Europe is filled with incredible castles, and while you might immediately think of English fortresses or fairytale German palaces, you might be surprised to learn that castles in Italy are some of the most beautiful in Europe. Each region of the country has its own unique history which is seen reflected in its architecture and of course its castles. This allows castles in Italy to be unique in style and design.
Italy has a great respect for its history, and many historical buildings and sites remain. Alongside the numerous roman ruins and temples are spectacular castles with histories simply waiting to be explored. Many Italian castles have been remarkably well preserved and cared for. Many of the castles have been preserved in their original condition and filled with time-appropriate furniture, paintings and other features. Italy’s castles are dotted along the shores of lakes and seas or nestled on mountainsides. Here are 21 castles in Italy that are well worth visiting during your stay in this stunning country.
- Castles in Italy
- 20 Italian Castles For Your Bucket List
- 1- Torrechiara Castle
- 2- Aragonese Castle
- 3- The Scaliger Castle of Malcesine
- 4- Rocco Scaligera Castle
- 5- Roccheta Mattei
- 6- Boccale Castle
- 7- Miramare Castle
- 8- Caccamo Castle
- 9- Borgo Castle
- 10- Castelsardo Castle
- 11- Vulci Castle
- 12- Castel Sant’Angelo
- 13- Castel dell’Ovo
- 14- Rocca Maggiore
- 15- Fortress of San Nicola
- 16- Orsini-Odescalchi Castle
- 17- Castell’Arquato
- 18- Sforza Castle
- 19- Castle of Fenis
- 20- Belfort Castle
- 20 Italian Castles For Your Bucket List
Castles in Italy
20 Italian Castles For Your Bucket List
1- Torrechiara Castle
Count Pier Maria Rossi built Torrechiara Castle between 1448 and 1460.
The castle sits on a hillside overlooking the Parma Valley and is defended with three perimeter walls and towers connected by parapets.
Inside, however, the castle is more focused on beauty than protection.
Windows are finished in Lombard style mouldings made from terracotta, and there are many beautiful frescoes inside.
Some frescoes date back to the 16th century and were painted by Cesare Baglione and his contemporaries.
When visiting the castle, make sure to look for Benedetto Bembo’s fresco.
The 1462 fresco shows the story of Pier Marisa Rossi and Bianca Pellegrini, who were in love.
The lover’s initials decorate two entwined hearts.
Torrechiara Castle is at Borgo del Costello, 1, 43013, Torrechiara, PR.
2- Aragonese Castle
Built by Hiero I of Syracuse in 474BC, the castle on the island of Ischia has a rich history.
From being captured by Romans in 326BC, before finally being connected to the mainland by Alfonso V of Aragon in 1441, this is a castle not to be missed.
The castle is separated from the main island and has remained so for many years, giving it a unique appearance and adding to its history.
Many battles during the castles time took palace on this rocky outcrop, keeping the fighting away from the mainland.
The building that stands today dates from the 14th to 17th centuries.
While the castle may look foreboding in its dark stone, there are beautiful gardens within the citadel, and seabirds and cats roam freely.
Aragonese Castle is at 80077 Ischia, Metropolitan City of Naples.
3- The Scaliger Castle of Malcesine
The Scaliger Castle of Malcesine dates back to the first millennium BC built as a fortress.
Over the years, the castle has been demolished, rebuilt and transformed into the spectacular lakeside castle that graces the shores of Lake Garda.
The castle spent time in the hands of the Franks, who destroyed the original structure in 590AD, the Scala family, and the Austrians during its lengthy history.
In 1902, the castle was declared a national monument and is in the care of the Venetians.
Inside the castle is a Natural History Museum, which has artefacts from the castle’s history, and the remnants of a fresco from an old chapel.
The Scaliger Castle of Malcesine is at ViaCastello, 37018 Malcesine, VR.
4- Rocco Scaligera Castle
Another incredible castle on the shores of Lake Garda is Rocco Scaligera.
The spectacular castle is one of Italy’s best-preserved castles.
Built from an almost-white brick band surrounded by turquoise waters, the castle looks like it has appeared from a fairytale.
Built in the 1300s to protect the town and port, Rocco Scaligera features a courtyard surrounded by walls and towers and a wet dock courtyard.
Today the castle is a popular tourist location in the day and is often used by the local area to host artistic performances.
Rocco Scaligera Castle is at Plaza Costello, 34, 25019 Sirmione BS.
5- Roccheta Mattei
Roccheta Mattei sits on a high hill in the Appennine Mountains and is a unique castle with an eclectic mix of architectural styles.
