Castles of Abruzzo
Abruzzo is a realm of medieval castles, which sit as eagle nests on high cliffs and dominate river valleys. This «open book» helps us to study the history of fortifications and medieval architecture. Picturesque valleys and mountains are decorated with silhouettes of fortified towns, fortresses, castles and towers naturally inserted in the landscape. This integrity of historical, architectural and natural landscapes has been preserved because for centuries Abruzzo was an out-of-the-way place and stayed in relative isolation.
The Romantic Castle of Rocca Calascio
The castle of Rocca Calascio is without doubt one of the most legendary castles in Abruzzo. The castle is situated on a cliff at an altitude of 1,460 m above sea level and is the most highly located castle in Europe. Its silhouette is visible from almost every part of the mountain plateau Campo Imperatore.
The construction of the castle began at the turn of the 10-11th centuries. For a long time, it consisted of a single quadrangular watchtower. In the 14-15th centuries four cylindrical towers were built, which are still well preserved.
The castle built of a snowy limestone emerges from the crest of impregnable rock. It dominates the Tirino valley and the Navelli plain. You can observe from its walls the majestic panorama of the Campo Imperatore and the mountain chain of the Gran Sasso. Keeping an advantageous strategic position, the castle exercised control over the transhumance path, i.e. the road for seasonal migration of sheep herds from Aquila to Apulia, which ran straight under its walls.
The main and the oldest tower of the castle was surrounded by a square fortification with four round corner towers. A relatively small size of the fortress suggests that it was destined exclusively for military functions and was used for quartering of a military garrison. A small village at the foot of the castle also performed the defensive role. To this end all its houses were interconnected and represented the first line of defense. If the enemy managed to break through it, the villagers took refuge in the fortress. The fortress and the village were joined by a suspended wooden bridge, which could be rapidly removed in a case of attack.
The land where the castle is situated changed the proprietors several times. At first, it was owned by the Benedictine monastery of San Vincenzo al Volturno, then by the barons of Carapelle and Piccolomini. Antonio Piccolomini had completed the building of the castle about 1480. He also constructed city walls around the town of Calascio located at the foothill, and rebuilt the town after the devastating earthquake of 1461. Descendants of the Piccolomini clan did not manage to hold the Castle in their hands, and it was sold for debts to the Medici family. In 1703, a disastrous earthquake destroyed the castle and village, whose inhabitants moved to the town of Calascio.
At present, only the romantic ruins of the castle have been preserved, which often serve as decorations for shooting movies. The most famous among them are «The Name of the Rose», «Lady Hawk», and «Honeymoon». More ...
You can watch a slideshow about the castle of Rocca Calascio in our media gallery.
The Medieval Citadel of Capestrano
The Castello Piccolomini di Capestrano occupies a strategic position on a hill (505 m above sea level) near the Tirino valley. The castle had a glorious and dramatic history. It was built in the 13th century. The first written record evidenced that in 1284 Charles I, the King of Sicily, granted the castle to Riccardo Acquaviva, Marquis of Capestrano. In 1462, the Piccolomini castle, as well as Rocca Calascio, went to Marquis Antonio Piccolomini of Aragon. In 1579, Constance Piccolomini sold the castle to the Grand Duke of Tuscany, Francesco Medici for 106,000 ducats. In 1743, the castle was passed into ownership of the Spanish King Charles III of Bourbon, who was also the King of Naples and the Two Sicilies. Its last royal patron was the King of Savoy. However, the castle has kept the name of Castello Piccolomini di Capestrano, and sometimes is referred to as Castello Mediceo. The coat of arms of Piccolomini family is still proudly standing above its main entrance.
Nowadays the City Hall is located in the castle. Nevertheless, the entrance to the castle is free of charge in all respects. One can absolutely quietly and freely enter into the courtyard and walk along the fortress walls. More...
The layout of the castle resembles an irregular trapezium. It is surrounded by jagged ramparts with three round corner towers. Residential buildings were situated at right angle to each other, forming the letter L, the longer part of which faced the town square. This part was the most entrenched one, since it was not protected by a natural terrain. In 1924, the castle which gloriously went through many sieges, suffered an unsuccessful reconstruction, as many critics believe. In the formerly impregnable wall there were hacked a door and five windows, which gave it a rather unusual view. The castle’s court is dominated by a high square tower, which was inherited from an earlier fortification. Due to this fact the tower is asymmetrically located with respect to the later constructions. Despite some divergences from architectural canons, or perhaps due to them, the castle makes an unforgettable impression. It is considered one of the most outstanding fortifications in Abruzzo.