Castello di Arco

castello-arcoThe imposing crenelated tower of this castle dominates the land extending towards the northern shores of lake Garda and guards the Sarca valley to the north, the narrow crack between the mountains that in past times was often crossed by armed forces marching towards Valle del Po. The castle appears as an impregnable and fascinating stronghold, surrounded as it is by splendid and secular cypresses. But the attentive visitor walking up through the fortified town of Arco will not fail to notice the close link between the town and its castle, connected by increasingly closer lines of walls that rise up along the rocky spur by cutting through a splendid olive grove. Of the four gates once giving access to the town, today only the Transfora (or Stranforio) gate is visible. It once had a drawbridge, confirming the prior existence of a moat circling the external walls.

The first mention of the existence of this fortified complex dates back to the 12th century, to the legal fight for its ownership between the Sejano and Arco families. In the end, the Arco family won and became the castle’s owners, and occupied it until the end of the 16th century, when they left this fort for more comfortable courts in Arco. The castle was then forgotten for a long time until it was sacked and set on fire - in 1703 - by French marshal Vendôme’s troops retreating after having besieged and bombarded Trento.

The Castle of Arco can be visited all year round, and in summer it hosts musical and theatrical performances. Of special interest is the look-out tower inside which a rock-carved cistern, that would fill up with rain water subsequently collected and conveyed to the castle through lead piping.

Castello del Buonconsiglio

castello-bounconsiglioThis castle is the symbol of the temporal power of Trentino’s bishops and of Trento’s Italian character. In its courtyard in 1848 the Austrians executed 21 Lombard volunteers who fought for the annexation of Trentino to Italy and it was here that during the Great War the martyrs of Trentino’s irredentism - Cesare Battisti, Fabio Filzi and Damiano Chiesa - acted as the residence to the bishop-princes up until the Principality’s secularisation in 1803. It dominates the city from a rocky spur and today still seems to protect it, despite the disappearance of the walls that ran from the castle all around the entire built-up area. In the 13th century the hill was called "Dosso del Malconsey", from the Latin corruption of Mall meaning public meeting and Consilii (council), supposedly the meeting place of the community. When the castle started developing around the cylindrical tower Torre Grande (or Torre d’Augusto), it was decided to give it a more auspicious name, hence "Buonconsiglio" (good council). During the course of its existence the castle has undergone many extensions and renovations. Between the 12th and 15th century, the Castelvecchio portion developed next to Torre Grande. In the 16th century, the Bishop-Prince Bernardo Clesio commissioned the Magno Palazzo, a magnificent example of Renaissance palace. The bishop-princes dwelt in the castle up until the beginning of the 19th century, although on various occasions they were forced to flee before wars and revolts. The entire complex is well worth a visit, together with the two towers Torre dell’Aquila and Torre del Falco, that originally were part of the exterior walls. Torre dell’Aquila hosts a breathtaking cycle of frescoes called "dei mesi" (literally, of the months) painted by an anonymous Bohemian painter in the 15th century. They depict medieval life, month by month, comparing the richness and splendour of the courts with the fight for survival of the poor.

Today the Castle hosts the museum of the Italian Risorgimento and of the fight for freedom, sections of archaeology and of ancient, medieval and modern art. Its halls frequently play host to prestigious exhibitions attracting thousands of visitors every year.

Castel Toblino

castel-toblinoThe most famous castle in Trentino owes its fame to its unique location and its lovely natural surroundings, as well as to the countless dark and arcane legends surrounding ir. On the rocky spur that up until a few centuries ago was an islet – the level of the lake was two metres higher – 2000 years ago there "lived" the fairies to which in the 3rd century a small temple was dedicated. This is "certified" by a stone tablet cemented into the portico of the castle that the archaeologist Paolo Orsi has defined as "a unique example of its kind in Roman epigraphy".

Soon enough, however, the mystical and magic function of the castle gave way to the military and strategic ones. The temple was replaced by an austere fortress over the possession of which the local noblemen battled at length. The castle we can admire and visit today is the result of the rebuilding willed by Bernardo Clesio in the 16th century. The manor was transformed into a residence, much acclaimed by the bishop-princes of Trento and by the Madruzzo family. Indeed the name of Carlo Emanuele Madruzzo, the last bishop-prince of the dynasty of four who governed the diocese over 120 years, became linked to the fiercest legends - the most intriguing one states that the bishop had his niece Filiberta and brother Vittorio poisoned. They also narrate that the lover of the bishop-prince was Claudia Particella, who seems to have given the bishop several children. God’s punishment for the bishop’s scandalous conduct soon arrived: one evening Claudia and her brother were crossing the lake in a boat to reach the castle, when the boat overturned and they drowned miserably. It is said that when the full moon rises the restless spirits of the two victims still haunt the waters of the Tobilno lake. 

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