The first Château de Gratot was built during the 14th century, but it underwent many transformations until the 18th century. It was constructed by the family of Argouges, barons of Gratot, who sold the castle in 1771. The castle is built in a number of styles, the most recent addition being a pavilion built in the 18th century.The castle was neglected in the 19th century, and was used as a fodder warehouse for local farmers. It was definitively abandoned at the start of the 20th century. The main restoration work took place in the late 60's and 70's, requiring tonnes of rubble to be removed from the cellars and ground floor, and the castle grounds to be cleared of undergrowth. Since then some buildings, including two of the towers, have been rebuilt, including adding wooden roofs to the towers and some buildings. Historical documents and 19th-century paintings showing the castle as a romantic ruin were used to guide reconstruction efforts. The 18th-century pavilion has been fully restored with roof, floors, a staircase, windows and electricity, allowing it to be used for exhibitions and cultural events. The latest renovation work concentrates on the formal gardens: only the shape of the gardens can currently be seen, with no paths or planting.
Nearly 12,600 visitors went to the castle during 2003. It is now classed as a Monument historique (Historic monument) by the French Ministry of Culture. It is open to the public all year round. During the summer months there is a welcome desk and gift shop: the remainder of the year guidebooks are available to visitors to guide themselves around.
A little bridge with three arches spans the moat and gives access to the porch. The outhouses are located on both sides of the postern. A tower is raised in the west corner. The main residence building, now in 18th century style, originally had three floors and nearly fifteen rooms. The roof is à la Mansart. Large windows open into the ground floor, and high spire lights at the first floor.
The round tower of the castle was erected in the 15th century and has a medieval look. A sudden narrowing in the spiral staircase prevents two attackers ascending simultaneously. The entry to the cellars opens at the bottom of the tower. At the top of the tower is a guards' room where remnants of medieaval wall paintings may still be seen.Another angle tower from the medieval period (13th century) remains: the door has been walled up. The Fairy tower (La tour de la fée) was constructed at the end of the 15th century, and is supported by strong buttresses. The base is octagonal, and is finished by a rectangular room: the roof has two panels. The top is decoreted by balusters and gargoyles.
The outbuildings were constructed around the end of the 16th century. In a hall near the entrance is an exhibition called 'Eight centuries of life' (Huit siècles de vie), about the history of the castle and the different steps of its restoration. As a cultural center, the castle regularly houses artistic events (painting, sculptures) and an annual theatrical production.References:
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 staircase leads to the walkways above the walls, providing a marvellous view of the harbour that once sheltered the Scaliger fleet. The doors were fitted with a variety of locking systems, including a drawbridge for horses, carriages and pedestrians, a metal grate and, more recently, double hinged doors. Venice conquered Sirmione in 1405, immediately adopting provisions to render the fortress even more secure, fortifying its outer walls and widening the harbour.
Thanks to its strategical geographical location as a border outpost, Sirmione became a crucial defence and control garrison for the ruling nobles, retaining this function until the 16th century, when its role was taken up by Peschiera del Garda.