walls. The two churches also both contain interesting historical artefacts such as a med ...
Founded: 12th century | Location: Apricale, Italy

Fortezza Firmafede

In 963 AD Emperor Otto I granted to Adalberto Bishop of Luni ownership of the castrum Sarzanae, a fortified village where today the fortress of Sarzanello is located. Cittadella or Fortezza Firmafede was the first fortress in the city built in 1249. It was destroyed by the Firenze army led by Lorenzo de Medici in 1487 and rebuilt after the war by Medici. It was reconquered by Genoa Republic in 1494. Today the massive sq ...
Founded: 1487 | Location: Sarzana, Italy

San Giorgio Castle

The Castle of San Giorgio, overlooking the city of La Spezia, originates from a watchtower with the first castle on the site being built in 1262 by the ruler of the area Nicolò Fieschi with the intension of strengthen his domination in the area. Today only the base portion of the watchtower is preserved and this is included in the upper part of the structure. In 1273 the castle was destroyed by the Genoese Republic unde ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: La Spezia, Italy

Pietra Ligure Castle

The ancient name of Pietra Ligure was La Pietra , and referred to the imposing calcareous rock that is found to the east of the historical center, above which the Roman castrum was built. The castle, enlarged in the period of the barbarian and Saracen invasions (6th-9th century), was a bishop ‘s property and reached its present size in the 16th century. It is believed that this natural barrier, easily defensible, consti ...
Founded: 12th century | Location: Pietra Ligure, Italy

Varese Ligure Castle

The most interesting monument to visit in Varese Ligure is the ancient castle which is now a private property. It was built in 15th century and it was the abode of leaders of the town. The building took a part of an original defence structure of the town. In the Middle Ages was created a Borgo Rotondo (Round Hamlet) and the Castle completed the defence circle. Nowadays the Castle became an exhibition area where you can se ...
Founded: 15th century | Location: Varese Ligure, Italy

Castelfranco Castle

The Castelfranco fort is situated on the Gottaro hill, the promontory dividing the Sciusa and Pora valleys, in a strategic location enabling the control of the coast from Caprazoppa to San Donato Cape. The building, dating back to the second half of the 14th century, underwent ups and downs: it was destroyed, reconstructed, enlarged and reduced in size again. Today it is star shaped, and stands very close to the centre of ...
Founded: 14th century | Location: Finale Ligure, Italy

Sarzanello Fortress

In 963 A.D., Emperor Otto I granted to Adalberto Bishop of Luni ownership of the castrum Sarzanae, a fortified village where today the fortress of Sarzanello is located. It was developed around a village of which only a few houses remain near the fort, while the remaining part was destroyed during the Austrian war of succession. In 1494, when the castle was given to Charles VIII, it had already started taking on its curr ...
Founded: 1494 | Location: Sarzana, Italy

Ameglia Castle

Ameglia Castle was mentioned from the 10th century among the castles belonging to the Bishopof Luni. Ameglia was an attractive site, as it was equipped with a court, a fish market and aport and was then supposed to have a great economic grouth. The castle was also mentioned in another document of 1174, in which it is written that the inhabitants of Pietracoperta – a territory destroyed by the Genoese - had lived in Ameg ...
Founded: 10th century AD | Location: Ameglia, Italy

Torriglia Castle

Torriglia Castle may have been built around the year 1000. The first document dates from 1153. In 1180 it became a property of Malaspina family and later it was moved to the hands of Fieschi family. In 1392 and 1450 it was besieged. The castle was destroyed in 1799 when during the France invasion. Today it lies in ruins.
Founded: c. 1000 AD | Location: Torriglia, Italy

Monte Ursino Castle

The Mount Ursino Castle was destroyed by a fire around 900 and rebuilt on the hill.  It is mentioned in 1004 in a document and defined fortified village. After the construction of a first tower on top of the hill, the fortress was enlarged repeatedly until reaching its present form around the 15th century, embracing even the baby village in the Piana, current historical center, while it was gradually abandoned that in hi ...
Founded: 10th century AD | Location: Noli, Italy

Santo Stefano d'Aveto Castle

Santo Stefano d"Aveto Castle controlled the roads from the Apennines to Emilia. It was probably built int the 12th century, first time documented in 1164. The castle that presents itself now is an interesting pentagonal structure with ramparts on four of the five perimetral corners. In ancient times the arms square could be reached, an area onto which the different rooms on the ground floor open, using drawbridges ...
Founded: 12th century | Location: Santo Stefano d'Aveto, Italy

Andora Castle

The Castle of Andora is located on top of a hill in the valley of the River Merula. Along with St. James and St. Phillip Romanesque church the castle is considered to be one of the most important monuments in Western Liguria. The castle tower which was built between 1220 and 1240 and still remains intact.
Founded: 13th century | Location: Andora, Italy

Featured Historic Landmarks, Sites & Buildings

Historic Site of the week

Veste Coburg

The Veste Coburg is one of Germany's largest castles. The hill on which the fortress stands was inhabited from the Neolithic to the early Middle Ages according to the results of excavations. The first documentary mention of Coburg occurs in 1056, in a gift by Richeza of Lotharingia. Richeza gave her properties to Anno II, Archbishop of Cologne, to allow the creation of Saalfeld Abbey in 1071. In 1075, a chapel dedicated to Saint Peter and Saint Paul is mentioned on the fortified Coberg. This document also refers to a Vogt named Gerhart, implying that the local possessions of the Saalfeld Benedictines were administered from the hill.

