In Italy there are around 45,000 castles, towers and villas. We have selected the 21 most fascinating castles in Italy 

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Castles in Italy are like fairytale places, full of history and magic, that make you feel like a king or a queen for one day. They reign supreme in the narrow streets of picturesque villages, perched on majestic mountains, surrounded by enchanting forests and woods or lapped by the waves of the sea. 

Castles in Italy, so different from each other and so beautiful, tell distant stories suspended between reality and fantasy, populated by more or less famous and more or less real characters, but certainly always full of intrigue, impossible loves and wars. Come and find out in which of them you can live your fairy tale. 

I am intrigued by the life that old castles have seen and still partly retain. Who knows how many dreams are left on the towers.

Fabrizio Caramagna

Why to visit the castles in Italy

21 Castles in Italy - medieval castle

Italy is a country rich in natural and historical beauty. Between sea and mountains, between small villages and modern cities, there's always so much to see. Castles in Italy, however, have immense historical value which makes them important. For centuries they have been the nucleus around which the life of entire communities took place. At the same time defensive buildings, centers of power, heart of politics and residences of the powerful, they have been also some of the main centers of Italian patronage. Artists, musicians and poets lived there, but also scientists, philosophers and mathematicians in the pay of nobles and sovereigns. Furthermore, these buildings are beautiful and complex architectural works.

Like little big treasure chests of knowledge, today the castles in Italy still retain their complex nature, which makes them interesting from every point of view.

21. Acquafredda Castle in Siliqua (Sardinia)

 castles in Italy - Acquafredda in Siliqua

The Castle of Acquafredda is an essential testimony of a fortified structure of the Middle Ages, located in Siliqua in southern Sardinia, about 30 km from Cagliari. It stands on a hill of volcanic origin at the height of 256 metres above sea level. The site, called Domo Andesitico di Acquafredda, has been declared a Natural Monument by the Region of Sardinia. 

According to a papal bull dated 30 July 1238, the castle already existed since then, but it's still widely believed that the famous Pisan nobleman Ugolino Della Gherardesca, Count of Donoratico, built it in 1257. In that year he became Lord of the southwestern part of Sardinia after the fall of the Giudicato of Cagliari. 

The count then fell into disgrace and was imprisoned in Pisa in the Torre dei Gualandi, later called the Torre Della Fame, where he died in 1288. The vicissitudes of Count Ugolino became famous thanks to the profound verses of Dante Alighieri in the Divine Comedy (Inferno canto XXXIII). 

20. Melfi Castle (Basilicata)

The most charming castles in Italy - Melfi Castle

Among the most beautiful castles in Italy, the castle of Melfi cannot miss. It stands on a hill of volcanic origin. It overlooks both the historic centre and the entire inhabited area. It has the typical appearance of a medieval castle city, with the walls still intact to form a compact and impassable defence system for the whole town. Its defensive system consisted of a moat, a rampart and a wall of ten towers, seven rectangular and three pentagonal.

The castle was built at the behest of William of Altavilla in 1042. Here court held four papal councils, and in 1089 the first crusade to the Holy Land was launched by Pope Urban II. The castle later became the property of Emperor Frederick II of Swabia, and it was here that he promulgated the Melfi Constitutions in 1231. 

Today, the castle of Melfi houses a national archaeological museum. With priceless archaeological finds from various tombs discovered near the Volture-Melfese area. 

19. Rocca di Arquata del Tronto (Marche)

The Rocca di Arquata del Tronto is a medieval fortress built as a stronghold to control the territory, with tactical and defensive functions. It stands on a cliff in Arquata del Tronto, a municipality in the province of Ascoli Piceno. It has isolated and austere, a green park furrowed by the fortress's paths and lanes. Since 1902, the fort has been an Italian National Monument

The history of this fortress includes also the legend of Queen Joan, most likely Joan of Anjou, known as The Crazy. The story goes that the queen invited young shepherds to her room in the highest tower to spend the night with them. If dissatisfied, the woman didn't hesitate to hang the unfortunate ones from the manor's buildings. 

