Not many people know that Gradara is a real village, rich in history, art, and traditions. Lots of tourists come to visit the fortress but then find themselves catapulted into breathtaking scenery!
Gradara is located in the Le Marche region, in the province of Pesaro e Urbino a few kilometers from the Romagna Riviera. It is known as the city of one of the most famous and tragic love stories in the world, the one between Paolo and Francesca, the two lovers of the Fifth Canto of Dante’s Inferno. The fortress with its fortified village is one of Italy’s best-preserved structures protected by two walls, the outer one with a length of 800 meters. The walls are reinforced at regular distances by fourteen square towers whose interior is open at the village’s side. Here you can walk through the ancient patrol path, where the view is truly unique.
Access to the village of Gradara
To enter the city, you need to go through the Clock Gate, which used to have a drawbridge and a moat in the past. The gate has two clocks, the first facing outwards and the second facing the town. Go up till the second gate, once equipped with a drawbridge as well. Once inside the town, alleys, palaces, workshops, and churches will attract your attention, including the Church dedicated to St. John the Baptist with a magnificent crucifix showing three facial expressions.
The Castle of Gradara
The fortress, considered one of Italy’s most beautiful castles, is located on the city’s highest point and includes a series of awe-inspiring spaces such as the Courtyard of Honour and the noble apartments. The courtyard is overlooked by the fortified tower, which is the oldest part of the fortress extending over 38 meters and by the residential Palace. The courtyard also houses the Torture Chamber, where you’ll find an exhibition with some of the tools used to get confessions from poor fellows. The noble apartments are composed of luxurious rooms: the Sigismund and Isotta Salon, the Hall of Passion, the Lucrezia Borgia Dressing room, the Cardinal Room, the Red Room, the Cherub Room, the Council Chamber, the Room of Francesca, the family Chapel and the Hall of the Guard House. Obviously, the most famous room is Francesca’s Room, which consists of a canopy bed, two chairs, and a medieval dress. There is a trap door on the floor connected to the Hall of the Guard House, where the two lovers tried to flee. On the walls there are paintings depicting the martyrdom of Saint Sebastian and the Madonna and Child. On a wall of the room, there is also the Gonzaga family tree to emphasize the family ties with the authority of Mantova.
The museum contains documents and objects that witness various living changes in Gradara and its territory during past centuries. A special section is devoted to Paolo and Francesca’s history with costumes, images, and works that evoke the tragedy. There is also an exhibition with medieval torture instruments, weapons, miniature reconstructions of the main rooms of the fortress, and the daily life of kings and rural cultures. Besides, you can admire some ancient agricultural tools and other special items such as time measurement in the Middle Ages (sundials). You can also visit the Underground Caves in the museum that go through a hidden labyrinth beneath the castle.
Gradara is located in an area rich in olive trees and vineyards. The local cuisine is tied to simple and authentic flavors. There are actually many restaurants and inns to taste delicious dishes of Le Marche and Romagna tradition.
The typical dish of Gradara is “Tagliolini con la Bomba“; a traditional local dish based on hand-made pasta with soup and served with a sauté of onion and lard.
From mid-June until mid-September, Monday to Sunday, Gradara organizes various events full of fun and good food: wine tours, medieval festivals, entertainment for children, families, and much more. It is a real theatre with music, art, and food events including “Il Medioevo a Tavola” (Middle Ages at the table), when local restaurants turn into 15th century taverns and serve recipes of the past and the “The Dragon Castle“, the most fascinating Celtic festival all over Italy dedicated to fairy tales and dreams to let people rediscover the charm of a world that lives and feeds on fantasy. No doubt, the main event of Gradara is the “Assedio al Castello” (Siege of the Castle), a commemoration of the terrible siege of 1446. This celebration is held on the penultimate weekend of July. It is open with a great pyromusical show and a re-enactment of the siege with more than one hundred people, horses and special effects.