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Architectural Heritage: Castles, Palaces, Villas & Fortresses

Italy has one of the most unbroken historical lines of any country in the world, and, particularly in Le Marche, evidence of each piece of the bloody and dramatic line is still clear in city and country landscapes. From ancient dolmans, to Roman amphitheatres, to Medieval cobbled village streets, to Renaissance palaces and Risorgimento fortifications - examples of each are easily available for the delight of the dewy-eyed historical tourist. Castles and magnificent fortifications are everywhere visible, towering over the landscape as a constant reminder of the bellicose past. Due to the Italians’ pride in their history, many are beautifully restored and open to visitors to enjoy a taste of past conflict, the opulent lifestyle of the aristocracy, and magnificent vistas of mountain, ocean and verdant rolling agricultural land from the battlements.


La Rocca di Mondavio, province of Pesaro & Urbino (Click here for map)

This is one of the best preserved 15th century castles in the region. It houses a museum containing an impressively wide range of old weaponry, armour, uniforms, battle strategies and siege weapons. A trebuchet is on display in the moat. Special attractions are torture re-enactments held in the dungeon, and annual period banquets in the great hall. It was commissioned by Giovanni della Rivera in 1492 and is a wonderful example of the work of the architect Giorgio Martini.

Please find below a guide to the Architectural Heritage in each of the five provinces of Le Marche!

Castello di Gradara, province of Pesaro & Urbino 
(Click here for map​)

This impressive fortress rises up from a rock 142m above sea level in a strategically dominant position. Not only the exterior is impressive.

The internal rooms recall the splendour of the powerful families that ruled here: the Malatesta, Sforza and Della Rovere. The castle dates back to the beginning of the 12th century but additions and reinforcements continued until the second half of the 15th century. The names of the architects are not known, but there are some interesting features such as the three polygonal towers, and the double city walls with three drawbridges, which rendered the city almost impregnable.

Dante's Divine Comedy: Paolo and Francesca

This castle was also the location, in the 13th century, of probably the most famous love stories in European culture, next to Romeo and Juliet. The legend of Paolo and Francesca has been inspiration to poets and artists throughout history, beginning most notably with Dante in the Inferno of the Divina Commedia. It concerned the beautiful young Francesca da Polenta, who was married off to the elderly and ugly Lord of Gradara, Giovanni Malatesta, for political reasons. She was often left alone in the castle for long periods, reading French romantic novels in company with her husband’s young and handsome brother, Paolo. Giovanni, or Gianciotto, discovered them ‘in flagrante’ and murdered them both. He flung his brother’s body into one of the wells of the castle, and his beloved wife’s body was placed in an ancient sarcophagus. Five centuries later a sarcophagus was unearthed which is believed to be the original resting place of poor Francesca. 

Ducal Palace Urbino

Ducal Palace of Urbino, Urbino, province of Pesaro & Urbino (Click here for map​)

The Ducal Palace of Urbino, also known as the Palazzo Ducale di Urbino, is a historic palace located in Urbino, a town in the Marche region of Italy. The palace is a renowned example of Italian Renaissance architecture and is closely associated with the ruling Montefeltro family.The origins of the palace can be traced back to the Middle Ages, when it was initially a fortress built in the 13th century by the Da Montefeltro family, who ruled over Urbino at the time. The fortress underwent several modifications over the centuries as it changed hands between different rulers. The most significant period in the palace's history came during the Renaissance when Federico da Montefeltro, a prominent military leader, and patron of the arts, ruled over Urbino. Federico commissioned the renowned architect Luciano Laurana to redesign and expand the palace, transforming it into a splendid residence that showcased the artistic and cultural achievements of the time. The palace's architecture combined elements of classical and Renaissance design, featuring harmonious proportions, elegant arcades, and intricate decorative details.