A fortress has rested on this hilltop since the 1200s, however, the castle that stands there today was built in the early 1850s.
Count Cesare Mattei, a self-taught medicine man and politician, had the castle built to be the home of his medical revolution.
The castle’s design combines medieval and gothic architectural styles; however, much of the castle appears to have been designed randomly by its owner.
Unusual features of include fake, painted stained glass and a room solely dedicated to Mattei’s 90th birthday party, which he would never see.
He died at the age of 87.
Roccheta Mattei is at 46A, Via Rocchetta, 40030 Grizzana Morandi BO.
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6- Boccale Castle
Boccale Castle is an imposing structure perched on the edge of a cliff on the Etruscan Coast.
Locally the castle is known as the “Cala dei Pirati”, or the den of pirates.
The Medici built Boccale Castle as a watchtower during the 16th century.
It wasn’t until the 19th century that the castle was transformed from a fortress into a residence.
The castle underwent renovations in recent years and renovated to house residential apartments.
While it is not possible to explore inside the castle, it’s worth a glimpse from the outside.
The best photographs come room the cliff opposite the castle at sunset.
Boccale Castle is at Via del Littorale, 57128 Antignano LI.
7- Miramare Castle
Sitting on the Gulf of Trieste is Miramare Castle, a stunning 19th-century castle surrounded by 54 acres (22 ha) of gardens and parkland trails.
Archduke Ferdinand Maximilian built the castle in 1856 and used a design by Carl Junker as inspiration.
The interior of the castle is lavishly decorated.
Bookshelves line the library walls, and exquisite tapestries cover many of the other walls within the castle.
Every room in Miramare features the original furnishings and objects from its completion in the mid 19th century, offering visitors an opportunity to step back in time.
Miramare Castle is at Viale Miramare, 34151 Trieste TS.
8- Caccamo Castle
On the island of Sicily is the castle of Caccamo, one of the largest and best-preserved Norman castles in Italy.
The castle sits atop a cliff 521 m (1790 ft) above sea level giving it exceptional views across the water and of the landscape around it.
Inside, explore Sala Della Congiura (Conspiracy Hall), where Norman barons met to organise a rebellion against William I of Sicily in 1160.
Sadly, during an earthquake in 1923, part of the castle collapsed.
It soon fell into ruin however was restored to its former glory in the mid to late 1970s.
Caccamo Castle is at Corso Umberto I, 90012 Caccamo PA.
9- Borgo Castle
Unlike many castles on this list, Borgo Castle does not have an ancient history.
The castle was the creation of a group of intellectuals, historians and artists in 1884.
The castle serves as a medieval village and takes inspiration from 15th-century buildings within Piedmont and the Aosta Valley.
The castle and its surrounding village aim to allow visitors to step back in time.
Demonstrations of metalwork run daily, and visitors can purchase items from their workshops.
The castle’s most recent addition is a medieval garden, added in 1998 and planted with various medicinal plants.
Head to the Rocco, or fortress, for views over the village.
Borgo Castle is at Borgo Medievale Torino, Viale Virgilio 107, Parco del Valentino, 10126 Torino.
10- Castelsardo Castle
The Maritime Republic of Genoa built the castle during the 12th century, featuring a city wall, palace and church.
They entrusted the castle and the village, which soon formed around it, to the Doria family.
The Doria family controlled all maritime trades along the Mediterranean up to Genoa.
The defensive towers are gone, however, the remaining castle is in excellent condition and has been well preserved by the local authorities.
Inside is the Museum of Mediterranean Interweaving.
Castelsardo Castle is at Via Guglielmo Marconi, 24, 07031 Castelsardo SS.
11- Vulci Castle
Nestled inside the leafy green grounds of Vulci Archeological Park is Vulci Castle, sometimes called Castello dell’Abbadia.
Cistercian monks built the castle during the 12th century to serve as an abbey.
Over the centuries it was transformed into a fortress and served as a shelter for travellers including the Knights Templar.
The castle became a museum in 1975 and is filled with archeological finds, mainly from the Necropolis.
Vulci Castle is at Vulci, 01011 Canino VT.
12- Castel Sant’Angelo
One of the most historically significant castles in Italy is Castel Sant’Angelo.
This roman castle in Italy’s capital city sits within the Parco Adriano on the northern bank of the River Tiber.
Emperor Hadrian built the castle between 123 and 139AD to serve as his mausoleum and the ashes of this family.
The ashes of later emperors were also interred into this impressive structure.
The castle served as a fortress for the popes and now houses a museum on Rome’s ancient history.
