Ulcinj is an ancient castle and neighborhood. Today mostly inhabited by Albanians, it was built by the Illyrians and Ancient Greeks on a small peninsula at the right side of the Pristan Gulf. Today, oldest remains are the Cyclopean Wall. The castle has been restored many times since it was first built although major changes were made by the Byzantinians, Serbs, Venetians, and Ottomans. The modern city of Ulcinj was built outside of this castle.
Ulcinj's Old Town is one of the oldest urban architectural complexes on the Adriatic Sea. The castle, which some believe resembles a stranded ship, and the surrounding areas have flourished for about 25 centuries. Through the centuries, a variety of cultures and civilizations melded together. The Old Town represents a cultural and historical monument of invaluable significance due to its Illyrian walls, its citadel, the network of streets, the markets and town squares. It was built 2,500 years ago under economic, military, and cultural conditions quite different from those of today. The town’s walls were often destroyed in wars, and just as quickly rebuilt by residents to keep their fortresses and residences safe. In doing so, they also preserved the beauty of this ancient town.
Old town has picturesque narrow and curved streets typical of the Middle Ages, densely packed two- and three-story stone houses decorated with elements of the Renaissance and Baroque, and finally a series of valuable edifices from the Ottoman time. The oldest remnants of the walls date back to the Illyrian period.
The Tower of the Balšić, located on the upper, highest level is a citadel-fortress with a tower that dominates the old town and the surrounding countryside. It is connected to the last representatives of the Balšić dynasty, who had made Ulcinj their residence by the end of the 14th and beginning of the 15th centuries. Later the Ottomans built the third floor of the Balšić Tower as well as the spherical dome on the ground floor. This magnificent edifice has a view of the sea from three sides. It is considered to be one of the most representative edifices of medieval architecture in Montenegro. These days, it is used as a gallery or a location for organizing poets' nights.
It is believed that the castle was the residence of the Venetian administrator for Ulcinj in the Venice Palace. As a result of its beauty and convenience, subsequent rulers also used this building as their court. Not far away from the Palace of Venice, on the southern level of the Old Town, is a beautiful edifice called Dvori Balšića. Both of these edifices are used now as luxury accommodation for guests and visitors coming to Ulcinj.
In front of the Church-Mosque in the Old Town is a small square, once the Slave Square, surrounded by arches. Ulcinj became a significant slave market from the middle of the 17th century. Most of the slaves in Ulcinj came from Italy and Dalmatia and were captured by Ulcinj pirates, who robbed people in the rich villas along the coast of Apulia and Sicily, captured them, and sold them as slaves. The Ulcinj pirates treated the slaves like convicts and did not use them for any kind of work. Instead they were kept as hostages while a ransom was demanded from their relatives, friends, or countrymen. They had to make it possible for the 'slaves' to send messages to their homes or relatives so that they would come to offer the ransom. From the middle of the 18th century demand changed and the courtiers began to look for slaves from Africa. They would later have been sold again or brought to Ulcinj, where they might soon became free citizens and work in agriculture or seafaring. A small community of their descendants still live in Ulcinj.
There has always been a water cult in Ulcinj. It is believed that the image of Bindus, the Illyrian God of water and the sea, was carved into the walls of the Old Town. Many fountains were built not only for people's use, but also for the souls of the dead. Legend has it that it was better to build a fountain than a sacred building, thus, at one time, Ulcinj had more than thirty fountains, only half of which remain today. The fountain in the Old Town was built in 1749-50.References:
The Palazzo Colonna is a palatial block of buildings built in part over ruins of an old Roman Serapeum, and has belonged to the prestigious Colonna family for over twenty generations.
The first part of the palace dates from the 13th century, and tradition holds that the building hosted Dante in his visit to Rome. The first documentary mention notes that the property hosted Cardinal Giovanni and Giacomo Colonna in the 13th century. It was also home to Cardinal Oddone Colonna before he ascended to the papacy as Martin V (1417–1431).
With his passing, the palace was sacked during feuds, and the main property passed into the hands of the Della Rovere family. It returned to the Colonna family when Marcantonio I Colonna married Lucrezia Gara Franciotti Della Rovere, the niece of pope Julius II. The Colonna"s alliance to the Habsburg power, likely protected the palace from looting during the Sack of Rome (1527).
Starting with Filippo Colonna (1578–1639) many changes have refurbished and create a unitary complex around a central garden. Architects including Girolamo Rainaldi and Paolo Marucelli labored on specific projects. Only in the 17th and 18th centuries were the main facades completed. Much of this design was completed by Antonio del Grande (including the grand gallery), and Girolamo Fontana (decoration of gallery). In the 18th century, the long low facade designed by Nicola Michetti with later additions by Paolo Posi with taller corner blocks (facing Piazza Apostoli) was constructed recalls earlier structures resembling a fortification.
The main gallery (completed 1703) and the masterful Colonna art collection was acquired after 1650 by both the cardinal Girolamo I Colonna and his nephew the Connestabile Lorenzo Onofrio Colonna and includes works by Lorenzo Monaco, Domenico Ghirlandaio, Palma the Elder, Salviati, Bronzino, Tintoretto, Pietro da Cortona, Annibale Carracci (painting of The Beaneater), Guercino, Francesco Albani, Muziano and Guido Reni. Ceiling frescoes by Filippo Gherardi, Giovanni Coli, Sebastiano Ricci, and Giuseppe Bartolomeo Chiari celebrate the role of Marcantonio II Colonna in the battle of Lepanto (1571). The gallery is open to the public on Saturday mornings.
The older wing of the complex known as the Princess Isabelle"s apartments, but once housing Martin V"s library and palace, contains frescoes by Pinturicchio, Antonio Tempesta, Crescenzio Onofri, Giacinto Gimignani, and Carlo Cesi. It contains a collection of landscapes and genre scenes by painters like Gaspard Dughet, Caspar Van Wittel (Vanvitelli), and Jan Brueghel the Elder.
Along with the possessions of the Doria-Pamphilij and Pallavacini-Rospigliosi families, this is one of the largest private art collections in Rome.