8 Stronghold Castles in Italy

The construction of the earliest medieval castles in Italy came about in the 10th century. These early castles were built by Norman rulers who were able to find a foothold on mainland Italy.

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Later as the Frankish Empire consolidated its rule over Italy and made it a permanent part of the Holy Roman Empire, these castles were reconstructed in a more magnificent fashion of key significance in the development of castles in Italy was the figure of Holy Roman Emperor, Frederick II, who had many new castles built and ordered the expansion of many Norman-era castles.

Flags of The Holy Roman Empire

Holy Roman Empire

Notable Italian Castles List

1. Copertino Castle

The Copertino castle was originally constructed by the Normans in the 10th century. Located in southern Italy, the castle came into the ownership of Alfonso Castriota in the 16th century.

Copertino Castle Italy - 8 Stronghold Castles in Italy

The Copertino castle was originally constructed by the Normans in the 10th century.

Castriota ordered a large-scale expansion of the castle and the inclusion of many new fortifications. These new fortifications were added with the intent of guarding the castle against gunpowder weapons which were becoming common in battlefield usage.

The new structure added in this period includes a huge ditch. The castle’s original structure is extant and well-preserved for the most part and is open to tourists.

2. Castello Normanno Svevo

The Castello Normanno-Svevo was originally constructed under the reign of Norman King, Roger II. Roger had the castle constructed in 1132 in the city of Bari. Within a few decades of its construction, the structure underwent significant damage in an attack by William I of Sicily.

King William The Conqueror Medieval KIngs

Later, Frederick II took it upon himself to reconstruct the castle on more durable grounds. The construction accomplished in Frederick’s reign included a moat on three sides of the castle and sea on the fourth side, making it a very secure fortification.

The castle subsequently came into the ownership of the King of Naples. Today, it is open for public visits and is frequently home to cultural events.

Castello Normanno Svevo Italy - 8 Stronghold Castles in Italy

3. Fenis Castle

The original structure of the Fenis castle dates back to the 13th century. Initially, the castle was comprised simply of an enclosure and a keep. Many notable modifications and additions were made to this basic structure in the 14th and 15th centuries.

8 Stronghold Castles in Italy - Castle Fenis

These included the construction of the residential quarter in a more lavish style, including a large courtyard, staircases and balconies.

To enhance the defenses of the castle, a large boundary wall was also added to the exterior. The castle remained the residence of the Challant family for many centuries. Today it stands well-preserved and is a popular tourist attraction.

4. Forte Spagnolo

Forte Spagnolo dates back to 1401 when King Ladislaus had the castle constructed in L’Aquila. In 16th century, the Spanish conquered the region and the control of the castle fell into Spanish hands. It was during this period that most of the modern-day fortifications of the castle were constructed.

8 Stronghold Castles in Italy Forte Spagnolo

These fortifications were primarily intended to guard the castle against gunpowder weapons. Leading architects of the day were hired for the construction of the castle and it turned out to be an immensely expensive affair that remained incomplete.

The public funds of the city of Aquila were entirely consumed, and additional taxes levied on the population, to secure money for the construction of this castle. Although incomplete, the completed portion of the castle stands well-preserved today and is a marvel of architecture.

5. Castle del Monte

Castle del Monte was one of the castles which were originally constructed by Frederick II. However, the castle wasn’t exactly meant to be a fortification or a royal residence and apparently served a more symbolic purpose.

8 Stronghold Castles in Italy castel-del-monte

It was built with high walls and columns, all covered in marble, and probably left incomplete. The castle was never used for royal residence and briefly became a prison. The marble on the walls and columns was later pillaged for the construction of other major structures in the region.

The castle was restored under government supervision in the 20th century and remains one of the most iconic castles envisioned by Frederick II.

6. Lucera Castle

The Lucera castle was constructed by Frederick II in 1233. Frederick expended considerable resources for the construction of this castle in southern Italy and upon completion, used it as an imperial palace. The castle later fell into the hands of Charles I of Anjou.

Lucera Castle in Italy 1

Charles I had the imperial residence modified with many defensive elements in order to use it as a secure military garrison. These included a large curtain wall which added an extra layer of defense to the castle’s exterior.

Coat of Arms Geoffrey of Anjou

Coat of Arms Geoffrey of Anjou

The castle was largely abandoned in 15th century and remained abandoned until restored in the 19th century. Most of the original structure, although not all of it, remains extant today. The castle is open to visitors and tourists.

7. Castle of Melfi

The castle of Melfi was originally constructed by Norman rulers in the 11th century. Frederick II decided to have the castle modified and expanded in the 12th century. Later, the castle came under the control of Anjou rulers who added many new fortifications to the original structure.

In the 16th century, the castle came into the control of Aragon rulers. Most of the structure of the castle remained extant and well-preserved today. The castle hosts a museum today and is open to tourists.

Castle of Melfi Strong Hold Castles in Italy

Rocca Calascio

The original construction of the Rocca Calascio castle dates back to the 10th century. Located at a height of 4790 feet, the castle was originally the site of a watchtower.

Significant modifications were made to this structure in the 13th century when an inner courtyard was added and an exterior boundary wall was added lined up with four large towers.

Rocca Castle in Italy

It served both as a military fortification and as a royal residence in later medieval period. The castle underwent significant damage in the 15th century when a major earthquake toppled part of its structure.

However, most of the original structure of the castle stands to this day, thanks in part to its unique construction which employs large stone at the bottom and smaller stones at the top. The castle is today open to tourists and is a popular tourist attraction.