The interiors of the palace were adorned with exquisite frescoes, sculptures, and other artistic masterpieces by prominent artists of the period, including Piero della Francesca, Raphael, and Paolo Uccello. Under the rule of Federico and his successors, the Ducal Palace of Urbino became a thriving centre of culture, learning, and intellectual exchange. It housed a renowned library and served as a gathering place for scholars, poets, and artists, contributing to the flourishing of the Italian Renaissance. Over the centuries, the palace went through various changes as different rulers came to power. The Montefeltro family's influence waned, and the palace eventually fell under the control of the Papal States. It continued to be used as a residence for various papal representatives and underwent further modifications. In more recent times, the palace gained recognition for its historical and architectural significance. It was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1998 for its exceptional contribution to Renaissance culture and art. Today, the Ducal Palace of Urbino houses the National Gallery of the Marche (Galleria Nazionale delle Marche), which features an impressive collection of Renaissance artworks, including pieces by Raphael, Piero della Francesca, and Titian, among others. The palace stands as a testament to the cultural and artistic achievements of the Italian Renaissance and remains a prominent landmark in Urbino. 

Urbania Ducal

The Ducal Palace, Urbania, province of Pesaro & Urbino (Click here for map)

The Ducal Palace in Urbania, also known as the Palazzo Ducale di Urbania, is a historic palace located in the town of Urbania. While not as famous as the Ducal Palace of Urbino, it has its own unique history and significance. The Ducal Palace in Urbania was built in the late 15th century during the Renaissance. It was commissioned by Federico da Montefeltro, the Duke of Urbino, who was a prominent patron of the arts and a key figure in the Italian Renaissance. The palace was intended to be a secondary residence for the Duke and his court, complementing the grandeur of the more renowned Ducal Palace in Urbino. The palace's architecture reflects the Renaissance style of the time, with a focus on symmetry, harmony, and classical elements. While not as elaborate or extensive as the Ducal Palace of Urbino, the Ducal Palace in Urbania still displays the elegant proportions and aesthetic principles characteristic of the period. The Montefeltro family, including Federico da Montefeltro, played a crucial role in the development and patronage of the arts in the region.

They attracted artists, architects, and scholars to their courts, contributing to the cultural vibrancy of Urbania and neighbouring towns. Over the centuries, the Ducal Palace in Urbania underwent several changes in ownership and usage. It continued to serve as a residence for various noble families and experienced renovations and modifications to adapt to different needs. While the palace might not be as famous as some other Renaissance landmarks, it still holds historical and cultural significance in the region. It stands as a reminder of the architectural and artistic achievements of the Renaissance era, as well as the influence of the Montefeltro family. Today, the Ducal Palace in Urbania continues to be an important historical site and a part of the town's cultural heritage. It has been the subject of preservation efforts to ensure its architectural integrity and to showcase its historical and artistic value. While the Ducal Palace in Urbania may not have garnered the same level of attention as some other palaces in the region, it contributes to the broader narrative of the Italian Renaissance and the rich cultural history of the Marche region.


Villa Imperiale, Pesaro, province of Pesaro & Urbino (Click here for map)

The Villa Imperiale, also known as Villa Ducale, is a historic Renaissance palace located in Pesaro, Italy. It was commissioned by the ruling Sforza family during the late 15th century and is considered one of the most important examples of Renaissance architecture in the Marche region. The Villa Imperiale was commissioned by Costanzo Sforza, Lord of Pesaro, and his wife Camilla d'Aragona. They envisioned a magnificent summer residence that would reflect their wealth, power, and appreciation for the arts. Construction of the villa began around 1470, and it is believed that the design was influenced by the architect Luciano Laurana, who was active in the region. The villa was constructed in the style of an Italian Renaissance palace, characterized by symmetry, harmonious proportions, and a blending of architectural elements. Its design incorporates both classical and Renaissance features, creating an elegant and visually striking structure. The villa's layout consists of a central courtyard surrounded by arcaded galleries, flanked by two lateral wings. The central courtyard is a focal point of the villa's architecture, featuring decorative columns, arcades, and sculptures.

