Medieval castles in Veneto

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

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

Malcesine Castle

Malcesine's most prominent landmark is the Castello Scaligero, which has 13th-century fortifications and an older medieval tower in white natural stone. Like the castle of Sirmione at the southern end of the lake, it is named for the della Scala family of Verona who ruled the region in the 13th and 14th centuries, and has the characteristic swallow-tail Ghibelline merlon crenallations. Remnants of an Etruscan tomb have be ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Malcesine, 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

Asolo Castle

Asolo Castle dates back to the 10th century although there is no definite information indicating the origins of the complex. In 1242 it was home to Ezzelino da Romano and, from 1339, it became the seat of the podestà of Venice. At the end of the 14th century it was merged with the city walls. Three of the four towers it still remain: the Civic or Bell tower, the Reata tower acting as a gaol and the Carro tower, nowadays ...
Founded: 10th century | Location: Asolo, Italy

Marostica Castles

Marostica area became under the rule of Cangrande I della Scala in 1311. Next year he founded two castles in Marostica, the lower (Castello Inferiore) and upper (Castello Superiore) castle.  The lower castle in the city center is rectangular. After the War of the League of Cambrai, the mayor moved his headquarters from upper to lower castle. The upper castle is a square form building with four little towers on the sides ...
Founded: 1312 | Location: Marostica, Italy

Lazise Castle Ruins

This fortified town of Lazise was first mentioned in a document dated 983 AD, yet the present castle was erected during the reign of Bartolomeo and Antonio della Scala, as evidenced by the fact that the castle bears their initials in several places. The castle was at one time protected by draw-bridges and heavy gates. Judging by its size, the castle presumably served to offer protection (in time of strife) not only to the ...
Founded: 14th century | Location: Lazise, Italy

Torri del Benaco Castle

The present castle at Torri del Benaco (Castello Scaligero) was built by Antonio della Scala in 1383 to the ruins of a older castle dating back to the Xth century. The West Tower of older castle still remains. In 1760 the second curtain wall was torn down to make way for the Lemon Grove. The decline of the castle ended in 1980 when the Commune of Torri started complete restoration under the architect Rudi Arrigo.
Founded: 1383 | Location: Torri del Benaco, Italy

Cittadella

Cittadella is a medieval walled city founded in the 13th century as a military outpost of Padua. The surrounding wall has been restored and is 1,461 metres in circumference with a diameter of around 450 metres. There are four gates which roughly correspond the points of the compass. The town was founded in 1220 by the Paduans to counterbalance the fortification of Castelfranco. It was built in successive stages in a poly ...
Founded: 1220 | Location: Cittadella, 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

Soave Castle

Soave castle was built in 934 to protect the area against the Hungarian invasions. It was remodelled by Cansignorio of the Scaliger family in the mid-1300s. in 1365 Cansignorio had the town walls erected and the Town hall was built in the same year. The castle underwent various vicissitudes until, having lost its strategic importance, it was sold on the private market in 1596. In 1830 it was inherited by Giulio Camuzzoni ...
Founded: 14th century | Location: Soave, Italy

Monselice Castle

Monselice town is known of an imposing architectural complex called Castello Cini, which incorporates several diverse types of building. From the 6th to the 16th centuries the castle has changed from a luxurious residence, to defensive tower to become a Venetian villa.The Castle is made up, in fact, of four main nucleuses: the most ancient part is the Roman house (Casa Romanica, 11th century) which together with the Caste ...
Founded: 11th century | Location: Monselice, Italy

CastelBrando

CastelBrando, former Castrum Costae, is a medieval castle situated on a dolomite limestone rock overlooking the villages of Cison di Valmarino and Valmareno. The name CastelBrando is due to the name Brandolini, the ancient family from Forlì, who were the Lords of the castle. CastelBrando was originally built in the Roman age as a defensive fortress in order to protect the important lines of communication which connected ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Cison di Valmarino, Italy

Conegliano Castle

Starting from its foundation in the 11th century, Conegliano featured an innovative type of fortified settlement, common to several towns of the area, such as Bassano and Marostica. A fortified area on the top of the hill, with the below village which spreads along the Monticano river and at the feet of the main hill. The old Castle used to include a smaller walled area with several towers, also protected by moats. Withi ...
Founded: 11th century | Location: Conegliano, 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

