Fortezza Fortress is one of the most striking fortresses of the Alpine area. On an area of 20 hectares, in the period between 1833 and 1838 AD, this fortress was built under the rule of Ferdinand I of Austria. The building comprises a giant labyrinth of rooms, corridors and stairways. The German name of the fortress, that is Franzensfeste, derives from Francis (Franz) I of Austria who ruled in the period when the fortress had been planned. The purpose of the Fortezza Fortress was to safeguard the traffic connection across the Alta Valle Isarco via the Brenner pass.
Partly 3,000 to 4,000 men were occupied with construction works at the same time. At the altitude of the caverns, munition was stored, while the lower part of the buildings houses the barracks. The two parts of the fortress were connected by a stairway with 433 steps, hewn in stone. Even if the fortification was actually designed for war purposes, it was never really involved in struggles. Still today, in the surroundings, there are several more pillboxes that were constructed around 1930 by the Italian army in order to once more fortify the Fortezza Fortress.
Today the complex can be visited in guided tours and features a museum. The permanent exhibition provides information about the history of this place and its surroundings. It also ventures the guess that the hoar of gold of the Italian National Bank was hidden in this place in WWII. Moreover the exhibition forges a bridge up to the present days and the future. By the way, the fortress today is also venue for various events such as the European Biennal of Contemporary Art Manifesta7 as well as some cultural events.References:
German crusaders known as the Livonian Brothers of the Sword began construction of the Cēsis castle (Wenden) near the hill fort in 1209. When the castle was enlarged and fortified, it served as the residence for the Order's Master from 1237 till 1561, with periodic interruptions. Its ruins are some of the most majestic castle ruins in the Baltic states. Once the most important castle of the Livonian Order, it was the official residence for the masters of the order.
In 1577, during the Livonian War, the garrison destroyed the castle to prevent it from falling into the control of Ivan the Terrible, who was decisively defeated in the Battle of Wenden (1578).
In 1598 it was incorporated into the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth and Wenden Voivodship was created here. In 1620 Wenden was conquered by Sweden. It was rebuilt afterwards, but was destroyed again in 1703 during the Great Northern War by the Russian army and left in a ruined state. Already from the end of the 16th century, the premises of the Order's castle were adjusted to the requirements of the Cēsis Castle estate. When in 1777 the Cēsis Castle estate was obtained by Count Carl Sievers, he had his new residence house built on the site of the eastern block of the castle, joining its end wall with the fortification tower.
Since 1949, the Cēsis History Museum has been located in this New Castle of the Cēsis Castle estate. The front yard of the New Castle is enclosed by a granary and a stable-coach house, which now houses the Exhibition Hall of the Museum. Beside the granary there is the oldest brewery in Latvia, Cēsu alus darītava, which was built in 1878 during the later Count Sievers' time, but its origins date back to the period of the Livonian Order. Further on, the Cēsis Castle park is situated, which was laid out in 1812. The park has the romantic characteristic of that time, with its winding footpaths, exotic plants, and the waters of the pond reflecting the castle's ruins. Nowadays also one of the towers is open for tourists.