The interior of the villa is adorned with intricate frescoes, stucco work, and other decorative details that showcase the artistic achievements of the period. The Villa Imperiale attracted renowned artists and artisans of the time who contributed to its decoration. Notably, the prominent Renaissance painter and architect Giorgio Vasari is believed to have been involved in the villa's artistic projects, including creating frescoes and other decorative elements. The villa's interior features a series of beautifully decorated rooms and salons, each showcasing a unique theme. The Sala degli Stucchi (Hall of Stuccoes) is particularly noteworthy for its intricate stucco work and frescoes that depict mythological and allegorical scenes.Over the centuries, the Villa Imperiale changed hands and underwent various modifications. It served as a residence for noble families, underwent periods of neglect, and saw changes to its interior layout. In the 20th century, efforts were made to restore and preserve the villa's historical and artistic significance.Today, the Villa Imperiale is open to the public and serves as a cultural landmark. Visitors can explore its rooms, admire its artworks, and appreciate the architectural beauty that captures the essence of the Italian Renaissance.The Villa Imperiale in Pesaro stands as a testament to the rich history, cultural heritage, and artistic achievements of the Renaissance period. It continues to be a source of inspiration and fascination for those interested in the history of architecture and the arts.
Principi di Carpegna

Palazzo dei Principi di Carpegna, province of Pesaro & Urbino (Click here for map)

The Palazzo dei Principi di Carpegna, also known as Palazzo Carpegna, is a historic palace located in the province of Pesaro and Urbino. It is situated in the town of Gradara, which is renowned for its medieval castle and historical architecture. Palazzo Carpegna was built in the 17th century by the Carpegna family, a noble Italian family with significant influence and connections. The palace was constructed as a grand residence that reflected the family's status and prosperity during the Baroque period. The Carpegna family was originally from the town of Carpegna in the Marche region. They played a prominent role in both local and national politics, and they held various positions of authority and influence over the centuries. Palazzo Carpegna features Baroque architectural elements, characterized by its ornate facades, grand entrances, decorative details, and symmetrical design. The palace's architecture is a testament to the Baroque style's emphasis on opulence and visual splendor. Throughout its history, Palazzo Carpegna has been a hub for cultural and artistic activities. It housed an impressive collection of artworks, including paintings, sculptures, and decorative arts.

The palace's interior spaces, adorned with frescoes and intricate decorations, showcased the artistic tastes and preferences of the Carpegna family. The Carpegna family's influence extended beyond the palace. Gradara, the town where the palace is located, is famous for its well-preserved medieval castle, which played a significant role in the history of the Carpegna dynasty. Palazzo Carpegna’s historical and architectural significance continues to attract visitors interested in experiencing the region's rich heritage. The palace's role in local history, its architectural features, and its connections to the Carpegna family's legacy make it a fascinating destination for those interested in Italian history and culture.

Cattani Stuart

The Villa Cattani Stuart, Pesaro, province of Pesaro & Urbino (Click here for map)

The Villa Cattani Stuart is a historic villa located in Pesaro. It is known for its architectural beauty and its association with the Stuart family. The villa was originally constructed in the 17th century by the Cattani family, an influential and wealthy local family. Over time, the villa underwent several architectural modifications and expansions, resulting in its current grandeur.  In the 18th century, the villa became associated with the Stuart family through the marriage of Princess Clementina Sobieski, a descendant of the Stuart monarchs of England and Scotland, to James Francis Edward Stuart, known as the "Old Pretender." The couple spent time at the villa during their travels through Italy. The villa's historical importance is further highlighted by its role in European diplomacy. It was the site of negotiations and discussions related to the Stuart cause and its connections to European politics. The villa's architecture features a blend of Italian and English styles, reflecting its rich history and the cultural influences of both families. The extensive gardens surrounding the villa are also notable for their beauty and design.

