Fortresses, Castles & Palaces in Italy

Alghero Medieval Walls

One of the most striking and picturesque features in Alghero are the medieval walls surrounding the town’s historical centre. Canon and catapults, towers and forts along the way are a fascinating reminder of Alghero’s rich history. Like many places, these walls were built and then repaired and developed over the centuries. Alghero was a fortified Genoese port town as early as the 11th century. In the mid 1300s the Catalans repaired the walls, but much of what we see today was built in the 16th century by the Aragonese.

Aragonese Castle of Baia

The Aragonese Castle in Baia, Italy, has a rich history.  The hill on which it was built, over-looking the gulf of Baia,  had a Roman residential complex, thought by some to have been the villa of Caesar. Construction of the castle began in 1495 by the Aragonese, shortly before the invasion of the area by the French. Over the centuries, the castle was expanded, fortified, and restored by various rulers, and had many function, from a military fortress, a prison for WW2 prisoners of war, a military orphanage. Since 1984 the castle has been home to the Museo archeologico dei Campi Flegrei. 

Aragonese Castle of Castella

This is undoubtedly one of the most evocative castles in Calabria. It is located on a small strip of land, surrounded by the waters of the Ionian Sea, in the hamlet of Le Castelle in the municipality of Isola Capo Rizzuto. The origins of the area where the fortress stands date back to the Magna Graecia period, but there are numerous traces of successive populations. In Roman times, Hannibal, who was preparing his retreat from Italy, took refuge here. At the same time, traces remain of the Byzantine, Norman, Swabian, Angevin and Aragonese phases. Its primary function was always defensive, and rulers never used it as a residence. Although some castle areas cannot be visited, as they are still being restored, the visit is free of charge and offers a splendid panorama.

Aymerich Castle, Laconi

Set in a public park created in 1830 are the ruins of the medieval Aymerich Castle. Although much of what we see today dates to at least the 13th century, it is thought that there was an earlier settlement probably dating back to the 12th or even the 11th century. The castle was built to defend the borders of the Judicate of Arborea from the Cagliari Judicate. In the 19th century, when the ruling family of the fief of Laconi were living here, the castle was destroyed by fire. Visitors are free to walk among the ruins and see  the vaulted arch entrance that is flanked by a rectangular tower, and the remains of the palace, with its Catalan-Gothic windows.

Capodimonte Museum

In 1738 King Charles of Bourbon ordered the construction of the Royal Palace that today houses the Museum. It was initially founded as a hunting reserve, but ended up becoming one of the residences of the royal family, in which part of the Farnese Collection was exhibited from the very beginning. Already in the 18th century it was an obligatory stop for visitors to Italy, given the importance of the works on display. The Museum, opened on 5 May 1957, is one of the most important picture galleries in Europe, and houses in its 124 galleries numerous works by great names such as Botticelli, Michelangelo, Raphael, Caravaggio and Titian. In addition to these are extraordinary collections of porcelain and decorative arts, tapestries and royal furniture, as well as Roman sculpture.

Castel Sant'Angelo - Hadrian's Mausoleum

Castel Sant’Angelo is one of the most important historical sites in Rome. Now a museum, the structure was first built on an artificial mound on the northern banks of the Tiber River. It was built as a mausoleum for Emperor Hadrian and is wife Sabrina. In the early medieval period it was converted into a military fortress. Given its proximity to St Peter’s Basilica, in the 14th century it was converted into a residence for the Popes. The Vatican also used it as a prison. All of this history is on display to visitors , including the Papal chambers and  their exquisite frescoes.

Castle of Melfi

Founded in the 11th century by the Normans at a strategic point that allowed passage between Apulia and Campania, Melfi Castle are one of the most beautiful in Basilicata and the site of significant historical events. Five synods, known as the Councils of Melfi, occurred inside it. In the third of these, Pope Urban II called the first crusade to the Holy Land in 1089. Frederick II promulgated the famous Constitutions of Melfi in 1231, the legislative code of the kingdom of Sicily. Over time it was enlarged and renovated, achieving its multi-styled appearance and the ten imposing towers surrounding it. While inside, you can visit the National Archaeological Museum of Melfese, which houses the splendid Roman sarcophagus of Rapolla.

Fénis Castle

This Medieval castle is one of the most visited tourist attractions in the Aosta Valley. The castle has a typical defensive layout, which includes a pentagonal keep with towers at each corner. The keep is surrounded by a double wall complete with battlements, watchtowers and walkways. Built on top of a small hill and contrary to first impressions, the castle did not have a military or defensive purpose. Rather, it was a prestigious family residence. What visitors see today dates to the early 15th century.

Royal Palace of Caserta

When people think of the most majestic and imposing Royal Palaces, they cannot but think of the Royal Palace of Caserta. King Charles of Bourbon commissioned the architect Luigi Vanvitelli to design a residence that would surpass even the Palace of Versailles in beauty. The foundation stone was laid on 20 January 1752, and it was completed in 1845. Inside, all the rooms that hosted the royal family and animated court life can be visited, such as the Apartments, the Throne Room, the Theatre, the Palatine Chapel and the Royal Staircase, while outside, visitors can stroll and relax in the vast, well-kept gardens.

Royal Palace of Naples

At the beginning of the 17th century, Viceroy Fernando Ruiz de Castro, due to the imminent visit of King Philip III of Habsburg to Naples, began construction of the new Royal Palace, entrusting the architect Domenico Fontana with the project. King Charles of Bourbon chose it in 1734 as his royal residence, and it was only in 1858 that the palace was given its final appearance. The visit allows you to explore the different rooms of the Royal Apartments, such as the Court Theatre, the Chapel and the Throne Room, reached via the Staircase of Honour, which Montesquieu described as the most beautiful in Europe.

Saint-Pierre Castle

The first castle on this spot is thought to have been built towards the end of the 12th century. then it would have been a very simple structure of basic walls and a few towers. Over the years, and as it changed hands, the castle was added to, renovated and modernised until it looked like it does today – sometime towards the end of the 19th century. The stucco white church at the foot of the castle is the parish church of Saint-Pierre. The castle is now home to the Regional Museum of Natural Sciences.

Torre di Longonsardo

Longonsardo Tower is at the northern end of the seaside resort of Santa Teresa Gallura, hence it is also known as Santa Teresa Tower. Set upon the rocks, it overlooks Sardinia’s northern coastline towards Corsica. The tower was part of a defensive system built in the 16th century for King Phillip II of Spain to protect Sardinia from looters. An impressive circular turret tower built using granite and with a height of 11 m, it is the largest defensive structure to be built by the Spanish in Sardinia. It has recently been repaired and refurbished, and is open to the public.