Among its walls, or so the legend goes, took place one of the best known love stories of all time, that of Paolo and Francesca, made famous by none other than Dante in the 5thcanto of the Inferno. Besides this claim to fame, the Gradara Castle, which sits on top of a hill overlooking the verdant countryside of Le Marche, on the border with Romagna, is one of the best preserved medieval fortifications in Italy, and definitely worth a visit, followed by a stroll in the underlying borgo of the same name.
The Gradara Castle dates back to the 12th century, and was the home of such powerful families as the Malatesta, Sforza, Borgia and Della Rovere, who dominated the territory during the Middle Ages. Because of its position, Gradara was often at the center of military clashes between the militias loyal to the Pope and the families who wanted to seize power, in particular the Malatesta and the Montefeltro, who eventually both lost to the Sforza.
The ochre-colored brick structure is protected by two walls; the outermost wall extends for almost 800 meters, giving the structure an imposing look, and serving well the past function of making it unassailable. You can walk along part of the walls to admire the fortress and the beautiful view over the region's countryside.
The visit of the castle winds through a series of evocative spaces, starting from the Court of Honor with the main tower, which houses the Torture Rooms, and proceeding on to the noble apartments on the upper floor. While strolling the rooms, you can’t help but think about the tragic tale of unlucky lovers Paolo and Francesca, who consumed their passion within these walls and ended up being killed by Francesca’s husband.
Don’t miss the view of the fortress and village at night!
For more information, see the castle's website.