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The Marche region: fortresses and castles

In the Marche region, whose name derives from the German word «Mark», meaning "border”, the distance from the Imperial power centre allowed the birth of independent municipalities; later on, during the 14th and 15th century, they were transformed into independent states and areas ruled by families in constant conflict one against the other. This historical background explains the great diffusion of fortresses and castles throughout the region, witnessing a lively cultural past open to the experiments of the most renowned military architects of the time.

 

In the territory corresponding today to the province of Pesaro and Urbino, the Malatestas were the first one to adopt new defensive solutions. For the Fano fortress they requested the technical advice of Filippo Brunelleschi and the expertise of Matteo Nuti. The Sforzas followed such example for the Gradara Castle, a place surrounded by myth, history, and legend. Placed on the peak of a hill between the Romagna and Marche territories, Gradara (PU) is one of the most beautiful Italia boroughs, still preserving its historical-artistic heritage. Today, thousands of tourists want to visit the rooms where the unfortunate love between Paolo and Francesca was consumed, as told by Dante Alighieri in his Divine Comedy’s 5th Canto. All around the castle there is a number of hotels, restaurants, and agritourism accommodations to let the visitors immerse themselves in this magical atmosphere.

 

The city of Pesaro and its Rocca Costanza built by the famous architect Luciano Laurana plays an important role in the history of the region. This building is named after Costanza Sforza, who succeeded her father Alessandro in the rule of the city in 1473. It is a typical fortress conceived according to the needs of a flat city, which is next, but not anchored, to one of the extreme points of the big squared Urbino walls, dating back to the Malatesta age.
For the defensive works, the Montefeltros asked a support to the genial Francesco di Giorgio Martini; in the surrounding area they gave life to many fortresses and buildings, such as the Ducal Palace in Urbino and Ducal Palace in Urbania, both considered real Renaissance masterpieces.

 

Among the fortified buildings there is the Fortress of Sassocorvaro, hosting today the Museum “L’Arca dell’Arte” (The ark of the art), born to remember the rescue of thousand of art works during the Second World War by Pasquale Rotondi. The Fortress of Monte Cerignone today can by rent for great ceremonies; the Fortress of Fossombrone is strategically placed on the top of the city; the Fortress and Tower in Cagli are the first ones presented in Francesco di Giorgio Martini’s notebooks and are also the most relevant examples of the wider series of military buildings developed by this architect in the Marche region. Eventually, the Fortress of Frontone represents today one of the most emblematic example of the 11th-century military architecture; in the past it was disputed by princes and warriors for the domain of the surrounding lands.

 

The Della Roveres left their mark in the Fortress of Mondavio hosting today the Museum of historical revival and armoury, in the Ducal Palace in Pesaro – wanted by Alessandro Sforza – and in the magnificent Villa Imperiale in Pesaro, developed by Girolamo Genga.

 

Down along the coast, there is the Rocca Roveresca in Senigallia (AN) with its strategic position: an example of Renaissance military building, even though it replaced the previous Roman fortress. In 1350, Cardinal Egidio Albornoz completed a small fort by including a pre-existing tower; such fort was subsequently enlarged by Sigismondo Pandolfo Malatesta in 1450. The fortress that we see today was built by Baccio Pontelli under the influence of Luciano Laurana in 1480, upon Giovanni Della Rovere’s order.

The city of Senigallia also opens the way to discover the fortresses and castles in the Ancona province. Another tragic love story found its set here: Piero and Sara, two lovers killed by the mean Count of Rovellone, a feudatory who was also in love with Sara and that decided to kidnap her; after a failed attempt, he started a violent fight that caused the murder of Sara and her betrothed Piero. The set for this tragedy is the Medieval Castle of Pierosara di Genga (AN), a well-preserved monument, dominating from the hill the South-Eastern Frasassi gully.

