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Three Castles of Bellinzone

Listed under Castles & Palaces in Switzerland.

  • Photo of Three Castles of Bellinzone
  • Photo of Three Castles of Bellinzone
Photo of Three Castles of Bellinzone
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Bellinzone has always occupied an important geographic location in the Alps as several key Alpine passes, which include the Nufenen, St. Gotthard, San Bernardino and the Poebene, all meet in the area making it a key trading centre.

The Castlegrande is the natural centre of the fortifications which together make up Bellinzone’s barrage. The site of the Castlegrande dates back to Roman times, though this is no longer viewable, it was used as the foundation for the Middle Ages reincarnation. All that are let of that version are a few parts of the wall, as restorations since ‘seemed to favour the picturesque to the detriment of authenticity’ according to early UNESCO discussions.

The complete restoration of the castle and grounds took place in the 1980s. The south wing now houses a museum showing archaeological finds illustrating the building’s history, including the decorated ceilings of Casa Ghiringhelli, a former inn, and exhibits from Bellinzone’s 16th Century mint. The 19th century arsenal has been turned into a restaurant.

Montebello Castle dates back to the 13th century, though neglect in the early 1400s and again in the late 19th century has seen a mish-mash of renovations and additions. The present state of the building clearly shows the three stages of Montebello's development: the original fortified nucleus and the two rows of fortifications built around it in the 14th and 15th centuries respectively. Today the Castle houses the Civic Museum with its archaeological collection; the findings, which include some items of considerable interest, come from prehistoric burial sites in Ticino.

The Sasso Corbaro Castle lies 600m south-west of the town and contrary to the other fortifications, stands isolated. Work only began in 1478, but in the 16th and 17th centuries Sasso Corbaro was repeatedly struck by lightning and by 1900 was falling into ruin. Unfortunately, consolidation work carried out in the last century has caused the loss of a huge amount of archaeological evidence; the only source of information regarding the original state is a description by J.B. Rahn from about 1889. Today, Sasso Corbaro Castle houses the Sala Emma Poglia (17th century) as well as various exhibition and meeting rooms.

A visit to the three castles is a fantastic sight, with the natural beauty and man-made awe standing together to create a stunning view.

Written by  John Johnston.

Other expert and press reviews

“Three Castles, Defensive Wall and Ramparts of the Market-Town of Bellinzone”

'The Bellinzone site consists of a group of fortifications grouped around the castle of Castelgrande, which stands on a rocky peak looking out over the entire Ticino valley. Running from the castle, a series of fortified walls protect the ancient town a… Read more...

Written by press. UNESCO

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