Today, Villa Cattani Stuart stands as a cultural and historical landmark. It has been meticulously restored and is occasionally open to the public for visits and events. The villa offers insights into the historical, architectural, and cultural heritage of both the Cattani and Stuart families, making it a fascinating destination for history enthusiasts and visitors interested in exploring the connections between Italy and European royalty.

San Leo

Fortress of San Leo, province of Rimini (Click here for map)

The Forte di San Leo, a remarkable fortress perched atop a rugged cliff on the border of Marche and Romagna beckons visitors with its rich history and stunning views. Dating back to Roman times, the fortress evolved over the centuries, becoming a formidable medieval stronghold with its sturdy stone walls, towers, and commanding position overlooking the town of San Leo and its surrounding landscape. However, the fortress truly took shape during the Middle Ages, when it became a strategic defensive stronghold for the Montefeltro family, the rulers of the area.

One of the fortress's most intriguing aspects is its association with Count Alessandro di Cagliostro, an enigmatic figure of the 18th century. Cagliostro, known for his involvement in esoteric practices and alleged connections to Freemasonry, was imprisoned within the fortress in 1791 until his death in 1795. His presence adds a layer of mystery to the fortress's history, captivating visitors with tales of intrigue and secrecy.

Today, the Forte di San Leo welcomes visitors to explore its medieval architecture and delve into its fascinating past. A museum housed within the fortress offers insights into San Leo's history and the fortress's role as a strategic stronghold throughout the ages. Exhibits showcase artifacts, documents, and multimedia presentations, providing a deeper understanding of the fortress's significance.

Beyond its historical attractions, the fortress offers breathtaking panoramic views of the Marche countryside, making it a favourite spot for photographers and nature enthusiasts. Guided tours lead visitors through the fortress's labyrinthine corridors and ramparts, while cultural events such as art exhibitions, concerts, and historical reenactments breathe new life The Forte di San Leo is a historic fortress located in the town of San Leo, in the Italian region of Emilia-Romagna. Perched atop an impressive rocky outcrop that rises over 600 meters above sea level, the fortress has played a significant role in the region's history for centuries.


Rocca di Offagna, province of Ancona (Click here for map​)

This impressive monumental castle was one of the most important of the network of defensive castles in the Ancona region. It was built in 1454 and represents the transition between the medieval and the renaissance eras. After many major periods of restoration it is now in very good condition. It houses the Rocca di Offagna museum, which has a fascinating collection of armour and weapons for hunting and warfare from the prehistoric period up to the modern era. Interestingly, it also includes rare weapons from the Wild West of America. 


The Fortress of Senigallia, province of Ancona (Click here for map)

Senigallia (once Sinigaglia, as Dante calls it, in old Italian) is mentioned by Niccolò Machiavelli in his most famous work The Prince, as he was there when an episode narrated in the 8th chapter of the book took place, in 1502.The town (44,000 inhabitants) is today renowned for its “velvet” beach. It is the place where a tribe of “Senones” Gauls settled in the 4th Century B.C.


The Romans conquered the area in the year 295 B.C., after the battle by the Sentino river. The town was named Sena Gallica, to distinguish it from another colony in the present Tuscany: the Etruscan Sena, now Siena. In the year 207 B.C.  the Roman legions left Sena Gallica to reach and defeat the Carthaginian troops in the battle of the Metaurus, where their commander Hasdrubal, Hannibal’s younger brother died bravely. Senigallia’s rich history includes the sack of the Visigoths, guided by Alaric, in the year 400 A.D.

Later it was part of the Byzantine- Adriatic Duchy of Pentapolis (A.D. 554 -752), together with the towns of Ancona,  Pesaro, Fano and Rimini, before falling under the power of the Lombards. It was ruled by powerful

and famous families like the Malatestas, the Borgias and the Della Roveres.

