Visiting castles in Italy, and the medieval towns that are often built around them can be fun. Castles are evocative of Italy’s past and usually have fantastic views of the town and surrounding countryside. Some Italian castles have museums inside and some have even been remodeled into castle hotels where you can spend the night.
Here’s a selection of the most beautiful castles found in hill towns, the countryside, and in cities.
Spoleto: La Rocca Albornoziana
La Rocca Albornoziana sits above the hill town of Spoleto in the southern Umbria region. From the castle, there are great views of Spoleto, the Bridge of Towers over the gorge, and the surrounding valley. Rocca Albornoziana was built on the foundation of the Roman acropolis in the 14th century and served as the seat for local pontifical governors. It has two grand courtyards, six towers, and some beautiful frescoes. Visiting the castle is only possible on a tour, arranged at the ticket office at the entrance to the castle grounds. Check the schedule for the English tour times.
Portovenere: Andria Doria Castle
Portovenere’s Andria Doria Castle dominates the pretty Italian Riviera village of Portovenere. Built by the Genoese between the 12th and 17th centuries, the castle now houses a small art museum. Narrow medieval streets lead up to the castle where there are fine views of the sea and the picturesque San Pietro Church on the edge of the promontory.
Castell’Arquato: La Rocca Viscontea
Castell’Arquato is a picturesque hill town in the Emilia Romagna region of northern Italy topped by its castle – Rocca Viscontea di Castell’Arquato. Inside the castle is a fortress museum with a video about the castle and four rooms about life in the middle ages. You can climb the stairs in the tower for fantastic views of the town spilling down the hill and the surrounding countryside. Although it’s small, this is one of our favorites and it’s not overrun with tourists. The town has been the setting for several movies.
Ferrara: Castello Estense di Ferrara
Ferrara, on the Po Delta in Emilia Romagna, is a walled Renaissance city with lots of great examples of Romanesque and Gothic architecture. Its picturesque medieval castle, Castello Estense di Ferrara, dominates the old town. From the front rooms at Hotel Annunziata, there are great views of the castle.
Milan: Castello Sforzesco
The northern Italian city of Milan has a castle that’s not on a hill and in fact, is right downtown, within walking distance of the duomo. Castello Sforzesco was built in the 15th century but has been renovated several times. The castle became a museum complex in the 19th century and still houses several museums today.
Rome: Castel Sant’Angelo
Originally built as a mausoleum in ancient Roman days, Castel Sant’Angelo was fortified and connected to the Vatican with a covered passage in the 13th century. Today it’s a museum and a great place to go for views of the Vatican and Rome.
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