 

Near the city of Ancona, in Falconara, there is the Fortress Priora with its beautiful portal made by Vanvitelli and the Castle dating back to the 7th – 12th century. It was one of the 20 castles in the Ancona area.

 

The Fortress of Offagna (AN) dominates the Medieval borough on its feet and was built by the Ancona people to defend the Western borders; every year, in July, there are Medieval fairs. Inside its halls there is the Weapon Museum. Travelling inland there is the beautiful village of Serra San Quirico (AN), at the feet of the Apennines, with its unique defensive wall and the typical parapet walks, called “Le Coppertelle”.



Enchanted and well-maintained places

In the hinterland, Corinaldo (AN) was ruled by the Malatestas and then by the Papal State, dominating the Cesano and Misa valleys with the intact surrounding wall. Upwards the Misa valley, there is Arcevia (AN) with its castles surrounded by the typical Medieval atmosphere. The territory around this Middle-Age borough hosts 9 historical castles. They are settlements built between the 11th and 14th century to control the territory and offer a shelter to the people that used to live in the countryside. Therefore, these castles have a country rather than a military origin, but each of them today presents high defensive walls, portals, and towers, built to resist against attacks and sieges that frequently left their mark on the walls. Today there are no more ancient drawbridges, but the Arcevia castles still have their military charm, sweetened by the time passing by; in their internal churches there are small art

masterpieces together with the typical objects used for the popular devotion. Among these castles there is the Castle of Avacelli dating back to the 13th century, the Castle of Castiglioni (14th century), built on the border with Serra de’ Conti; this castle still presents an elegant and fortified portal enriched by the Rocca Contrada (Arcevia) crest. The castle of Montale (13th century) was seized by Arcevia from the Senigallia bishop in the 13th century and, during the Middle Age, it was defined by the warrior Francesco Malatesta as “well armed for hand-fought battles”. Another famous example is in Piticchio (13th century), which is one of the best-preserved castles in this territory; it has an ancient middle-age portal and the typical parapet walk.

 

In the Vallesina there is Jesi with the castles of Verdicchio, a small and elegant Medieval borough famous for being Federico II’s birthplace. The fortified buildings were erected when in the Middle Age the strong municipality of Jesi started the conquest of its countryside, dominating it as a defence. The Jesi countryside is composed of 18 castles, including Belvedere Ostrense, Castelbellino, Castelplanio, Cupramontana, Maiolati Spontini, Mergo, Monsano, Montecarotto, Monteroberto, Morro d’Alba, Poggio San Marcello Rosora, San Marcello, San Paolo di Jesi, Santa Maria Nuova, Serra de’ Conti, Serra San Quirico, Staffolo; for over 6 centuries, the city and the Esino valley shared the same history and, due to very close interdependence bounds, a fabric of relationships was born and still is alive today.

 

Also Fabriano (AN) expresses its magnificence with a number of castles, originally built to defend the territory and that still today preserve the typical countryside borough style. The Castle of Bastia was built under Francesco Sforza’s rule of Fabriano and was integrated in the defensive system of the territory born in the municipality era. Another important Medieval building is the Castle of Castelletta, surrounded by a savage mountain chain, which was originally a property of the Rovellone landlords and subsequently transferred to the Fabriano municipality in the 14th century. The residential nucleus that developed around the castle still maintains its typical and unique style due to a number of reasons: the limited economic resources, a strong love for the tradition, and the farming activity. The Castle of Collimato is placed in one of the most intact and beautiful landscapes of the entire Fabriano area, on sunny and sweet hills rich of vineyards and pastures. Its origins date back to the Barbarian invasions by the Attidium people, looking for a shelter after their city’s destruction. The available documents talk about their passage under the Fabriano dominium between the end of the 12th century and the beginning of the 13th century. The parish church contains frescoes by unknown Marche painters and by Domiziano Domiziani, dating back to the 15th-17th century. Eventually, the Castle of Precicchie, a feud of the Attoni Earls fallen under the Rovellones dominion and then transferred to the Fabriano municipality at the beginning of the 14th century, still witnesses its past through the fortified nucleus and the very thick walls, the entrance portal and the majestic tower.