Later it was part of the Byzantine- Adriatic Duchy of Pentapolis (A.D. 554 -752), together with the towns of Ancona,  Pesaro, Fano and Rimini, before falling under the power of the Lombards. It was ruled by powerful and famous families like the Malatestas, the Borgias and the Della Roveres.

The most prominent historical construction in Senigallia is the Rocca Roveresca, which summarizes the history of the town. The stronghold, wanted by Spanish cardinal Albornoz, was built in the14th   Century around the original Roman tower; it was enlarged in two steps the next century, by the Malatestas first, and then by the Della Roveres.

The present structure (two strongholds, one inside the other one) was wanted by Giovanni della Rovere, nephew to pope Sixtus IV, as a residence protected by a defensive (mainly from the Turks) structure. The architect who first designed this evolution, including its drawbridge, was Lorenzo Laurana, who also worked at the Palazzo Ducale of Urbino. After his death the work was continued by another then famous military architect: Baccio Pontelli. The inner building is further protected by a set of ramparts and four large, imposing circular towers.

On visiting the beautiful building by the sea, one will see all around (including the wide terrace) the Latin inscription IO DUX – IO PRE which refers to the major titles Della Rovere had: Iohannes Duke (of Sora) – Iohannes Prefect of Rome.

Pianett Tesei

Palazzo Pianetti Tesei, Jesi, province of Ancona (Click here for map)

The Palazzo Pianetti Tesei, also known simply as Palazzo Pianetti, is a historic palace located in Jesi, a town in the Marche region of Italy. The palace is renowned for its Baroque architecture, artistic treasures, and historical significance. Here is a brief history of the Palazzo Pianetti Tesei in Jesi:The construction of Palazzo Pianetti began in the mid-18th century, during the Baroque period. It was commissioned by the Pianetti family, a noble family from Jesi, who were patrons of the arts and culture. The palace was designed by the architect Andrea Vici, who was known for his Baroque architectural style. Palazzo Pianetti is a prime example of Baroque architecture, characterized by its ornate decorations, elaborate facades, and grandeur. The palace's exterior features intricate detailing, including decorative sculptures, balustrades, and ornamental motifs. The interior of the palace is equally impressive, with lavishly decorated rooms adorned with frescoes, stucco work, and other artistic elements.One of the highlights of Palazzo Pianetti is its impressive art collection, which includes valuable paintings, sculptures, and decorative arts. The palace's owners, particularly the Pianetti family, were avid art collectors and patrons, contributing to the enrichment of the local cultural scene.

Palazzo Pianetti is home to the Pianetti Museum, which was established to showcase the family's extensive art collection and to provide a space for cultural and artistic events. The museum houses a diverse array of artworks, including paintings by Italian and European artists, decorative objects, and historical artifacts. Notable works by artists such as Lorenzo Lotto and Carlo Maratta can be found within the museum's collection. Over the years, Palazzo Pianetti Tesei has undergone various changes and has been owned by different families. In the 20th century, the palace underwent restoration efforts to preserve its historical and artistic significance. Today, it continues to serve as a cultural center, hosting exhibitions, concerts, and cultural events. Palazzo Pianetti Tesei stands as a testament to the artistic and cultural achievements of Jesi and the wider Marche region. It showcases the opulence and elegance of the Baroque period and reflects the patronage of the Pianetti family. The palace remains an important cultural landmark, attracting visitors interested in exploring the art, history, and architectural beauty of the region.


