Medieval castles in Trentino

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

Buonconsiglio Castle

Buonconsiglio Castle was originated from a fortified building was erected in the 13th century next to the city's walls. This first building was called Castelvecchio ('Old Castle'), and was the seat of the Bishopric of Trent from the 13th century onwards to the end of the 18th century. The castle is composed of a series of buildings of different eras, enclosed by a circle of walls in a slightly elevated position above the ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Trento, Italy

Beseno Castle

Beseno Castle occupies an entire hilltop dominating the Valle dell"Adige, between Rovereto and Trento. It is the largest fortified complex in Trentino and today a most fascinating showcase for exhibitions and shows. Many historical battles, from the wars between fractions with the Veronesi in the 12th and 13th centuries to the battle of 1487 between Trentino troops and the Venetians, as well as the armed battles be ...
Founded: 12th century | Location: Besenello, Italy

Rovereto Castle

Castello di Rovereto is one of the best examples of late-Medieval Alpine castles. It was built by the Castelbarco family, near the Leno Torrent, in the 14th century. In the 15th century, the Venetians seized it and transformed it into a military fortress with a defensive function, equipped with four massive bastions. In 1509, following the Venetian defeat, was handed over to the Habsburgs who ruled it until the end of Th ...
Founded: 14th century | Location: Rovereto, Italy

Thun Castle

The monumental Thun Castle was built in the mid-13th century, but the current appearance dates mainly from the 16th and 17th centuries. The Spanish style gate built in 1566 in Moorish style, probably after Giorgio Thun was visited in Spain. The most famous room is the seventeenth-century Bishop's Room, entirely covered of pine wood, with a coffered ceiling and a tiled stove. Today Thun castle is open to the public.
Founded: 13th century | Location: Ton, Italy

Arco Castle Ruins

Arco Castle ruins are located on a prominent spur high above Arco and the Sarca Valley. The exact date of its foundation is unknown but it existed at least after the year 1000 AD. The area around Arco was inhabited already before the Middle Ages, the castle was said to have been built by the citizens and only later becoming the property of the local nobles. The counts of Arco, probably of Italian origin, were first menti ...
Founded: 10th century AD | Location: Arco, Italy

Pergine Castle

Because of its strategic position guarding the Via Claudia Augusta Altinate, Historians use to think Pergine Castle rises on the site of an old prehistoric fortress, which later became a Roman settlement; later on, it was transformed into a Longobard stronghold. Erected in the 13th century, it belonged to the Dukes of Austria, under the reign of Margarete Maultasch, and then to the Emperor Maximilian I. In 1531, it becam ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Pergine Valsugana, Italy

Ossana Castle

St. Michael castle in Ossana stands on a rocky outcrop. The first written record dates back to 1191. The castle was owned by the Prince Bishops of Trento, Counts of Tyrol-Gorizia, de Federici, Heydorf and Bertelli families. Today is well-preserved with an imposing tower about 25 meters high.
Founded: 12th century | Location: Ossana, Italy

Toblino Castle

Toblino is one of the most famous castles in Trentino. It owes its fame to a unique location and the beautiful environment that surrounds it, but also to the many dark legends that found a fertile ground to originate and grow in that park and among those walls. The structure is built on a small peninsula of Lake Toblino. Since the 1100s the castle was owned by the vassals of Prince Bishop of Trento, but has changed han ...
Founded: 12th century | Location: Calavino, Italy

Ivano Castle

Ivano castle history dates probably to the late 6th century AD, when Longobards built a fortifications against Franks and Alemans. Later it was extended agains Hungarian invasions. The first recorded document about the castle dates back to 1187 and there is a mention of the Lord of Ivano. The Castle displays a mixture of architectural styles: the medieval walls, the Renaissance residence and the Benedictine lodge.  Fro ...
Founded: 12th century | Location: Ivano-fracena, Italy

Avio Castle

The Castle of Avio (also known as Castle of Sabbionara) is one of the several castles commanding the Vallagarina valley of the Adige River. The castle is mentioned for the first time in a 1053 document as Castellum Ava. In the 12th century it was owned by the Castelbarco family, who ceded it to the Republic of Venice in 1411. The latter enlarged it and added a chapel dedicated to St. George, together with a façade showi ...
Founded: 11th century | Location: Avio, Italy

Stenico Castle

A seat of power built on a spur overlooking the roads of communication towards the Valli Giudicarie, Stenico Castle dates back to more than 2000 years. It was first built as a refuge for the Stoni - a proud Alpine population exterminated by the Romans - from which the town takes its name. The castle history is closely tied to the Prince-Bishops of Trento, who also used to administer justice. Legend has it that prisoners ...
Founded: 12th century | Location: Stenico, Italy

Drena Castle

The well-preserved Drena Castle ruins stands on the rock overlooking the deep gorge of the Salagoni River. Built in the 12th century, Drena was probably erected over a prehistoric village. During the Middle Ages, the castle became an important stronghold to control the road connecting Trento and Lake Garda. Unassailable from the flames, the castle is defended by two rows of walls and has been constructed in a dominating ...
Founded: 12th century | Location: Drena, Italy

Belfort Castle

Belfort castle was built in 1311. In 1670 it was badly damaged by fire, and was decided to be rebuilt entirely. In 1785 the castle lost its importance and was abandoned.
Founded: 1311 | Location: Spormaggiore, Italy