18. Castles in Italy: Caccamo castle (Sicily)

castles in Italy - Caccamo Castle

On the road from Palermo to Messina, at the foot of Monte San Calogero, stands the medieval village of Caccamo, overlooked by one of the biggest and most charming castles in Italy. The first historical information dates back to 1160, but history intertwines with legend. 

Two ghosts are said to roam the castle. One is that of Matteo Bonello, one of the first owners of the court, brutally tortured. The other is the ghost of a young monarch who fell in love with a soldier: the king, opposed to their relationship, had the boy killed and imprisoned his daughter in a convent, who died shortly afterwards. Since then, both ghosts have wandered restlessly through the rooms of the palace on full moon nights. 

However, apart from the ghost stories, the castle also preserves a great deal of beauty. From its terraces it is possible to enjoy a breathtaking view, where the gaze loses itself between the green hills of the Sicilian hinterland and the changing blue of the sea of Cefalù. 

17. Aragonese Castle in Ischia (Campania)

Castles in Italy - Aragonese Castle

Ischia, the largest island in the Gulf of Naples, is home to the Aragonese Castle. Alfonso of Aragon built it in the 15th century on an islet already occupied by the Greeks centuries earlier.

The castle will take you on a long journey through time: from the splendours of Vittoria Colonna's wedding to the British bombing of 1809. After a period of total abandonment, this awesome site went back to its previous splendor, thanks to restoration works, born from the intuition of a far-sighted lawyer who lives on the island.

The Ischia's one is among the most important castles in Italy because it boasts no less than twenty-five centuries of history, with its churches, convents, prisons, lush gardens and breathtaking belvederes suspended between sky and sea in a timeless atmosphere. 

Visit Ischia and the Aragonese Castle

16. Buonconsiglio Castle in Trento (Trentino-Alto Adige)

Castles in Italy - Buonconsiglio Castle

Buonconsiglio Castle is one of the best-known buildings in Trento and one of the largest monumental complexes in Trentino-Alto Adige. It composed of several buildings from different eras, enclosed within walls in a slightly elevated position above the city.

Castelvecchio is the oldest nucleus, dominated by an imposing cylindrical tower. Torre Aquila, at the southern end, houses the famous Ciclo dei Mesi (Cycle of the Months), one of the most remarkable pictorial cycles of profane themes from the late Middle Ages. These frescoes alone would be anough to make this place unmissable among all the castles in Italy.

The Magno Palazzo is the 16th-century extension in the Italian Renaissance style and preserves a critical mannerist pictorial cycle in an excellent state of preservation. Giunta Albertina is the last part, it dates back to the 17th century and is build in baroque style. 

15. Royal Castle of Moncalieri (Piedmont)

castles of Italy - Piemonte

The Royal Castle of Moncalieri stands on the top of a hill in the historic centre of Moncalieri, the metropolitan city of Turin. This is not only one of the most interesting castles in Italy, this manor in fact,  together with the other Savoy residences, has been on the UNESCO World Heritage list since 1997

The current structure of the castle is horseshoe-shaped, facing north, with four massive parallelepiped corner towers. The lateral bodies have five storeys, and the brick walls have strong buttresses. The southern façade overlooks a small Italian garden and has two cylindrical turrets, the remains of the ancient 15th-century castle. The belvedere at the northern entrance is original. 

Its English garden is enchanting, extending over the hill for about 10 hectares. Inside are the Cavallerizza, the largest Savoy residences, the Casa del Vignolante, the Torre del Roccolo and the water lily pond. 

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14. Ursino Castle in Catania (Sicily)

Castles in Italy - Ursino Castle in Catania

Frederick II of Swabia built Catania's Ursino Castle in the 13th century. The manor had certain visibility during the Sicilian Vespers as the seat of parliament and, later, as the residence of the sSicily's Aragona's sovreigns, including Frederick III. Today, it hosts the Civic Museum of Etna, formed mainly by the Biscari and Benedictine collections. 