Castello della Rancia, province of Macerata (Click here for map)

This imposing, four square castle owes its name to the ancient granary, (after “grancia” after the Latin “granica”) which was used by the Cistercian monks from the nearby Fiastra Abbey at the end
of the 12th century. At the time it would have looked more like a fortified farmhouse. In 1350, Rudolfo II expelled the monks and created a fortification to defend the Chienti valley and control the Roman road that ran parallel to it. The architect Andrea Beltrami completed the castle in 1357. By 1581 the Castle had lost its military importance and again became a religious establishment, with a large farm and a hostel for pilgrims on their way to Rome. In 1782 it was granted into the ownership of the noble Bandini family. In 1974 The last descendant gave the Castle to the Municipality of Tolentino. The Battle of Tolentino of 1815 is now celebrated in a festival which takes place every year in the countryside surrounding the castle. It has a 30 metre high tower and crenelated walls, and the underground dungeons are particularly impressive. The castle houses the Civic Archaeological Museum "Aristide Gentiloni Silverj" which was one of the first to be set up in the region. It focuses on both prehistoric and pre-Roman materials from the Piceno necropolis just outside the town, and also artefacts from the Roman era.


Palazzo Leopardi, Recanati, province of Macerata (Click here for map)

The Palazzo Leopardi is a historic palace located in Recanati, a town in the Marche region of Italy. It holds great significance due to its association with the prominent Italian poet Giacomo Leopardi and his family. The palace dates back to the 17th century and was originally known as the "Palazzo Antici Mattei." It was acquired by the Leopardi family in the 18th century. Giacomo Leopardi, one of Italy's most renowned literary figures, was born in the palace on June 29, 1798. He spent a significant portion of his life there and produced some of his most important works within its walls. Leopardi's upbringing in the palazzo greatly influenced his intellectual and creative development. The palace served as a hub of cultural activity, where Leopardi engaged with literary and philosophical pursuits from a young age. It is said that the impressive library within the palace contributed to his expansive knowledge. The family's financial difficulties and Giacomo's health issues marked a challenging period for the Leopardi family, and they faced financial decline. After Giacomo's death in 1837, the palace fell into disrepair.In the 20th century, efforts were made to restore and preserve the palace as a cultural monument.

It was eventually opened to the public as a museum, showcasing not only the life and works of Giacomo Leopardi but also the historical and artistic heritage of the family and the era. Today, the Palazzo Leopardi stands as a tribute to Giacomo Leopardi's legacy and offers visitors a glimpse into the poet's world. It contains valuable manuscripts, books, personal items, and artworks that provide insights into the life and times of one of Italy's most celebrated poets. The palace has become an important cultural and literary landmark, attracting visitors and scholars interested in Leopardi's contributions to literature and philosophy.


Villa Buonaccorsi, Potenza Picena, province of Macerata (Click here for map)

Villa Buonaccorsi is a historic estate located in Potenza Picena, a town in the province of Macerata. The villa is known for its architectural beauty and historical significance. One of the highlights of Villa Buonaccorsi is its extensive and beautifully landscaped gardens. The gardens are designed in the Italian Renaissance style, featuring geometric patterns, statues, fountains, and carefully manicured hedges. The gardens provide a serene and picturesque setting for visitors to explore and enjoy.The villa has a rich history that dates back several centuries and is closely tied to the Buonaccorsi family. The villa's history can be traced back to the 15th century when it was built as a country residence for the Buonaccorsi family, a noble family from Macerata. The villa was constructed in a renaissance architectural style and was designed to serve as both a luxurious residence and a place for agricultural activities. In the 16th century, the villa underwent significant renovations and expansions under the ownership of the Buonaccorsi family. During this time, the villa's gardens were enhanced, and the interior was adorned with frescoes and decorative elements that reflected the artistic and cultural trends of the period.

​The villa continued to be a prominent residence for the Buonaccorsi family throughout the 17th century. It maintained its significance as a center of cultural and social activity in the region.The villa's importance endured into the 18th century. The Buonaccorsi family continued to play a role in local affairs, and the villa remained a symbol of their influence and status. Over the years, the villa changed hands and underwent various renovations and restorations. It has been preserved as an important historical and cultural site, and its gardens and architecture have been recognized for their beauty and historical significance. Today, Villa Buonaccorsi is known for its exquisite architecture, well-preserved frescoes, and lush gardens. The villa has been used for various purposes over the years, including cultural events, exhibitions, and as a venue for weddings and special occasions. Visitors to Villa Buonaccorsi can explore its historic rooms, admire its artistic decorations, and stroll through its picturesque gardens. The villa provides a glimpse into the history and lifestyle of the noble families of the Marche region and offers a unique opportunity to experience the region's rich cultural heritage. The villa's central location in Potenza Picena makes it easily accessible for tourists exploring the Marche region.


