Sicily has a deep rich history spanning thousands upon thousands of years and throughout its history, Sicily has been through its fair share of invasions and battles. So, it shouldn’t be a surprise that this island in Southern Italy is chock-full of castles and fortresses ready to defend against unwanted intruders.
Although it was hard to narrow it down, here are our five favorite castles in Sicily:
Castello di Caccamo (Caccamo, Palermo)
The Caccamo Castle is located in a pleasant mountain-top medieval town about 50km from Palermo. The castle is perched majestically on a steep cliff at the highest point of the village. Originally built in the 12th century by the Normans, the castle provides a spectacular view overlooking the San Leonardo Valley. Over time, the castle underwent some changes but it has everything you would expect from a medieval castle – powerful towers and unbreakable stone walls. You can visit many of the castles original rooms such as the Arms Rooms, Chapel and Servants’ Rooms as well as the castle’s stables. Don’t forget to pass by the prison where you can see the prisoner’s graffiti on some of its walls.
Castello di Venere (Erice, Trapani)
Erice is a historic town strategically located on top of a mountain. Here, you can find the Castello di Venere also known as the Venus Castle. It is said that where this 12th century Norman castle stands now, there used to be an ancient temple dedicated to Venus and it’s said that stones from the temple were used to build the castle. Inside the castle you can see a well that, according to legend, Venus used to bath in milk. Take a walk around this castle and take in the fabulous 360-degree views of the surrounding landscape, sea and the Egadi Islands.
Il Castello di Donnafugata (Ragusa)
The Donnafugata Castle is located about 15km from Ragusa. This particular castle isn’t known for its great battles but rather its interesting architecture. The castle was built by aristocrats in the 17th century but underwent many changes over the next three centuries. And because of this, you can see a unique blend of Venetian, Neo-Gothic and Neo-Classical architectural characteristics. The castle was owned by Baron Corrado Arezzo de Spuches and most of what can be seen today is a result of his imaginative and eccentric vision. The castle is surrounded by an enchanting garden comprised of a small labyrinth. The castle itself is enormous but visitors are only allowed access to the first floor. But don’t let that discourage you because there is a lot to see. Inside the castle, you can get a glimpse of what it might have been like living there as you walk around the many rooms of the first floor fully adorned with antique furniture, décor, statues and paintings.
Castello di Milazzo (Milazzo, Messina)
Milazzo is the third-largest city in the province of Messina and dates back to 648 BC. Given its strategic position, this peninsula saw its fair share of battles. So, you shouldn’t be surprised by its grand fortified castle. The Milazzo Castle is believed to have been originally built be the Arabs. Then, like in many other parts of Sicily, the Normans took over and extended it. After the Normans, it was taken by Frederick II of Hohenstaufen who converted it into a citadel which would go on to hold a 15th century cathedral, a monastery as well as other buildings. It didn’t stop there; during the Aragonese domination of Sicily, round Spanish towers were also added. It is a true testament to the deep rich history of Milazzo. The castle was closed for many years as it underwent restoration work to restore the castle and the 16th century Spanish walls but is now open for visits.
Castello Maniace (Ortigia, Syracuse)
The castle, built between 1232 and 1240 by the Emperor Frederick II, is situated at the far point of the Ortigia Island in Syracuse. The castle was heavily damaged during an earthquake in 1693 but with careful restoration, the castle still maintains most of its 13th century characteristics – square layout and four towers. At the time, the castle was only accessible by a stone bridge over a moat however today the moat has been filled in. The most intriguing part of this castle would have to be the interior with its vaulted ceilings and columns. Today, after a long and extensive restoration, the castle is open to the public and hosts exhibitions and cultural events.
Do you love castles as much as we do? Check out Five Fabulous Fortresses in Calabria!