Province of Pesaro Urbino
During almost mythical times, and in others austere and stately, many ancient fortifications popped up in often pleasant places — as though wanting to arouse astonishment — immersed as they are in the deep green of the wooded hills of the Pesaro and Urbino province. Actually, originally the necessity to build complex fortifications was not motivated by the desire to fascinate visitors but by the fundamental need to protect the people from possible external attacks: in fact, since the Early Middle Ages, on ridges and hilltops (places, anyhow, that were elevated and therefore naturally protected), the populations have constructed articulated defensive systems made of walls, small fortresses, ramparts and castles, destined to undergo modifications and transformations over the centuries, according to the different military requirements.
An example of this is Albornoz Fortress, which was built around 1370 by Cardinal Angelico Grimoard (successor to Cardinal Gil Alvarez Carillo de Albornoz from whom the fortress took its name) on Pian del Monte, which at 485 metres above sea level is the highest point in the Urbino area. Through an evolution motivated by the necessity to respond to renewed military demands, the fortress was connected to city’s ramparted walls at the beginning of the 1500s and was completely rebuilt at the end of the 1700s. Today, the austere structure (subjected to a restoration and strengthening operation at the end of the 1960s that brought about the discovery of a walkway through which one could reach the Ducal Palace) appears to visitors with its rigid rectangular structure fortified by two semicircular towers. Via a ramp one can access a terrace which bestows upon the eyes of visitors the invaluable thrill of being able to admire from on high the splendid city of Urbino and its harrowing surrounding landscape.
Feelings of astonishment and excitement are also felt by those that find themselves admiring the impressive and splendid Gradara Castle and its fourteenth-century trapezoid curtain wall. The castle, built in the 12th century on a strategic hill a few metres from the sea, has seen the intertwining of history and legends and of glories and defeats over the course of the centuries. The Malatesta, Sforza, Borgia and Della Rovere families all lived here and in one of its rooms the drama of the ill-fated love affair between Paolo and Francesca was consummated, admirably told by Dante in the Divine Comedy. Visitors here can fully relive that enraptured and cruel atmosphere in a hypothetical game with time in which Gradara Castle — a unique and special location — is still the protagonist today, thanks to the historical commemoration of the Castle Siege during which every year in July, the undamaged, embattled walls magically return to 1446 (when Francesco Sforza attempted unsuccessfully to steal the castle from the rule of the Malatestas).
As though crowned by the aboraceous hills of four mountains (Faggiola, Carpegna, Montecopiolo and St. Paolo), the ‘Fortress and House’ (as described by Vespasiano da Bisticci, a writer from the 1400s) of Monte Cerignone was built in the 13th century at the request of the Montefeltros and subsequently fortified (most probably designed by military architect Francesco di Giorgio Martini). In spite of the renovations that took place over the following centuries, its compact form — appearing to want to protect Begni Palace below — still today preserves the old fifteenth-century structure, placed side by side with renaissance-styled rooms.
Indebted to Francesco di Giorgio Martini is the extension of Fregoso Fortress in Sant’Agata Feltria, which, hidden on ‘Wolf Rock’ (an enormous sandstone rock which, according to legend, was knocked off Mount Ercole in ancient times and reached the valley), enjoys a distinctive inaccessibility from three of its sides that are too steep to be scaled. Despite its impressiveness, the fortress appears graceful, with the remarkable drop from its hexagonal tower and the beautiful ravelin.
But the landscape in the province of Pesaro and Urbino offers the visitor’s gaze so many other fortifications in which the first step is to walk solemnly among the drawbridges, high towers and courtyards, like Oliva di Piandimeleto Palace (with its massive square tower and Ghibelline battlements); the Fortress of Fossombrone and that of St. Leo (an evocative fortress city positioned on the highest spur of the rock); Roveresco Castle in Montebello di Orciano (which exhibits sixteenth-century architecture inside); the Fortresses of Fano and Pesaro; the castle city of Mondavio and the marvellous example of military architecture that is Urbino’s Ducal Palace: a construction of extraordinary beauty that today houses the National Gallery of Marche.
Special Thanks to:
Province of Pesaro Urbino
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