The Castle at Urbisaglia, province of Macerata (Click here for map​)

The impressive, trapezoidal medieval castle at Urbisaglia offers yet another reason, apart from the wonderful archaeological site, as to why you should visit this town. It lies on a strategically important junction of the roads to Fermo and Ascoli, and with a dominant position over the Fiastra valley. The present fortress was completed at the beginning of the 16th century on top of previous fortifications on the old Roman wall. The town was ruled by the Tolentinos from the 12th century onwards, much against the wishes of the local people, and the castle was started as defence from local rebellion. It probably stands on the site of the old Roman Citadel. 

There are four corner towers and a gate tower, with many well-preserved architectural details that take the visitor back to the violent and dangerous world of Medieval and Renaissance Italy. There are two interesting footnotes to the history of the castle and the town. The first is the mention of the town in Dante’s Divine Comedy, where it is cited as having suffered a tragic decline from great power and status to an abandoned ruin, due to political in-fighting between the Malatestas and the Tolentinos.

The second is a somewhat less exalted, Hollywood connection. In 1981 a film, Masada, was produced starring Peter O’Toole. He plays the role of a famous son of Urbisaglia, Lucius Flavius Silva Nonius Bassus (48 -81 A.D). He was a senator and soldier, who served in the Senate under the Emperor Nero. He reached the exalted rank of Praetor in the Vespasian period. He was responsible for building the amphitheatre in his home town, and a street is named after him here. His fame lies in his action during the First Jewish-Roman War, in which he led a Roman legion in the assault on the fortress at Masada, a southern district of Israel. After the successful ‘liberation’ of the castle he was given the title of Governor of the province of Judaea. It is not known exactly how he died, but he may well have been murdered in a purge of popular generals by the next Emperor, Domitian, who was afraid of potential rivals to his rule. All records of the period were subsequently expunged from Roman archives. 


Caldarola, Castello Pallotta, province of Macerata (Click here for map)

This fairytale castle stands on the top of the hill outside the town of Caldarola. It is medieval in origin dating back to the middle of the 10th century, but was transformed into a stunning renaissance residence in the 16th century for the affluent Cardinal Evangelista Pallotta. Over the centuries it has been visited by many illustrious house guests, including Queen Cristina of Sweden.

It was badly damaged by the earthquake in 1997, but has reopened to the public, with every detail beautifully restored, including the surrounding walls with battlements and the drawbridge. There is an extensive collection of armour and weaponry, and also a valuable collection of carriages and saddles and bridles. The residential part of the castle is complete with furnishings from the 16th and 17th centuries, and original wall hangings and curtains. Of particular interest are the kitchens, complete with pans and dishes made from copper, ceramic and terracotta, the reception hall, the elegant guest bedroom, and the dining room set with locally made 17th century ceramics. There is also a wall frieze attributed to Simone de Magistris, the great painter from Caldarola.

Beniamino Gigli

Villa Beniamino Gigli, Porto Recanati, province of Macerata (Click here for map)

Villa Beniamino Gigli is a historic villa located in Porto Recanati, a town in the Marche region. The villa is named after the renowned Italian tenor Beniamino Gigli, who was one of the most prominent opera singers of the 20th century. Beniamino Gigli was born in Recanati in 1890. He achieved international fame for his powerful and emotive voice, and he performed in prestigious opera houses around the world. Villa Beniamino Gigli was the tenor's residence and served as a place of inspiration and relaxation for him. The villa's architecture and design reflect the elegant style of the early 20th century, and it offers stunning views of the Adriatic Sea. The villa became a gathering place for artists, musicians, and cultural figures of the time, contributing to the artistic and intellectual atmosphere of the region. Today, Villa Beniamino Gigli stands as a tribute to the legendary tenor and his contributions to the world of music and culture.


