Would you like to organise a trip to discover Romagna? A tour of its most fascinating castles is a must: here are the 10 we have chosen for you.
Italian history reflects in the many beautiful monuments and buildings of historical interest that dot the country. These include the castles and fortresses, which still bear witness to a time when defense against external attacks and strategy were of crucial importance. Although Romagna is a predominantly flat region, its hills are home to magnificent fortifications, many of which were built on the initiative of the Malatesta Seignory (1200-1500).
Visiting this land can therefore be an opportunity to immerse yourself in an environment that is both rich in history and with a fairy-tale atmosphere: starting from the north and moving down south, here are the 10 castles in Romagna that we think you absolutely must visit.
10. Rocca Sforzesca di Bagnara
Rocca Sforzesca is the ideal destination for those wishing to explore the history of Bassa Romagna. It houses the Museum of the territory of Bagnara and Bassa Romagna, where you can choose between a journey from the Bronze Age to the 12th century or from the Renaissance to the Unification of Italy.
The fortress itself is a place of interest for history buffs: probably built on the initiative of Uguccione della Faggiola at the end of the 13th century, the structure has undergone many transformations over the centuries. But it was at the time of Caterina Sforza, Riario's wife, that the fortress underwent major restoration and enlargement: between 1487 and 1494 the walls, the noble palace and the donjon were built, which we can still admire today.
9. Rocca di Forlimpopoli
The Rocca of Forlimpopoli rises in all its majesty in the historic centre of the town: an ideal opportunity for those wishing to combine a cultural visit with a shopping tour under the arcades.
Built between 1361 and 1363 at the behest of Cardinal Egidio d'Albornoz, the fortress has reflected the many changes that have characterised the life of the town that hosts it over the centuries. Today, the fortress itself hosts some of the town's most important activities: it is the home of the Municipality of Forlimpopoli, the Archaeological Museum, the Multipurpose Cultural Centre and the Giuseppe Verdi Theatre.
The beauty of the fortress has been perfectly maintained over time: today it is recognised as one of the best preserved complexes in Romagna.
8. Rocca Malatestiana di Cesena
Rocca Malatestiana in Cesena
Among the various words that could be used to describe the Rocca Malatestiana in Cesena, "majestic" is certainly the most suitable. Even though it is located in the centre of the city, very close to Piazza del Popolo, the fortress is imposing from above: this magnificent fortification, built under Galeotto I Malatesta (1380), is in fact located on top of Colle Garampo. From here you can enjoy a beautiful view, perhaps tasting a glass of wine provided by the refreshment point.
Like many medieval castles, the Rocca Malatestiana is actually the third fortress in Cesena: the structure was built in the immediate proximity of the two fortresses that preceded it, which were destroyed around the year 1000 and 1377 respectively.
7. Rocca delle Caminate di Meldola
Those who love to make their out-of-town trips an opportunity to learn will be thrilled by the possibilities offered by the Rocca delle Caminate in Meldola. Here, in fact, there is a didactic trail made up of 23 information points, which can be accessed easily through an app: a simple and fun way to learn something about this jewel of Romagna.
The medieval castle stands on a hill at an altitude of 356 m: it was built in this strategic position around the year 1000 as a military outpost. Its purpose was not only to protect the town, but also to collect duties on the transit of goods and guard the road. The ridge was in fact frequently used by merchants and pilgrims on their way to the Rocca di San Casciano, Florence.
6. Castello Malatestiano di Longiano
Due to its advantageous position on a hillock 179 m above sea level, the Malatesta Castle in Longiano has a history closely linked to military strategy. In fact, the Romagna fortress was born as a stronghold to oppose raids by the Lombards. The first documents attesting to its existence date back to 1059.
The castle, given its role as a defensive structure, has suffered much devastation over the centuries, until it earned the nickname of Burnt Village. However, all this is now a thing of the past: today the ancient fortress houses the Tito Balestra Onlus Foundation Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art.
5. Castel Sismondo a Rimini
Castel Sismondo, Rimini
The magnificent Castel Sismondo is located in the heart of Rimini's historic centre. It was built in 1437 by Sigismondo Pandolfo Malatesta, who intended to use it as a palace and fortress. Although not much is left today, it is still possible to see traces of the ancient fortifications: today's structure is in fact the core of the medieval castle, once surrounded by a moat.
Those who love to take every opportunity to sample culture will love Piazza Malatesta in Rimini: in addition to the ancient fortress, there are other places of interest to visit, all spread out over just 11,000 square meters. Since 2021 the square has housed the Fellini Museum, dedicated to the work of the famous Rimini director Federico Fellini.
4. Rocca del Sasso a Verucchio
Rocca del Sasso, Verucchio
The Rocca Malatestiana of Verucchio, or Rocca del Sasso, stands on the top of a rocky spur from which it dominates the surrounding area. Its distinctive feature is the guardhouse, crowned by a large clock. It is one of the largest and best-preserved Malatesta fortresses in Romagna.
Built in 1449 on the initiative of Sigismondo Malatesta, the fortress offers its visitors a breathtaking view: from here you can admire a territory stretching from the Adriatic sea to the ridge of the Apennines. In addition to the magnificent view, which can be enjoyed from the Mastio Tower, the castle offers the Malatesta family tree and two vast courtyards.
3. Castello di Montebello
Castello di Montebello, Poggio Torriana
Those who love legends and ghost stories will not miss the opportunity to visit the famous Montebello Castle in Poggio Torriana, Rimini, also known as Azzurrina's Castle. In addition to its paranormal charm, the castle is also an important place of historical interest, as you can learn more about thanks to a guided tour.
The most famous guest of the castle is the Guendalina's spirit, Uguccione's daughter, known as Azzurrina because of her "sky-coloured eyes and fair hair with blue highlights". The girl, born albino, disappeared on 21 June 1375 in the snowfield of the fortress, never to be found again: a story that, over the centuries, has fascinated many visitors and continues to do so today.
2. Fortezza di San Leo
The magnificent San Leo's Fortress towers over the small village in Romagna, an unmissable stop for lovers of history and medieval castles. As well as retaining the charm that only an impregnable fortress can have, the fortress houses more interesting exhibitions and collections than any other: from displays of sixteenth-century weapons to ancient instruments of torture, from artefacts from the World Wars to Vasari's replicas.
And speaking of guests, San Leo also boasts an illustrious one: the magician and alchemist Giuseppe Balsamo, Count of Cagliostro. This mysterious figure ended his life here as a prisoner, pardoned from the death penalty for heresy in 1790 by Pope Pius VI. A special cell was built for him, the cockpit cell, also known as the "cagliostrina".
1. Rocca Fregoso di Sant'Agata Feltria
The last stop on this journey combines history and magic: Rocca Fregoso in Sant'Agata Feltria, also known as Rocca delle Fiabe. A castle with a spectacular appearance, it dominates the Savio valley from the natural cliff on which it stands. It was built around the year 1000 by the Cavalca dei Conti family from Bertinoro.
The name Rocca delle Fiabe (Fortress of Fairy Tales) is due to the museum housed today in the mediaeval fortress and conceived by Professor Antonio Faeti, a lecturer in history and children's literature, a well-known pedagogue and expert in the grammar of fantasy. Here, guests can explore four rooms dedicated to fairy tales, divided by theme: "Shoes, Little Shoes", "The Lonely Castellan", "The Enchanted Traveller" and "Children in the Forest".