A particular period of the castle's history is when it was turned into a prison. The large rooms of the ground floor were divided by new walls and ceilings. They created smaller rooms where the prisoners stayed like damned souls in the so-called Dammusi, small, dark cells infested with rats scorpions and tarantulas. Traces of this page in the castle's history are the hundreds of graffiti that fill the walls and door and window jambs of all the rooms on the ground floor and even the inner courtyard. 

13. Castel del Monte in Andria (Apulia)

Castles in Italy- Castel del Monte

Castel del Monte stands in Andria, close to Bari. It's one of the most misteryous castles in Italy and it's also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Its plan is a perfect octagon, built according to the mysterious laws of sidereal space. 

The castle is located on one of the highest elevations of the Murge, but it takes very little to realise that it is not a military building: there is no moat, no drawbridge, no positions for bows and crossbows, no machicolations, no stables, no dormitories, no kitchens, no storerooms, no dungeons for prisoners.

Frederick II built it in the 13th century for reasons that are obscure even today. There are no relevant documents about it, except for a few letters referring to the court as a hunting lodge. Anyway, considering the height of its walls of just over 20 metres, it is unlikely that Frederick II thought of the castle as a place for his hunting parties. 

It is much more likely that these walls had something to do with the sun and the zodiac. The architects may have designed a plan drawn by the sun, thus the castle would be a sundial of some sort. 

12. Castel Nuovo in Naples (Campania)

Castles in Italy - Castel Nuovo in Naples

Castel Nuovo, better known as Maschio Angiono, is a symbolic castle of Naples. Its location helps to make it one of the most important castles in Italy in history. The manor, indeed, is just in the heart of the city, close to the sea, to Piazza Municipio, Galleria Umberto I, and from the many other attractions Naples has to offer.

Charles I of Anjou commissioned the fortress and it immediately took on it's defensive role. Its strategic position near the port helped the Neapolitan rulers to sleep more peacefully, and to avoid enemy incursions. Today, the castle is the seat of the Neapolitan Society of Storia Patria and of the Naples Committee of the Institute for the History of the Italian Risorgimento. 

Visit Naples with the Naples Pass

11. Castelvecchio in Verona (Veneto)

Castles in Italy - Castelvecchio in Verona

Castelvecchio is a medieval fort located in the historic centre of Verona. It was initially called Castello di San Martino in Aquaro due to a pre-existing church of the VIII century. The so-called Corte d'Armi (Court of Arms) was later build in its place. The toponym Aquaro can be traced back either to the proximity of the Adigetto (aquarium or canal), or to a bridge (Quaro) that would cross the same canal or river Adige. 

The fortress took the name Castel Vecchio following the construction of Castel San Pietro by the Visconti family. It is currently the seat of the Civic Museum of the same name, and is the most important military monument of the Scaliger dynasty. 

Between 1943 and 1944 the trial of Fascism took place here, during which the State dismissed Benito Mussolino from his position as Prime Minister. 

Visit Verona with Verona Card

10. Orsini-Odescalchi Castle in Bracciano (Lazio)

Castles in Italy - Orsini-Odescalchi Castle in Bracciano

The Orsini-Odescalchi Castle, also known simply as Castello di Bracciano, is a 15th-century castle in Bracciano (Rome)

It consists of three outer walls and has five towers, one at each vertex of the outer fortification. It was built after 1470 by Napoleone Orsini, probably with the collaboration of Sistine workers. 

Initially, the castle belonged to Braccio da Montone of the Bracci family. For political reasons, at the request of the Pope donated it to his subordinate, captain Orsini. Proof of this is the coat of arms of the municipality: an arm holding a rose, one of the symbols of the Orsini family. 

So, why this favouritism? Because Napoleon's brother, Cardinal Latino Orsini, was the Pope's chamberlain in the same years, they built the castle and the Sistine Chapel simultaneously. 