 

Some of the most beautiful castles of the region are close one another in the Macerata province, where the Camerino lords wanted their cities to be surrounded by an impressive castle system. In the Camerino territory, the lords Da Varano surrounded this nice city with a majestic system of fortresses, including Rocca d’Aiello and Rocca da Varano; Castelraimondo hosts the impressive Castle of Lanciano, witnessing the Medieval fortified buildings that still today are well-preserved and open to the tourists. An ancient and romantic atmosphere can be also found in the Castle of Conti Pallotta in Caldarola (MC) hosting a restaurant cooking typical medieval recipes in an incredible location with a view over the Marche valleys.

 

All municipalities are placed in a radial pattern around Macerata and a visit should definitely be paid to San Severino Marche (MC), with a Medieval nucleus in the highest part of the city and two big towers, and to Tolentino (MC), hosting the majestic Castel of the Rancia, with the Archeological museum Aristide Gentiloni Silverj and other temporary exhibitions. Still in the Macerata area, there is the military fortress of Urbisaglia, dating back to the beginning of the 16th century and including the remains of the previous Medieval buildings. Treia is also near Macerata and has seven entrance doors and well visible towers, together with the three castles originally built on three peaks: the castle of Onglavina, the castle of Ecle, and the castle of Cassero, linked to other two fortified buildings: the castles of San Lorenzo and Pitino, respectively placed near the mountain and over the Potenza valley, towards San Severino Marche.

 

Also Visso (MC), called “the pearl of Monti Sibillini", is an enchanting mountain centre, famous for the typical middle-age beautiful buildings on the border with the Umbria Region, in the National Park of Monti Sibillini; it is placed in a basin, in the convergence point of five valleys at 607 meters of altitude and surrounded by a crown of mounts. Its rich history left a mark in the layout of the city: the majestic walls, the Medieval balconies and the houses-towers, the Reinassance Gentili palaces, the elegant stone portals, enriched with Latin mottoes and crests of ancient families; all these elements create an harmonic and grand ensemble, when compared with the small extension of the historical center. The residential area is developed around two communicating squares, hosting the main buildings of the city, including the Collegiata di S. Maria, the Priori Palace, and the Governatori Palace. On the top there are two stone-made towers, aimed at defending the city against external invasions. A visit to this centre is a chance for a full immersion in the nature, listening to the flowing waters and enjoying a blissful green landscape during summer or a snow mantel during winter. A visit should also by paid to the near Macereto Shrine at 1000 meters of altitude, where it is possible to admire the majestic Monti Sibillini.

 

Another enchanting village is Sarnano (MC), the ideal centre for a number of relaxing activities, to take care of the health and the body; it is also a winter sports centre. It has many peculiarities under the historical, artistic, and environmental point of view. The residential centre is clearly divided between the well-refurbished Medieval borough placed on a hill, and the new city, expanding on the opposite hill. The city layout is a clear example of “castrum”, a walled city opening as a spiral from the high square dominated by the Santa Maria Tower, and going down to the lowest part of the village, with the typical narrow alleys. The city layout, coming down from the peak of the hill with its concentric roads, maintained the features of a fortified castle, of which there are still the original walls and access door. The warm colours of the bricks of the houses, one next to the other, and of the churches, are the dominant elements uniting all buildings and therefore the whole historical centre, creating a sense of harmony. Overall, it is considered as a precious historical monument.

