There are castles everywhere in Italy. And I’m not sure what it is, but every time I visit one, I’m swept up in its history and legends. When visiting castles, it’s almost surreal to imagine how old they are and what life was like in these places centuries ago.
Calabria has some really fabulous castles and fortresses, like the one in Squillace. It is rich with history and mystery and it’s one of my personal favorites. You arrive to the castle by winding your way up the medieval streets to the very top of the town, where the castle dominantly sits overlooking the valley below.
This Byzantine castle was built on the ruins of a monastery when the Normans conquered Squillace in 1044. Throughout the years it was conquered and ruled by various families – one of which being the Borgia family. The Borgia family was an Italian-Spanish noble family that become prominent during the Italian Renaissance. Between 1494 and 1735, Squillace was governed by the Borgia Princes.
In 1599, a famous philosopher from Stilo, Tommaso Campanella, was imprisoned and awaiting trial for attempting to cause a revolt against the Spanish.
In 1793, an earthquake severely damaged parts of the castle but that didn’t stop King Giuseppe Bonaparte (Napoleon’s older brother – the King of Naples and Sicily, and later King of Spain), from turning the castle into a prison which remained this way until 1978.
At this point, the castle began its restoration and the results can be seen today. It doesn’t have the appearance of its original structure but there is an interesting mesh of architectural structures giving the castle its unique look. The exterior of the castle is made up of two towers – one of which is cylindrical while they other is polygonal. The main entrance has the Borgia family coat of arms proudly displayed and around the piazza there are still remnants of the outer walls.
The Mysterious Guests
During renovations in 1994, two mysterious and infamous guests were discovered. Two skeletons were unearthed in the polygonal tower wrapped in a tender eternal embrace. They date back to anywhere between 1200 and 1300 AD.
What intrigued researchers the most was not only their position but the fact that the skeletons didn’t appear to be local people. There is still much debate on who these “two lovers” are and what led to their sad fate – perhaps we will never know.
In the meantime, you can visit the small museum and see these mysterious guests on display with other artifacts that were found during the excavation.