Many of the mausoleum’s decorations and tomb components were lost or destroyed during the transformation into a fortress.
Looters scattered the ashes of those inside the tomb.
The castle’s use to the papacy was enormous. An underground tunnel connected St Peter’s Basilica to the castle, which allowed many to escape during the 1527 Sack of Rome.
Castle Sant’Angelo is at Lungotevere Costello, 50, 00193 Roma RM.
13- Castel dell’Ovo
Literally translated to Egg Castle, Castel dell’Ovo has a legend running through its history.
According to the legend, beneath the castle’s foundations lies a magic egg placed there by the Roman poet Virgil.
Virgil was known as a sorcerer who could predict the future. He placed a magical egg in the foundations under the castle to ensure the castle’s fortifications would last.
It is believed that if the egg breaks, the castle and the city of Naples would be destroyed.
The castle is the oldest structure in Naples and dates to the 6th century.
Castel dell’Ovo is at Via Eldorado, 3, 80132 Napoli NA.
14- Rocca Maggiore
Assisi is a beautiful hilltop town, and at its edge is Rocca Maggiore.
The castle dates back to the 12th century and from its vantage point offers spectacular views of Umbria.
The first record of a castle in Assisi dates back to 1174, when Christian of Mainz rebuilt the ruins of a prior castle during this time.
Following this rebuilt, many further reconstructions helped transform the castle into the formidable fortress it is today.
It is possible to both explore the fortress and the tower. Inside the fortress are reconstructed rooms to reflect its medieval history.
Rocco Maggiore is at Via della Rocco, 06081 Assisi PG.
15- Fortress of San Nicola
Spread across the entire island of Tremiti is the Fortress of San Nicola, where there are many important ruins.
Like many Italian fortresses overlooking bodies of water, the Fortress of San Nicola offers incredible views over its surroundings and the shimmering waters of the Adriatic Sea below.
Inside the fortress are many ruins, an abbey, and the small castle of Badiali.
The fortress is only accessible by boat, which makes visits to St Nicola an even more magical experience.
Fortress of St Nicola is at 71040 San Nicola di Tremiti FG.
16- Orsini-Odescalchi Castle
Odescalchi Castle was built during the 15th century and, miraculously, much of the original structure is still standing today.
The castle stands on the shores of Lake Bracciano.
Since being built, the castle served as a military defence post and the residences of the Orsini and Borgia families.
Inside the castle are numerous works of art from the Middle Ages on display in its dedicated museum.
Orsini-Odescalchi Castle is at Via della Collegia, 00062 Bracciano RM.
Castell’Arquato was built in the 8th century to protect an entire town within its walls.
The charming medieval village has narrow alleyways and sandstone houses.
The streets lie on terraces filled with fossils because Castell’Arquato is in the Riserva Geologica del Piacenziano, a sea during prehistoric times.
Other attractions within the village are the 756 AD La Collegiata or the church of Santa Maria Assunta, the Rocca Viscontea military complex and the 1293 Palazzo del Podestà.
The palazzo houses the town’s winehouse, where you can taste local wine.
Castell’Arquato is at Piazza del Municipio 3 – Castell’Arquato.
18- Sforza Castle
Located in the centre of Milan is Sforza Castle.
A visit to the castle could easily take all day, as it encompasses nine museums within its walls.
The museums include exhibitions on Egyptian antiques, furniture and even houses Michaelangelo’s last sculpture and the Codex Trivulzianus manuscript by Leonardo da Vinci.
Sforza Castle is at Piazza Costello, 20121 Milan.
19- Castle of Fenis
The Castle of Fenis is one of the most famous castles in northern Italy, located in the alpine valley of Aosta, just 50 km (31 miles) from the Swiss border.
The castle is impressive against the natural beauty of its surroundings, where mountains stretch out to the rear of the castle while forests grow up to its walls.
The Challant family had the castle built as their seat within the area.
Despite being built for the family, the castle has many military features, including watchtowers and a double boundary wall to protect the inhabitants.
The castle has many unique features inflating a semi-circle staircase and a 15th-century fresco depicting St George and the dragon.
Castle of Fenis is at Frazione, Localita Chez Spain, 1, Fenis, AO.
20- Belfort Castle
The 14th-century Belfort Castle, unlike many others in Italy, has been left to crumble naturally, which adds a unique natural beauty to its walls.
Count Heinrich of Tyrol gave permission for the castle to be built in 1311 but a fire destroyed most of the castle’s medieval elements.
Another building was built during the 17th century, but it was sadly destroyed during the Era of Napoleon.
Belford Castle is at 38010, Spormaggiore TN.
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