Historic Castle Stays in Italy
This article may in fact have to be a series because there are many choices, all very different given Italy’s regional diversity. The following are two hidden gems — castles that have inspired us during our family travels to Italy this year, more to come!
The Castello Aragonese is a stately and graceful adornment to the shimmering azure waters surrounding the small fishing village of Ischia Ponte, on the island of Ischia in the Bay of Naples. Originally consisting of two towers constructed on a small craggy island near the mainland by the Ancient Greeks in 474 BC, the island was then inhabited by the Parthenopeans and the Romans in antiquity, and then faced plunder and domination from a series of barbarian and pirate invaders. In 1441 Alphonso of Aragon constructed a bridge joining the island to the mainland and built the structure that stands here today, with many fascinating remnants of this layered past, ranging from an ancient Temple of the Sun to fortified watchtowers that once housed Renaissance princess Vittoria Colonna, to simple medieval dwellings amid historic terraced gardens that once produced food for nearly 1800 inhabitants when the majority of mainland residents fled Ischia Ponte to live on the island in the 16th century to take refuge from the constant threat of pirates.
A tour is worthwhile for everyone, and very family friendly as you can ascend up to the top of the fortification, where there is a nice cafe for lunch, then descend back down along the loop, finishing at the torture and armaments museum, with coats of armor and weapons from the early Middle Ages to early modern periods. There are also two art galleries in the castle, one housed in a breathtaking small chapel with whitewashed walls and vaulted ceilings. Visitors also have several options for staying on the island, which is now privately owned. There is a small, boutique hotel, the Albergo Il Monastero, built in what was once a medieval convent, offering simple elegant rooms, some with sea views and a terrace, a wellness spa, and two restaurants. Room rates start at 100 euro/night. Additionally, there is the option of 4 self-catering holiday apartments with panoramic terraces and kitchenettes. Contact us for booking details.
Visitors to Liguria tend to flock toward the Cinque Terre towns without taking time to explore some of the very worthwhile landscapes nestled in the hills above, just inland from the sea.
Situated at the base of the Apuan Alps, the Malaspina di Fosdinovo castle was strategically built in the mid-12th century to allow the wide expansive views of the Tyrrhenian coastline spanning from La Spezia to Portovenere, with peeks of Corsica on a very clear day, as a lookout for marauding pirates. The castle is of architectural significance, taking shape out of the sandstone of the terrain giving rise to its early medieval towers, continuing on to a Romanesque entrance, once accessed by a drawbridge, and finally ascending up to a Renaissance courtyard with porticos overlook the surroundings. The castle has been continuously owned by the noble Malaspina family, a line dating as far back as the 6th century in the region, who famously hosted the medieval Florentine poet Dante Alighieri as their guest in the early 14th century. There is also an enchanting medieval love story about the unrequited love between a local commoner and a princess, who is said to haunt the grounds today. The castle is home to a museum and cultural center, which occasionally offers events and activities for families reenacting aspects of medieval life such as falconry, tournaments, and chivalry. Visitors have the option to stay in one of 7 guest rooms comprising the castle B&B, with a breakfast of locally produced cuisine served on the Renaissance loggia overlooking the sea. Room rates begin at 80 euro/night.
If you are interested in a magical castle experience, please contact us for booking details