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Fortresses and Castles

Malatesta Fortress - Fortress of Mondavio - Costanza Fortress

The castles in the immediate vicinity of Fano provide a fascinating tour.


The first stop is Fano itself, to see the 15th-century Rocca Malatestiana, a splendid castle built by the Malatesta family who ruled this area. This strategic outpost guarded the coastline and acted as a landmark for ships sailing along the Adriatic Sea.
The last great event in its history occurred in 1848, when Garibaldi stayed here on his march from the north towards Rome.


The Renaissance town of Mondavio, originally Mons Avium, is dominated by the superb Rocca Roveresca, the work of Francesco di Giorgio Martini. In mid-August the castle is the scene of historical re-enactments culminating in Renaissance banquets and a wild boar hunt.



Another stopping place along our tour is Pesaro, to see the Rocca Costanza. Built along the eastern wall of the city, the castle has survived intact since its construction in 1474, to a design by Luciano Laurana.
Another interesting castle, not far from Pesaro, is the 10th-century Ginestreto Castle, standing in countryside which has changed little over the centuries, among banks of yellow broom.

Gradara - San Leo

The fortresses of Gradara and San Leo are a major attraction for tourists visiting this part of central Italy.




Gradara Castle was built between the 11th and 15th centuries and was the scene of continuing conflict between the Malatesta and Montefeltro families before falling under control of the Sforza family. However its place in history has been secured thanks not so much to these warring families but to the great poet Dante. In the Divine Comedy, in the fifth Canto in the Inferno, he recounts the tragic love affair between Paolo and Francesca, which stands as a timeless symbol for generations of lovers. Their passionate affair took place here at Gradara Castle and their chamber in the castle still has a melancholy atmosphere which remains just as poignant today.


San Leo

The Fortress of San Leo was built in the Middle Ages and it was here (San Leo was for a short time the capital city of the kingdom of Italy) that Germanic rulers gave birth to the Holy Roman Empire, at the end of the first Millennium. The fortress itself was enlarged in the 16th century by the great Siena military architect Francesco di Giorgio Martini under Duke Federico II da Montefeltro. It was here, in this impregnable castle, that the famous adventurer Giuseppe Balsamo, better known as Count Cagliostro, lived out his last days of imprisonment. The facts and legends surrounding the life of this extraordinary alchemist, doctor, magician and freemason are hard to separate. It ended with his sentence to death by the Holy Inquisition for heresy. His sentence was commuted to life imprisonment which he served here at San Leo. But this was to bring him little comfort. He died a long agonising death, imprisoned first in the castle's so-called Treasury Room and then confined in the 'pozzetto', where he died after four long years, refusing to take the sacrament.


Few other places have a history and beauty as rich as the ancient fortresses and castles guarding the hills and valleys of this area, whose age-old past becomes lost in legend.
Fano stands only a few kilometres away from so many fascinating places of historic and artistic importance, easily accessible by car, motorbike, camper van, bus or even bicycle.
Here we find ourselves in a sort of magic time machine where fantasy and reality become one.
It takes us to Cagliostro's dungeon, the chamber of Francesca da Rimini and her lover Paolo, the rooms where Lucrezia Borgia once lived and halls which held Renaissance banquets.


Fortress of Cagli - Brancaleoni Castle - Fregoso Fortress

Cagli is easily reached from Fano along the Flaminian Way or the modern Fano-Rome dual carriageway. Once known as Cale, the town was first inhabited by the Umbrians and later the Romans.
Among its rich artistic and architectural heritage is the 'torrione' (tower) which once formed part of the town fortress, built in 1481 by the great military architect Francesco di Giorgio Martini under Duke Federico II. Its remarkable form is an eloquent testimony of Martini's architectural genius and has survived unblemished by the passage of time.

The hill town of Piobbico, the ancient Publicum, stands a short distance away, overlooked by the imposing Castello Brancaleoni. The rooms of this large castle are now regularly used for exhibitions of considerable importance.

We continue our tour to visit Rocca Fregoso at Sant'Agata Feltria.
Standing on a sheer cliff, it was built over various periods between the 12th and 15th centuries and completed by Francesco di Giorgio Martini.
Inside, there is an interesting museum of weaponry.