Bevilacqua Castle

Bevilacqua Castle is considered one of the finest examples of its kind on Veronese territory. It was erected in 1336. Guglielmo Bevilacqua and his son, Francesco, were both commissioned by the Della Scala (Lords of Verona) to erect it. Originally erected for purely military purposes, the castle was damaged during the period of League of Cambrai and lost its strategic importance during the reign of the Venetian Republic. ...
Founded: 1336 | Location: Bevilacqua, Italy

San Salvatore Castle

San Salvatore is one of the largest castles in northern Italy. In 1245, the city of Treviso granted the hill of San Salvatore to the Collalto family. They built a castle on top of the hill between the late 13th and early 14th centuries. In 1312, when the castle was complete, Emperor Henry VII granted full jurisdiction of the area to the Collalto family. They planted vineyards in the fields around the castle. The 16th to ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Susegana, Italy

Valeggio Castle

Valeggio Castle, situated on tall spurs overlooking the River Mincio, bears the typical characteristics of a Della Scala castle, even if it was most probably built on a pre-existing structure. The Scaligeri family realised its strategic importance and erected a castle featuring the typical massive walls, square towers, battlemented keep, draw-bridge and passage guarded by a tower which is shorter than the others. The cast ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Valeggio sul Mincio, Italy

Montorio Castle Ruins

Montorio Castle was presumably a look-out post which was once part of the Verona city fortifications and which is first mentioned in documents dating back to 995 AD. It was subsequently rebuilt by the Aldobrandeschi in the Middle Ages and restructured by the Ottieri and then transformed into a fortified farmhouse after the annexation of the county in the Grand Duchy of Tuscany. Only certain sections of the structure remai ...
Founded: 10th century AD | Location: Verona, Italy

Bellaguardia and della Villa Castles

The castles of Bellaguardia and della Villa look at each other on Montecchio Maggiore hill. They are also known as Romeo and Juliet"s castles, the two unlucky passionate lovers whose legend was narrated by the count Luigi Da Porto. He was from Vicenza, vicar in Arzignano, town fortifications strategist, poet and author of the novel earlier known as La Giulietta which was reprised in the early 16th century by authors ...
Founded: 14th century | Location: Montecchio Maggiore, Italy

Featured Historic Landmarks, Sites & Buildings

Historic Site of the week

Château de Vaux-le-Vicomte

The Château de Vaux-le-Vicomte is a baroque French château built between 1658-1661 for Nicolas Fouquet. It was made for Marquis de Belle Île, Viscount of Melun and Vaux, the superintendent of finances of Louis XIV, the château was an influential work of architecture in mid-17th century Europe. At Vaux-le-Vicomte, the architect Louis Le Vau, the landscape architect André le Nôtre, and the painter-decorator Charles Le Brun worked together on a large-scale project for the first time. Their collaboration marked the beginning of the 'Louis XIV style' combining architecture, interior design and landscape design. The garden's pronounced visual axis is an example of this style.

To secure the necessary grounds for the elaborate plans for Vaux-le-Vicomte’s garden and castle, Fouquet purchased and demolished three villages. The displaced villagers were then employed in the upkeep and maintenance of the gardens. It was said to have employed eighteen thousand workers and cost as much as 16 million livres. The château and its patron became for a short time a focus for fine feasts, literature and arts. The poet La Fontaine and the playwright Molière were among the artists close to Fouquet. At the inauguration of Vaux-le-Vicomte, a Molière play was performed, along with a dinner event organized by François Vatel, and an impressive firework show.

After Fouquet was arrested and imprisoned for life, and his wife exiled, Vaux-le-Vicomte was placed under sequestration. The king seized, confiscated or purchased 120 tapestries, the statues, and all the orange trees from Vaux-le-Vicomte. He then sent the team of artists (Le Vau, Le Nôtre and Le Brun) to design what would be a much larger project than Vaux-le-Vicomte, the palace and gardens of Versailles.

The Marshal Villars became the new owner without first seeing the chateau. In 1764, the Marshal's son sold the estate to the Duke of Praslin, whose descendants would maintain the property for over a century. It is sometimes mistakenly reported that the château was the scene of a murder in 1847, when duke Charles de Choiseul-Praslin, killed his wife in her bedroom, but this did not happen at Vaux-le-Vicomte but at the Paris residence of the Duke.

In 1875, after thirty years of neglect, the estate was sold to Alfred Sommier in a public auction. The château was empty, some of the outbuildings had fallen into ruin, and the famous gardens were totally overgrown. The huge task of restoration and refurbishment began under the direction of the architect Gabriel-Hippolyte Destailleur, assisted by the landscape architect Elie Lainé. When Sommier died in 1908, the château and the gardens had recovered their original appearance. His son, Edme Sommier, and his daughter-in-law completed the task. Today, his descendants continue to preserve the château, which remains privately owned by Patrice and Cristina de Vogüé, the Count and Countess de Vogüé. It is now administered by their three sons Alexandre, Jean-Charles and Ascanio de Vogüé. Recognized by the state as a monument historique, it is open to the public regularly.