 

In the Ascoli region and its surroundings along the Via Salaria, there is the Fortress of Arquata del Tronto dated 13th century and dominating the valley and the ancient Roman way under the shadow of Monti Sibillini; Castel di Luco is a Medieval fortress near Acquasanta Terme (AP) where it is possible to be accommodated in 15th-century refurbished houses and have a romantic candlelight dinner. With an unusual circular shape, the majestic fortress Malatesta in Ascoli Piceno near the banks of the Castellano river and the Cecco bridge, a compulsory passageway for those arriving from the Eastern side, was rebuilt over the remains of previous buildings realized throughout the centuries. In the same area there is the castle of Acquaviva Picena, again with a Medieval shape and modified in the 15th century by Baccio Pontelli.

 

There are so many castles and fortresses in the Marche region witnessing the various dominations of the past centuries. Many of these buildings are well preserved and easily accessible for the tourists that want to spend here either one or several days to follow personalized itineraries.

 

Useful information

Visits to the castles in the Pesaro-Urbino area:
Tel: 800563800
E-mail: info@turismo.pesarourbino.it
Website: www.turismo.pesarourbino.it

 

Gradara castle
Gradara (PU)
Tel.:+39 338 6228715 - +39 0541 964181
E-mail: info@pesarourbino.com
Website: www.castellodigradara.org

 

Rocca Costanza
Pesaro (PU)
Tel.: +39 0721 69341
E-mail: iat.pesaro@provincia.ps.it
Website: www.turismo.pesarourbino.it

 

Castle of Pierosara in Genga
Genga (AN)
Tel.: +39 0732 973014
E-mail: info@turismo.comunedigenga.it
Website: www.turismo.comunedigenga.it

 

Castle of Falconara
Falconara (AN)
Tel.: +39 071 910458
E-mail: iat.falconara@libero.it
Website: www.turismo.falconara.it

 

Rocca Roveresca in Senigallia
Senigallia (AN)
Tel.: +39 071 63258
E-mail: turismo@comune.senigallia.an.it
Website: www.comune.senigallia.an.it

 

Visits to the castles in the Fabriano area
Fabriano (AN)
Tel.: +39 0732 625067
E-mail: info@cadnet.marche.it
Website: www.cadnet.marche.it

 

Visits to the castles in the Arcevia area
Arcevia (AN)
Tel.: +39 0731 984561
E-mail: ufficio.turistico@arceviaweb.it
Website: www.arceviaweb.it

 

Visits to the castles in the Jesi area
Jesi (AN)
Tel.o: +39 0731 538420
E-mail: turismo@comune.jesi.an.it
Websit: www.comune.jesi.an.it

 

The Varanos from Camerino
A rich and well-documented website specifically devoted to the cultural system in Camerino, with notes about the Da Varano family and the figurative art tradition blossomed in the court of Giulio Cesare (15th century)
http://www.cultura.marche.it/cultura/camerino400/index.htm

 

Fortress of Aiello
Camerino (MC)
Tel. tel. 0737.64.43.42
E-mail : elisabetta_vitalini@yahoo.com
Website: www.roddadajiello.com

 

Fortress Da Varano
Camerino (MC)
Tel.: +39 0733.23.25.27
E-mail: artimestieri@tin.it
Website: www.roccavarano.it

 

Lanciano Castle
Castelraimondo (MC)
Tel.: +39 0737641663
E-mail: castellodilanciano@scoccogabrielli.it
Website:www.giustiniani.info

 

Castle of Conti Pallotta
Caldarola (MC)
Tel.: +39 0733 905242
E-mail: info(at)comune.caldarola.mc.it

 

Castle of Luco
Aquasanta Terme (AP)
For information, please call +39 0736 802319
E-mail: info@casteldiluco.com
Website: www.casteldiluco.com

 

Marche Tourism
Via Gentile da Fabriano, 9 60125 Ancona, ITALY
Tel.+39 071 8062316- 8062410 Fax +39 0718062318
e-mail: comunicazione.turismo@regione.marche.it
Web: www.turismo.marche.it
Facebook: www.facebook.com/marche.tourism
Twitter: @MarcheTourism
Issu: issuu.com/turismomarche
Flick: www.flickr.com/photos/turismomarche



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