A document signed by Pope Honorius II in 1206 refers to a mons coburg, a hill settlement. In the 13th century, the hill overlooked the town of Trufalistat (Coburg's predecessor) and the important trade route from Nuremberg via Erfurt to Leipzig. A document dated from 1225 uses the term schloss (palace) for the first time. At the time, the town was controlled by the Dukes of Merania. They were followed in 1248 by the Counts of Henneberg who ruled Coburg until 1353, save for a period from 1292-1312, when the House of Ascania was in charge.

In 1353, Coburg fell to Friedrich, Markgraf von Meißen of the House of Wettin. His successor, Friedrich der Streitbare was awarded the status of Elector of Saxony in 1423. As a result of the Hussite Wars the fortifications of the Veste were expanded in 1430.

Early modern times through Thirty Years' War

In 1485, in the Partition of Leipzig, Veste Coburg fell to the Ernestine branch of the family. A year later, Elector Friedrich der Weise and Johann der Beständige took over the rule of Coburg. Johann used the Veste as a residence from 1499. In 1506/07, Lucas Cranach the Elder lived and worked in the Veste. From April to October 1530, during the Diet of Augsburg, Martin Luther sought protection at the Veste, as he was under an Imperial ban at the time. Whilst he stayed at the fortress, Luther continued with his work translating the Bible into German. In 1547, Johann Ernst moved the residence of the ducal family to a more convenient and fashionable location, Ehrenburg Palace in the town centre of Coburg. The Veste now only served as a fortification.

In the further splitting of the Ernestine line, Coburg became the seat of the Herzogtum von Sachsen-Coburg, the Duchy of Saxe-Coburg. The first duke was Johann Casimir (1564-1633), who modernized the fortifications. In 1632, the fortress was unsuccessfully besieged by Imperial and Bavarian forces commanded by Albrecht von Wallenstein for seven days during the Thirty Years' War. Its defence was commanded by Georg Christoph von Taupadel. On 17 March 1635, after a renewed siege of five months' duration, the Veste was handed over to the Imperials under Guillaume de Lamboy.

17th through 19th centuries

From 1638-72, Coburg and the Veste were part of the Duchy of Saxe-Altenburg. In 1672, they passed to the Dukes of Saxe-Gotha and in 1735 it was joined to the Duchy of Saxe-Saalfeld. Following the introduction of Primogeniture by Duke Franz Josias (1697-1764), Coburg went by way of Ernst Friedrich (1724-1800) to Franz (1750-1806), noted art collector, and to Duke Ernst III (1784-1844), who remodeled the castle.

In 1826, the Duchy of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha was created and Ernst now styled himself 'Ernst I'. Military use of the Veste had ceased by 1700 and outer fortifications had been demolished in 1803-38. From 1838-60, Ernst had the run-down fortress converted into a Gothic revival residence. In 1860, use of the Zeughaus as a prison (since 1782) was discontinued. Through a successful policy of political marriages, the House of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha established links with several of the major European dynasties, including that of the United Kingdom.

20th century

The dynasty ended with the reign of Herzog Carl Eduard (1884-1954), also known as Charles Edward, Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, a grandson of Queen Victoria, who until 1919 also was the 2nd Duke of Albany in the United Kingdom. Under his rule, many changes made to the Veste in the 19th century were reversed under architect Bodo Ebhardt, with the aim of restoring a more authentic medieval look. Along with the other ruling princes of Germany, Carl Eduard was deposed in the revolution of 1918-1919. After Carl Eduard abdicated in late 1918, the Veste came into possession of the state of Bavaria, but the former duke was allowed to live there until his death. The works of art collected by the family were gifted to the Coburger Landesstiftung, a foundation, which today runs the museum.

In 1945, the Veste was seriously damaged by artillery fire in the final days of World War II. After 1946, renovation works were undertaken by the new owner, the Bayerische Verwaltung der staatlichen Schlösser, Gärten und Seen.

Today

The Veste is open to the public and today houses museums, including a collection art objects and paintings that belonged to the ducal family of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, a large collection of arms and armor, significant examples of early modern coaches and sleighs, and important collections of prints, drawings and coins.