Architecture

The chateau is situated near the northern end of a 1.5-km long north-south axis with the entrance front facing north. Its elevations are perfectly symmetrical to either side of this axis. Somewhat surprisingly the interior plan is also nearly completely symmetrical with few differences between the eastern and western halves. The two rooms in the center, the entrance vestibule to the north and the oval salon to the south, were originally an open-air loggia, dividing the chateau into two distinct sections. The interior decoration of these two rooms was therefore more typical of an outdoor setting. Three sets of three arches, those on the entrance front, three more between the vestibule and the salon, and the three leading from the salon to the garden are all aligned and permitted the arriving visitor to see through to the central axis of the garden even before entering the chateau. The exterior arches could be closed with iron gates, and only later were they filled in with glass doors and the interior arches with mirrored doors. Since the loggia divided the building into two halves, there are two symmetrical staircases on either side of it, rather than a single staircase. The rooms in the eastern half of the house were intended for the use of the king, those in the western were for Fouquet. The provision of a suite of rooms for the king was normal practice in aristocratic houses of the time, since the king travelled frequently.

Another surprising feature of the plan is the thickness of the main body of the building (corps de logis), which consists of two rows of rooms running east and west. Traditionally the middle of the corps de logis of French chateaux consisted of a single row of rooms. Double-thick corps de logis had already been used in hôtels particuliers in Paris, including Le Vau's Hôtel Tambonneau, but Vaux was the first chateau to incorporate this change. Even more unusual, the main rooms are all on the ground floor rather than the first floor (the traditional piano nobile). This accounts for the lack of a grand staircase or a gallery, standard elements of most contemporary chateaux. Also noteworthy are corridors in the basement and on the first floor which run the length of house providing privacy to the rooms they access. Up to the middle of the 17th century, corridors were essentially unknown. Another feature of the plan, the four pavilions, one at each corner of the building, is more conventional.

Vaux-le-Vicomte was originally planned to be constructed in brick and stone, but after the mid-century, as the middle classes began to imitate this style, aristocratic circles began using stone exclusively. Rather late in the design process, Fouquet and Le Vau switched to stone, a decision that may have been influenced by the use of stone at François Mansart's Château de Maisons. The service buildings flanking the large avant-cour to the north of the house remained in brick and stone, and other structures preceding them were in rubble-stone and plaster, a social ranking of building materials that would be common in France for a considerable length of time thereafter.

The main chateau is constructed entirely on a moated platform, reached via two bridges, both aligned with the central axis and placed on the north and south sides. The moat is a picturesque holdover from medieval fortified residences, and is again a feature that Le Vau may have borrowed from Maisons. The moat at Vaux may also have been inspired by the previous chateau on the site, which Le Vau's work replaced.

Gardens

The château rises on an elevated platform in the middle of the woods and marks the border between unequal spaces, each treated in a different way. This effect is more distinctive today, as the woodlands are mature, than it was in the seventeenth century when the site had been farmland, and the plantations were new.

Le Nôtre's garden was the dominant structure of the great complex, stretching nearly a mile and a half (3 km), with a balanced composition of water basins and canals contained in stone curbs, fountains, gravel walks, and patterned parterres that remains more coherent than the vast display Le Nôtre was to create at Versailles.

Le Nôtre created a magnificent scene to be viewed from the house, using the laws of perspective. Le Notre used the natural terrain to his advantage. He placed the canal at the lowest part of the complex, thus hiding it from the main perspectival point of view. Past the canal, the garden ascends a large open lawn and ends with the Hercules column added in the 19th century. Shrubberies provided a picture frame to the garden that also served as a stage for royal fêtes.

From the top of the grand staircase, this gives the impression that the entire garden is revealed in one single glance. Initially, the view consists of symmetrical rows of shrubbery, avenues, fountains, statues, flowers and other pieces developed to imitate nature – these elements exemplify the Baroque desire to mold nature to fit its wishes, thus using nature to imitate nature. The centerpiece is a large reflecting pool flanked by grottos holding statues in their many niches. The grand sloping lawn is not visible until one begins to explore the garden, when the viewer is made aware of the optical elements involved and discovers that the garden is much larger than it looks.