Today the castle is owned by the Odescalchi. This family took over the Duchy of Bracciano from the Orsini family in the 17th century. Since 1952, the court has been open for guided tours and ceremonies. It's easy to reach by train, a perfect trip to organiza if you're visiting Rome.

9. Sammezzano Castle in Leccio (Tuscany)

30 km from Florence  stands the beautiful Sammezzano Castle, which belonged to one of the most influential families of the Florentine aristocracy: the Panciatichi Ximenes of Aragon.

The brilliant Ferdinando asked to build it in the nineteenth century. It has a fascinating history through its colourful rooms, decorated with elaborate polychrome stucco in oriental style. 

For a time, this magnificence housed a hotel restaurant, only to be closed and opened during FAI days. Its' one of the most interesting and beautiful castles in Italy, easy to reach not only from Florence, but also from wonderful Siena.

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8. Visconti Castle in Pavia (Lombardy)

Castles in Italy - Visconti Castle

The Visconti Castle in Pavia was built in 1360 by order of Galeazzo II Visconti. Later the building was the court seat under Gian Galeazzo and his son Filippo Maria. 

Near the castle, the Visconti family also had a magnificent hunting park known as Parco Visconteo, which initially extended for about ten kilometres, and reached the Certosa di Pavia. Today, part of the area still exists but is no longer connected to the castle. It's called Parco Della Vernavola. 

To make the Visconti's residence one of the must-see castles in Italy, there's also the important museum complex that can be found there. Since the Second World War, the castle indeed houses the Civic Museums of Pavia. They are divided according to the historical period of the exhibits, they are the Archaeological museum and Lombard hall, the Romanesque and Renaissance museum, the Malaspina Pinacotheca, the17th and 18th-century Museum, 19th-century Picture Gallery, the Risorgimento Museum and the Museum of Modern art and Plaster Casts. 

Pavese Museum of the Risorgimento is particularly noteworthy, founded in 1885 thanks to donations from private individuals. The findings date from the Lombardy-Venetia Kingdom to the First World War, with a focus on the artefacts linked to the territory. There is also a section dedicated to Giuseppe Garibaldi. 

7. Le Castella in Capo Rizzuto Island (Calabria)

Castles in Italy - Le Castella in Capo Rizzuto

The fortress of Le Castella stands on a small strip of land opposite the island of Capo Rizzuto and towers majestically over the nature reserve of the same name. Its current appearance results from a sum of historical superimpositions over several centuries. 

The fortress' building probably was in the Hellenistic period as a military outpost. The construction dates back to around the 4th or 3rd century BC due to a wall in the seabed beneath it.

The fortress as we know it today was built by the Aragonese and Angevins and never housed the local nobility. During the visit to the fort of Le Castella, in one of its rooms, you can admire the marine protected area of the Saracen Coast, in all its beauty. Thanks to an underwater camera it is possible to see the depths of the Ionian Sea, one of the most beautiful and uncontaminated in Italy. 

6. Valentino Castle in Turin (Piedmont)

Castles in Italy - Valentino Castle

Emanuele Filiberto of Savoy purchased this beautiful palace in 1564 after the capital of the Savoy duchy had been moved to Turin following the peace of Cateau-Cambrésis. The Castello del Valentino owes its name to its region, called Vallantinum thanks to the river that runs through it, the Valentino canal. 

Valentino Castle consists of a four-storey villa overlooking the river Po. Christina of France was the first Madame Reale and the one who promoted the building to a maison de plaisance following the transalpine model. 

The rooms are all decorated with frescoes and stuccoes that follow the same narrative thread. Among all the castles of Italy, this one stands out also for the Valentino Park, one of the most beautiful in Turin.

Since 1997, the castle has been on the list of World Heritage Sites as part of the UNESCO serial site Residences of the House of Savoy. All of them are definitely worth a visit.

