Bellinzona

The castles of Bellinzona

Castello di Montebello, one of the three castles in Bellinzona

Castello di Montebello, one of the three castles in Bellinzona

The weather wasn’t too good when I visited Bellinzona, cloudy and rainy but the imposing fortified walls of the Castelgrande part of UNESCO World Heritage and the old city listed in the Inventory of Swiss Heritage Site were surely an impressive sight. The three castles of Bellinzona are certainly a must visit when passing through the Italian speaking part of Switzerland. The stronghold itself goes back to the Roman times but much of the visible parts have been renovated and expanded in stages between the thirteenth and sixteenth centuries. The Castelgrande can be reached by either by taking the elevator built within the rocky hill underneath the fortress from the Piazza del Sole or by foot from the old city. Arriving at the top, stroll along the spacious courtyard while snaking through the ramparts for some nice views of the old city or visit the small museum and relax at their lovely restaurant overlooking a small vineyard. Then head towards Montebello, another medieval masterpiece with its drawbridge and moat probably built by the Rusca family from Como before it passed into the hands of the Visconti Italian noble family in the fourteenth century. Montebello castle also houses an archaeological museum worth a visit. The third fortified construction is the fifteenth century Sasso Corbaro with its watch tower built further away beyond the city walls on the rocky hill. From the castle ramparts you can get a wonderful panoramic views of the surroundings. The fifteenth century Sasso Corbaro was designed in the Lombardian military architectural style by Benedetto Ferrini from Florence during the reign of Francesco Sforza Duke of Milan who seized power following the death of Filippo Maria, the last Visconti. Today it houses the seventeenth century “Emma-Poglia” room decorated entirely with wooden paneling.

Collegiata dei S Pietro e Stefano in the foreground with the two castles Montebello and Sasso Corbaro

Collegiata dei S Pietro e Stefano in the foreground with the two castles Montebello and Sasso Corbaro

If the three castles especially that of Castelgrande and the massive murata city wall are Bellinzona’s major attractions, the old city too is worth browsing where we can glimpse some of its wonderful churches, such as Maria della Grazie former Franciscan church or the fifteenth century renaissance style Collegiata dei Pietro e Stefano with its Baroque style facade, or Saint Biagio in Ravecchia known for its fourteenth century frescoes as well as Saint Rocco church with painted facade on the Piazza Indipendenza. Visit the charming courtyard of the town hall and walk along sculptured arcades flanked with classic Italian style buildings and painted facades, once home to rich merchants.

The spacious inner courtyard of Castelgrande and the old city

The spacious inner courtyard of Castelgrande and the old city

Here it is again, the amazing Castelgrande with its monumental walls rising majestically above the historic city of Bellinzona

The fortified Castelgrande

The fortified Castelgrande

Categories: Bellinzona

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