Gradara stands like a green island among the sweet Marche hills at an altitude of 142 meters above sea level. It is even possible to smell the sea’s salty odor, because it is only three kilometers away.
Gradara Castle is a fairy-like place with an ancient taste. Here, legend clings to history and they tell of the tragic love affair between Paolo and Francesca celebrated by Dante, Petrarca, Boccaccio and D’Annunzio.
Gradara boasts a remarkable artistic patrimony which makes its cultural even more precious. In fact, in Gradara valuable pictures and beautiful frescoes can be admired. But its most important artistic work is a magnificent terracotta altar-piece, attributed to Andrea della Robbia, which is held in the castle chapel.
Lovers who stroll along its streets, especially at night, under the well lightened fortress surrounded by ancient oaks, live in a romantic unique frame in which love, poetry and history melt with a wonderful landscape.
The Gradara Castle was built between the 11th and 15th centuries and was the scene of continuing conflict between the Malatesta and Montefeltro families before falling under control of the Sforza family. However its place in history has been secured thanks not so much to these warring families but to the great poet Dante. In the Divine Comedy, in the fifth Canto in the Inferno, he recounts the tragic love affair between Paolo and Francesca, which stands as a timeless symbol for generations of lovers.
Their passionate affair took place here at Gradara Castle and their chamber in the castle still has a melancholy atmosphere which remains just as poignant today.
Gradara is a typical medieval village, placed on a hilltop overlooking the Flaminia way and enjoying a beautiful landscape. The town is surrounded by trapezoidal fourteenth-century walls crowned by merlots and provided with rectangular bastions. A further curtain of walls placed in between, the towers and an independent gate ensured a further defense to the fortress.
The whole perimeter of the walls were run by communication trenches. At the western corner the town wall was reinforced by a stout polygonal bastion, the rocchetta.
The only entrance to the tower was through the Porta dell’Orologio, an arch supporting a square tower (on whose walls hanged the coat-of-arms of the Montefeltros, the Sforzas and the Malatestas) provided by a draw-bridge.
The castle is placed on the highest and more easily defensible hill.
The donjon, (Mastio) around the main keep, helps to confer the fortress the idea of strength and elegance at the same time, typical of the medieval fortresses.
The Mastio dates back to 1150 and the wings of the castle were built around it on a later time.
The interior of the castle underwent radical changes in the course of the passage from a fort to a residential palace.
Of the works of arts there to embellish it, only the Battle, a painting by Aspertini (today kept in the Council-hall) and the earthen-wared altarpiece by Andrea della Robbia in the chapel are left.
Gradara is an ancient medieval village that can boast a rich historical and artistic patrimony. The fortress (rocca), inserted in the sweet surrounding cleavages, is wonderful and offers an incomparable sightseeing.
But Gradara offers as well good food and wines. You can try the Sangiovese wine and delicious meals. It is not by chance that Gradara is the main center in Italy for the wine-hobbies.
How to get there
Gradara is 15 km. from Pesaro and only 5 Km. from the Gabicce beaches. The motorway’s exit is at Cattolica (3 km.).
You can book guided tours of the village and castle of Gradara with illustration of the main historical and artistic heritage, the architecture with panoramic view from the top, frescoes, paintings, interior design and furnishings and of course a narration of the legend of Paolo and Francesca. Guided Tour only with prior reservation. Book a guided Tour in Gradara, San Leo, Pesaro, Urbino on www.artuvisite.com, or the Cooperative of guides Isairon.
Where to stay in Gradara
Hotels, B&Bs, apartments and country houses: search and make reservations here.