Villa Bonaparte, Porto San Giorgio, province of Fermo (Click here for map)

Napoleon had passed away five years earlier in Saint Helena when, in 1826, his youngest brother, Girolamo (Jerome) Bonaparte, arrived in Fermo. He engaged the architect Ireneo Aleandri for the design and construction of a villa in Porto San Giorgio, situated next to Fermo and overlooking the Adriatic Sea. Aleandri, originally from San Severino Marche and renowned for designing the Sferisterio arena in Macerata, had been a disciple of Raffaele Stern, the Colosseum restorer, and the designer of the Quirinale palace's adaptation into an imperial residence at Napoleon Bonaparte's request. Aleandri also studied under Giuseppe Camporese, a notable architect of that time known for embellishing the urban monuments of imperial Rome.

The construction spanned three years, and Girolamo, the former king of Westphalia, moved in with his second wife, Katharina von Württemberg, and their two children. The exquisite neoclassical villa stands elegantly, discreetly overlooking Porto San Giorgio's center. Its garden features a monumental fountain, uphill from the historical 1200s ramparts, surrounded by a 20-acre park. The main hall, used for balls and official dinners, retains a frescoed coat of arms of the Westphalian kingdom in its ceiling center.


Girolamo's residency lasted only from 1829, upon completion, to 1832. That year, Pope Gregory XVI ordered his immediate departure to Rome, where his mother already resided. The Pope's decision may have been influenced by suspicions of Girolamo's involvement in a conspiracy related to the 1831 riots, although writer Marco Rotunno suggests a more probable connection to France and its political situation.


Despite the brief stay in the villa with his family, Girolamo managed to have a daughter with a local noblewoman. After his departure, the property passed to the Church and then to Earl Pelagallo, who commissioned Ferman architect G. B. Carducci to build an orangery beside it. Currently, the property is owned by a society that rents the villa for events and banquets. Source: Marco Rotunno


Fortress of Acquaviva Picena, province of Ascoli Piceno (Click here for map)

This majestic fortress is one of the largest and best-preserved architectural delights in Le Marche. Originally built by the Acquaviva family around the 13th century, it was restructured periodically right up to the 19th century. After it had been destroyed by an army from Fermo it was rebuilt in 1447, probably by the great Florentine architect Baccio Pontelli who also designed several other fortresses in the region.

The interior was completely restored in the 19th century by the notable local architect, Giuseppe Sacconi. The castle also houses the charming Museum of ‘Pajarola’ which is the local craft of straw basket weaving. 

Acquaviva Picena Video   Acquaviva Piceno: Borgo Suggestivo

Luco Castle

Castello di Luco, Acquasanta Terme, province of Ascoli Piceno (Click here for map)

The Castello di Luco is a historic castle located in Acquasanta Terme. The Castello di Luco has its roots in the medieval period, likely dating back to the 11th or 12th century. It was strategically positioned to serve as a defensive fortress to protect the surrounding territory. The castle's architecture reflects its military function, with features such as walls, towers, and battlements. Over the centuries, it might have undergone modifications and renovations, adapting to changing military and architectural trends. The Castello di Luco played a vital role in the defence of the region, acting as a stronghold against potential threats and invasions. It might have been owned by various noble families, serving as a symbol of their authority and power. The castle is a tangible representation of the region's medieval history, offering insights into the architecture and defensive strategies of the time. Castello di Luco contributes to the cultural and historical heritage of Acquasanta Terme and the Marche region. Efforts have likely been made to preserve the Castello di Luco's historical significance, though accessibility for visitors may vary. Some castles are open for tours, providing an opportunity to explore their interiors and learn about their history.

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