Gradara Castle (Italy)

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The history of the Castle of Gradara owes its fortune to the enviable position that makes it, since ancient times, a crossroads of traffic and people.
On horseback between Marche and Romagna, it rises on a hill from which dominates the Adriatic sea on one side and the valleys on the other.
During the Middle Ages, the fortress is one of the main theaters of the clashes between the Papacy and the Marches and Romagna families.


The construction began around the twelfth century by the will of Peter and Ridolfo De Grifo who usurp the area to the municipality of Pesaro.

In the 13th century Malatesta da Verucchio, known as the Centenario, with the bull of Bonifacio VIII, took possession of the De Grifo tower and made it the keep of the present Rocca. It is the Malatesta who built the Fortress and the two city walls between the 13th and 14th centuries.

According to the legend, one day in September 1289, Paolo Malatesta and Francesca da Polenta were killed here by Giangiotto Malatesta's sword.


The domination of the family on Gradara ends in 1463 when Federico da Montefeltro expels the Rocca in command of the papal militias.

From 1445 to 1513 the vicarage of Gradara was entrusted to the Sforza of Pesaro, faithful allies of the Church.

In 1494, just fourteen Lucrezia Borgia was married to her father (Pope Alessandro VI Borgia) to Giovanni Sforza and in 1497, at the behest of the Pope, the marriage was dissolved by political necessities, while Giovanni Sforza saved his life because I accept sign a document in which (falsely) admits to being powerless.

From 1500 to 1503 it is occupied by Lucrezia's brother - Cesare Borgia, known as Valentino.

In 1513 Pope Julius II, ascended to the papal throne, entrusted Gradara to his nephew Francesco Maria II Della Rovere, family who governed here until 1631


After the death of Livia Farnese, Della Rovere's widow, the Fortress is administered by the papacy which grants it in emphyteusis to Count Santinelli, then to the Omodei of Pesaro, then to the Albani and finally, in the second half of the 18th century to the Marquis Mosca of Pesaro.
He lovingly takes care of the building and at his death he wants to be buried in the parish church of St. John the Baptist located within the second walled city.


La Rocca became a municipal property and in 1877 it gave it to Count Morandi Bonacossi di Lugo.

In 1920 Ing. Umberto Zanvettori of Belluno, but resident in Rome, buys it for three million lire and in his skilled hands it is reborn: he calls renowned collaborators such as the architects Ferrari and Giovannoni with a precise and delicate restoration that is connected to that completed four centuries before by Giovanni Sforza.

In 1928, shortly before his death, Umberto Zanvettori sold the Rocca to the Italian State with the clause that the widow, Alberta Di Porta Natale must enjoy the usufruct. Until his death Alberta Porta Natale dedicates great energy to the maintenance of the Fortress that can be visited in part, excluding its private rooms.

In 1983, the Rocca becomes fully accessible to the public.

Images of the castle

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Useful infos

Latitude: 43.9425921
Longitude: 12.7745405
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See the images

Map of Gradara Castle