Northern Italy is a region steeped in history, boasting a wealth of architectural wonders that have withstood the test of time. And while I’ve been living in Milan, in the north of Italy, over the last 7 years, and I must confess that I have a crazy love for Italy’s castles, I’ve been lucky enough to visit many local historical places.
Among these treasures are splendid castles, each with its tale of grandeur, conquest, and cultural significance. Let’s embark on an exploration of five remarkable castles that grace the picturesque landscapes for your next Italy trip.
1. Castelvecchio, Verona, Veneto
Overlooking the Adige River, Castelvecchio is a quintessential example of medieval architecture in Verona. Constructed in the 14th century as a defensive fortress by the Scaliger family, its red brick walls and robust towers remain iconic. Today, this formidable structure houses the Civic Museum of Verona, showcasing an extensive collection of sculptures, paintings, and artifacts. Visitors can explore its vast halls, fortified towers, and a panoramic view from the ramparts, providing a glimpse into Verona’s rich history and artistic heritage.
While this is a traditional castle museum, you will probably notice a lot of couples visiting this museum and it’s only because it’s in Verona and the city flows with couples on vacation there.
2. Castello Sforzesco, Milan, Lombardy
Milan’s atmosphere is adorned with the majestic Castello Sforzesco, a symbol of power and artistry. It stands as a testament to Milan’s grandeur and cultural heritage. Commissioned by the powerful Sforza family in the 15th century, this fortress served as a symbol of their authority, it boasts a rich history and hosts several museums, including the Museum of Ancient Art (displaying Michelangelo’s final sculpture, the Pietà Rondanini) and the Museum of Musical Instruments. The castle’s sprawling courtyards and gardens invite visitors to immerse themselves in Milan’s history while enjoying various art collections and exhibitions.
Within the castle’s expansive premises lies a special treat for art enthusiasts—a room associated with the renowned polymath Leonardo da Vinci. The Sala delle Asse, or Chamber of Boards, was once a part of the private apartments of Ludovico il Moro, Duke of Milan, and was decorated by da Vinci himself.
Recent restoration efforts unveiled remarkable frescoes attributed to Leonardo da Vinci, showcasing intricate vine motifs and mulberry trees covering the room’s walls and ceiling. These botanical motifs are believed to symbolize Ludovico Sforza’s dynasty and reflect Leonardo’s fascination with nature and science. Unfortunately, this room is still closed for restoration.
3. Rocca Scaligera, Sirmione, Lombardy
Rocca Scaligera in Sirmione, a castle nestled on a narrow peninsula in Lake Garda, stands as an exemplar of medieval fortification. This was one of the first Italy’s castles that I ever visited in Italy, more than 10 years ago while I was living in the Veneto region! Constructed by the Scaliger dynasty in the 13th century, this castle presents a formidable appearance with its square towers and robust walls surrounded by a moat.
Climbing the tower, panoramic (and stunning) vistas of Lake Garda and Sirmione unfold, providing picturesque views. A fortified walkway crowns the walls, allowing visitors to circumnavigate the castle while enjoying sweeping views of the surrounding landscape.
Rocca Scaligera remains not only an architectural marvel but also a historical treasure, inviting travelers to immerse themselves in its storied past and captivating beauty.
4. Castel Thun, Trentino
Perched atop a hill overlooking the Val di Non, Castel Thun reigns as one of Trentino’s most impressive castles. Dating back to the 13th century, this imposing fortress showcases a fusion of architectural styles across its various sections. Visitors can explore its furnished rooms, courtyards, and towers, gaining insight into the noble Thun family’s history and this Italian castle’s strategic importance.
5. Castello del Buonconsiglio, Trento, Trentino-Alto Adige
Castello del Buonconsiglio, nestled in Trento, epitomizes the multifaceted history of the region. This expansive complex spans centuries of architectural evolution, featuring various sections constructed from the 13th to the 16th centuries. The castle served as the residence of the Prince-Bishops of Trento until the 18th century, reflecting both military might and refined Renaissance elegance.
The highlight of Castello del Buonconsiglio lies in its stunning frescoes, particularly in the Torre Aquila. These vibrant paintings depict scenes from daily life, historical events, and allegorical figures, showcasing the artistic prowess of the time. The famous Cycle of the Months, a series of frescoes portraying scenes related to each month of the year, captivates visitors with its vivid colors and intricate details.
Exploring the castle’s interior, visitors encounter well-preserved rooms adorned with period furniture and tapestries, providing a glimpse into the lives of its noble inhabitants. The Magno Palazzo, the main residential building, houses beautifully decorated halls and chapels that narrate the castle’s rich history and cultural significance.
Northern Italy’s castles stand not only as architectural marvels but also as guardians of history, each narrating stories of conquests, political intrigues, and cultural evolution. Exploring these fortresses offers a glimpse into the region’s past and provides visitors with a deeper understanding of Italy’s diverse historical tapestry.
From Verona’s Castelvecchio to Trento’s Castello del Buonconsiglio, these 5 castles in Northern Italy embody the grandeur and resilience of a bygone era, inviting modern-day travelers to traverse the corridors of time and immerse themselves in the captivating narratives of these magnificent Italy’s castles. But here there are only 5, northern Italy has many other stunning castles that I’ll still visit and talk about in the future.