More info about Torino+Piemonte Card

5. Castello Estense in Ferrara (Emilia Romagna)

Castles in Italy - Castello Estense

The Castello Estense, also called Castello di San Michele, is the most representative monument of Ferrara. The Este family built it in 1385 as a fortress for political and military territorial control and defence. Above all, it was meant to be a repressive instrument against the riots that could've followed the further increase in taxes. 

The castle is in the centre of the renaissance city. A peculiar feature of the building, and symbol of Ferrara, are its four towers from where it's also possible to enjoy a panoramic view of the entire city. 

Over time, the fortress, which is now a cultural asset, became a government and administrative seat. Since the 20th century, it's also a temporary and permanent museum. 

4. Castles in Italy: Castel Sant'Angelo in Rome (Lazio)

Castles in Italy - Castel Sant'Angelo

Castel Sant'Angelo in Rome is perhaps the oldest among the castles in Italy. In 123 AD, it used to be the monumental crypt for Emperor Hadrian and his family. Contrary to all the other monuments from the Roman era, reduced to ruins, this one has accompanied the city's fate for almost two thousand years. 

From a funeral monument it became a fortified outpost, later on, from dark and terrible prison it was turned into a charming Renaissance residence where Michelangelo also worked. The castle became a prison again at the time of the Risorgimento until it finally became the museum it is today. Castel Sant'Angelo embodies in the solemn Roman spaces, in the sober walls, in the sumptuous frescoed rooms, the events of the Eternal City, where past and present appear inextricably linked. 

Today it's for sure one of the most famous and visited monuments in Rome, and it's indeed one of the attractions included in the handy Visit Rome Pass

More info about Visit Rome Pass

3. Castello Sforzesco in Milan (Lombardy)

 Castles in Italy - Castello Sforzesco

The Castello Sforzesco is the largest fortified complex in Milan, located just outside the city centre. It was built in the 15th century by Francesco Sforza. He recently became Duke of Milan—built over an earlier medieval fortification from the 14th century, known as the Castello di Porta Giovia (or Zobia). Before the latter, however, in Roman times, stood the Castrum Portae Jovis, one of the four defensive castles of Roman Milan. 

Transformed and modified considerably over the centuries, between the 16th and 17th centuries, the Castello Sforzesco was one of the leading military citadels in Europe. Between 1890 and 1905, it acquired its current appearance in historicist style.

Today it is home to cultural institutions and important museums. It is one of the most noteworthy castles in Italy and in Europe as well, and one of the main symbols of Milan and its history. 

Visit Milan with Milan City Card

2. Miramare Castle in Trieste (Friuli Venezia Giulia)

Castles in Italy - Miramare Castle

Let's discover one of Trieste most popular destinations. Just outside the centre is Miramare Castle, once the private residence of Maximilian of Habsburg. 

Due to its privileged position this castle enjoys a magnificent view but is itself a true gem of the Trieste seafront. Built on the Grignano hill, the castle is right on the seashore and has also  a beautiful park with an Italian garden, which alone is worth visiting.

Miramare Castle, among the most visited of the Friuli region, is built in eclectic style and retains its elegant original furnishings. 

1. Savoy Castle in Gressoney-Saint-Jean (Aosta Valley)

Nestling in the Gressoney-Saint-Jean Valley, among the mountains and the thermal baths of the Aosta Valley, ther is Castel Savoia, also known as the Castello della Regina Margherita. A nineteenth-century villa with the look of a typical fairytale castle that makes it the most beautiful castle of Italy.

The fortress is at the foot of the Colle Della Ranzola, nicknamed Belvedere, built between 1899 and 1904 at the behest of Queen Margherita di Savoia, consort of King Umberto I. The elegant residence was a summer holiday home where the queen stayed for long periods, hosting important nobles, illustrious artists and writers. After several years of disuse, the castle was purchased by a Milanese industrialist and eventually became the property of the Regione Autonoma di Valle d'Aosta. 

Surrounding the castle is a marvellous alpine park, which we recommend visiting in summer. 

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