The Minerve village is situated on top of the gorge of the River Cesse in a naturally strong defensive position. Near the village the river disappears underground in a large, naturally-carved tunnel. Minerve has been selected as one of The Most Beautiful Villages Of France. Historically, the village has been the capital of the Minervois wine region. The main bridge leading into the village is closed to all passenger vehicles not owned by residents of Minerve. Of all of the original fortifications, only a slender octagonal tower, known locally as the Candela, survives.
In 1210 a group of Cathars sought refuge in the village after the massacre at Béziers during the Albigensian Crusade. The village was besieged by Simon de Montfort, 5th Earl of Leicester. The attacking army besieged the village for six weeks before it surrendered. Four catapults or trebuchets were set up around the ramparts, three to attack the village itself and the largest, known as Malvoisine or 'bad neighbour', to destroy the town's well. With the town's only water supply cut off, the Commander of the 200-strong garrison, Viscount Guilhem of Minerve, gave in and negotiated a surrender in order to have the villagers and himself spared from death. However, 140 Cathars refused to give up their faith and convert, being burned to death at the stake on 22 July.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.