Four Favourite Castles
Submitted by HedonisticHiking on 1 Feb 2023
Stopping by a castle or palace on holiday in Italy is a great way to learn about the history of the region and the country, and it will often come hand in hand with some eye-popping views. Many of our tours visit some of Italy’s most spectacular castles, fortresses, and palaces, from the imposing mountaintop Rocca Calascio, the highest fortress in the Apennines, to the little-known Castello della Manta in the Piedmont region.
Calascio, Province Of L’Aquila, Abruzzo
Castles and fortresses are a common sight in Abruzzo, a stunning region that remains firmly off the tourist trail, set to the east of Rome. It is a beautiful region to hike in, not least for the extraordinary number of medieval castles and impressive fortresses immersed in the greenery of the national parks and nature reserves. Rocca Calascio is possibly the best-known and most striking of the region’s forts. If you think it looks familiar, it may be that you recognize it from the film The Name of the Rose. Initially built as a watchtower, the 13th-century fort is perched on rocky cliffs at a height of 1460 meters, making it one of the oldest standing forts in Italy. It was developed further in the 14th century, and again in the 16th century by the Medici family, but suffered considerable damage in an earthquake in 1703. We walk to the Rocca on our Wilds of Abruzzo tour and it's an amazing spot to take photos.
Massa, Province Of Massa And Carrara, Tuscany
In Tuscany there are numerous castles and palaces tucked away amid the familiar landscape of rolling hills intersected by lines of cypress trees. Many of the castles, originally built for protection, are an excellent way to delve deep into the region’s history and traditions. Sitting on the border of Tuscany and Liguria, and one of the highlights of our Parma, Tuscany and the Ligurian Sea tour is Castello Malaspina di Fosdinovo, generally regarded as Italy’s largest and best-preserved castle. Built in 1340, the castle comes complete with crenelated round towers, and hanging gardens. Inside there are collections of art, ceramics, weapons, and — just what every good castle needs — a torture room! The castle is still owned today by the Malaspina family.
Monteriggioni, Province Of Siena, Tuscany
Built by the Sienese in the early 13th century in a strategic hilltop location just 20 kilometers from Siena, Monteriggioni Castle is more of a walled medieval town than a standalone castle, although it did start life as a castle. Today, the 14 towers and two gates on the fortified wall remain intact and the towers can be spotted from miles away. If you happen to be in the area in early July, it is worth stopping by for a glimpse of the town’s spectacular medieval festival, complete with craftsmen and others in full period costume, and entertainment in the form of music, live performances, duels, and acrobats. Our Tuscan Harvest tour has a hike which takes us to Monteriggioni and follows a section of the famous medieval pilgrim route known as the Via Francigena
Castello Della Manta
Manta, Province Of Cuneo, Piedmont
The Castello della Manta near the charming town of Saluzzo in Piedmont is rather more off the radar but a superb illustration of the power and wealth of the Saluzzo della Manta family. The extraordinary 12th-century castle was enlarged and transformed in the 15th century into a lavish family home by Valerano, the ruler of the Marquisate of Saluzzo. With a backdrop of the Cottian Alps and spectacular Monviso massif, the castle is probably best known for its magnificent cycle of late Gothic frescoes in the Baronial Hall. There are also some excellent cellars and a huge kitchen with its vaulted ceiling and vast fireplace. We hike here on the second day of our Jewels of Piedmont itinerary and have a private guided tour of the castle.