Tenno Castle

The impressive Tenno Castle is embedded into beautiful nature. The small medieval town Frapporta huddles against the castle. It is surrounded by the old city walls and shows how the people I the middle Ages lived in accordance with the nature. After the castle was built by the end of the 12th century it belonged to the community. Later it was passed on to different owners. Due to many fights and sieges the castle was dam ...
Founded: 12th century | Location: Tenno, 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

Noarna Castle

Dominating Lagarina valley since the 11th century, the Noarna castle was a possession initially of the Castelbarco family and later of the Lodrons. The ancient Castel Noarna served as a setting for witch trials. Located at Noarna di Nogaredo, the Castle overlooks Lagarina valley since the 11th century and probably used to be a former Roman fort. The 13th century keep consists of the main tower, topped by Guelph embatt ...
Founded: 11th century | Location: Nogaredo, Italy

Caldes Castle

The large five-floor tower house from the 13th century was donated to the Thun family, who incorporated it into a new square building, the current Caldes Castle. The inside is fascinating, with vaulted ceilings, wood panelling and frescoed rooms.  Quite remarkable are the count’s room and the ballroom.  After climbing the tower’s wooden staircase, you enter a room with frescoes all over the walls, telling ancient s ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Caldes, Italy

Pietra Castle

Pietra Castle is built on a huge boulder detached from Cengio Rosso. It is located in a strategic location which marked the long border between the Italian Tyrolean territories, Bishopric of Trent and Republic of Venice. When the Venetians tried to go to the north, between the15th and 16th century , they were stopped by the Principality and the Austrians with important pitched battles that took place near the castle. It ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Calliano, 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

Featured Historic Landmarks, Sites & Buildings

Historic Site of the week

Porta Nigra

The Porta Nigra (Latin for black gate) is the largest Roman city gate north of the Alps. It is designated as part of the Roman Monuments, Cathedral of St. Peter and Church of Our Lady in Trier UNESCO World Heritage Site. The name Porta Nigra originated in the Middle Ages due to the darkened colour of its stone; the original Roman name has not been preserved. Locals commonly refer to the Porta Nigra simply as Porta.

The Porta Nigra was built in grey sandstone between 186 and 200 AD. The original gate consisted of two four-storied towers, projecting as near semicircles on the outer side. A narrow courtyard separated the two gate openings on either side. For unknown reasons, however, the construction of the gate remained unfinished. For example, the stones at the northern (outer) side of the gate were never abraded, and the protruding stones would have made it impossible to install movable gates. Nonetheless, the gate was used for several centuries until the end of the Roman era in Trier.

In Roman times, the Porta Nigra was part of a system of four city gates, one of which stood at each side of the roughly rectangular Roman city. The Porta Nigra guarded the northern entry to the Roman city, while the Porta Alba (White Gate) was built in the east, the Porta Media (Middle Gate) in the south, and the Porta Inclyta (Famous Gate) in the west, next to the Roman bridge across the Moselle. The gates stood at the ends of the two main streets of the Roman Trier, one of which led north-south and the other east-west. Of these gates, only the Porta Nigra still exists today.

In the early Middle Ages the Roman city gates were no longer used for their original function and their stones were taken and reused for other buildings. Also iron and lead braces were broken out of the walls of the Porta Nigra for reuse. Traces of this destruction are still clearly visible on the north side of the gate.

After 1028, the Greek monk Simeon lived as a hermit in the ruins of the Porta Nigra. After his death (1035) and sanctification, the Simeonstift monastery was built next to the Porta Nigra to honor him. Saving it from further destruction, the Porta Nigra was transformed into a church: The inner court of the gate was roofed and intermediate ceilings were inserted. The two middle storeys of the former gate were converted into church naves: the upper storey being for the monks and the lower storey for the general public. The ground floor with the large gates was sealed, and a large outside staircase was constructed alongside the south side (the town side) of the gate, up to the lower storey of the church. A small staircase led further up to the upper storey. The church rooms were accessible through former windows of the western tower of the Porta Nigra that were enlarged to become entrance doors (still visible today). The top floor of the western tower was used as church tower, the eastern tower was leveled, and an apse added at its east side. An additional gate - the much smaller Simeon Gate - was built adjacent to the East side of the Porta Nigra and served as a city gate in medieval times.

In 1802 Napoleon Bonaparte dissolved the church in the Porta Nigra and the monastery beside it, along with the vast majority of Trier"s numerous churches and monasteries. On his visit to Trier in 1804, Napoleon ordered that the Porta Nigra be converted back to its Roman form. Only the apse was kept; but the eastern tower was not rebuilt to its original height. Local legend has it that Napoleon originally wanted to completely tear down the church, but locals convinced him that the church had actually been a Gaulish festival hall before being turned into a church. Another version of the story is that they told him about its Roman origins, persuading him to convert the gate back to its original form.

In 1986 the Porta Nigra was designated a World Heritage Site, along with other Roman monuments in Trier and its surroundings. The modern appearance of the Porta Nigra goes back almost unchanged to the reconstruction ordered by Napoleon. At the south side of the Porta Nigra, remains of Roman columns line the last 100 m of the street leading to the gate. Positioned where they had stood in Roman times, they give a slight impression of the aspect of the original Roman street that was lined with colonnades. The Porta Nigra, including the upper floors, is open to visitors.