Castles can be some of the most fascinating places to visit. Because of their history, unique architectural structure, and often unusual furnishings, they make for a great visit whether you’re a history buff, a fairytale lover, or just someone who loves all things medieval. And let’s be honest, Europe has no shortage of castles or history. In fact, we are lucky to be living within a short distance of an abundance of castles, fortresses, and noble villas. I’ve put together a list of some pretty great castle recommendations amongst the provinces of Vicenza, Padova, Verona, and Treviso, just to name a few. This is by no means an exhaustive list because it would take months to visit all of the castles in those areas! But here is a list of places to start if you’re into castle exploring! These sites make for a great day trip, a romantic getaway, or a nearby place to take your friends and family when they come to visit!
To provide a bit of historical context, “castle” comes from the Latin word “castellum,” meaning fortress. Castles were often used as homes or residences of nobles, and to protect territories or even whole cities. And it wasn’t always kings and queens who lived in the castles.
Side note: the views expressed below are all of my own opinions from my personal experiences visiting each and every one of these establishments. I value a “good” castle to visit based on ease of access, wow factor, the panoramic views, how much of the structure you can actually see, and the conditions (if things are still intact or not). I hope you will visit these places to gain your own opinions and report back about your favorites!!
These are numbered from 1 to 10, with 1 being the best.
Cittadella is a spectacular medieval, walled city located in the Province of Padova. This fortress has walls that stand 50 feet tall and are almost a mile in circumference. A moat surrounds Cittadella, which is accessible by one of 4 drawbridges. It was used in the 13th century as a military fortress and the wall is intact except for a small section that was breached during a war. The town was founded in 1220 by the Paduans to counterbalance the fortification of Castelfranco Veneto in 1218 by the Trevisans. This was a time of war between the communes. There’s a museum along the wall that explains the history of the fortress and has lots of artifacts. Within the piazza and the city, there are places to shop as well as a few restaurants. The cost to walk the wall is 5€/person (museum included). The structure that really caught my eye at Cittadella was The Duomo (Cathedral), especially with a panoramic view of the Alps in the background. Also, see if you can spot the old tree that stands taller than the wall itself! Every third Sunday, they hold a flea market which has antique and modern vendors. This is a must visit to walk all the way around the wall for incredible views of the countryside, the Alps in the distance, and the quaint town inside.
Marostica, a town famous for its live chess event held every other September, is another medieval walled city, but is located in the Province of Vicenza. In the main square, you’ll find a large chess board just in front of the Marostica Castle. The fortress walls stretch from the bottom of the hill to the top, with an Upper Castle and a restaurant. You can walk along the walls during operating hours, drive up to the restaurant, or take a steep hike amongst the olive trees to the top. To the right of the restaurant, you’ll find discreet stairs that lead to the battlements with beautiful views of the town, the Alps behind you, and of the wall itself. Tread carefully, but the view is worth it!
Find other info thru the Marostica tourist information office.
Castello di Sirmione makes the list at number 3 mainly because of its location and all that it has to offer in the town of Sirmione. In the Province of Brescia on Lago di Garda (Lake Garda), just a little over an hour away, stands this 13th century fortress. Completely surrounded by water, Castello di Sirmione played a huge role in the defense of the lake. During the summer, you can take a boat tour around the peninsula for views of the castle and the lake, and then boat underneath the drawbridge at the castle. From this tour on the lake, you can get a full 360-degree view of the castle. Once back on land, you can tour the castle for a small fee. Venture up a staircase that leads to the walkways above the walls of Castello di Sirmione for incredible views of the lake and the fortifications.
For more info, visit http://www.visitgarda.com/en/Sirmione-vacanze-lago-garda/
Castello di San Zeno is located within the medieval walled city of Montagnana, Province of Padova. While it was neat to walk up in the castle tower for a decent view of the city for 1,50€/person, the walls of Montagnana are by far the best part of the city. These walls are said to be one of the best examples of medieval walls in Europe, which date back to the eleventh century. You can be the judge of that! The walls are about half the height of Cittadella, ranging from around 20 to 27 feet high. They seem to stretch just a few hundred feet longer though. Although you cannot walk the walls of this fortress, you can walk around the outside to really grasp the length of the towers and structures. In this city, you will find lots of restaurants, shops, and sweet bakeries.
For more info, visit http://www.comune.montagnana.pd.it/
Soave is another fortified city in Northern Italy and can be found between Vicenza and Verona. Within the walls are a small town and a castle that sits on top of the hill. It was built in the 10th century to protect the town from the Hungarians. Like the walls of Marostica, the walls of Soave can be seen from far away as they climb the hill to the top of Soave. This walled city is surrounded by vineyards and many locals are involved in the making of the famous Soave wine. You can visit Castello Scaligero di Soave by car and then park nearby, or you can take a modest hike up to the top. From the castle, you’ll be rewarded with incredible views of the countryside and the medieval walls of Soave. Here you will find great shopping, wines (my favorite is Soave Classico), and yummy eats!
#6: Castello del Catajo
Castello del Catajo makes the list at number 6 mainly because it is different from the rest. It is located near the town of Battaglia Terme, in the Province of Padova. To me, this was more of a “traditional” castle than any other place I had visited, but it wasn’t necessarily used for what most European castles were used for – which included royalty or for defense purposes. The architecture of the castle itself is skewed. For example, the crenellations on top of the home are too close together to ever be used for defense purposes, but were instead used to make the castle more aesthetically appealing. The watchtowers on the top terrace were also not real, and the clay pots that would typically be used to dump hot oil on an enemy were simply the chimneys of the home. I very much enjoyed the peaceful walk through the gardens, which came with the 9€/person tour, and the incredibly detailed frescoes on the interior of the castle. The castle originally belonged to a mercenary who got rich off of military campaigns and wars, so many of the walls within the castle are painted with influential battle scenes and sieges from the 16th century.
For more information, visit http://www.castellodelcatajo.it/en/
Tidbit of info: we had an unfortunate tour experience. Everyone in the group spoke Italian, except us. Our tour guide was bilingual so she spoke in Italian and then repeated it in English for us. The only problem was she spoke three times as long in Italian and I know for certain that we missed out on so many things and yet we were very intrigued by the history of this place. The tour guide spent much more time showing and describing the paintings in Italian than in English, so that was disappointing after we paid 9€. I hope you’ll have a better tour experience, as the grounds and the castle are simply stunning! (Hence why this didn’t end up on the bottom of the list)!!
#7: Castello di Roncade
Castello di Roncade is located in Roncade, Province of Treviso. While this is not your typical castle, it is certainly worth a visit and tour! You can get villa tours and enjoy wine tastings here. Currently, a Baron resides in the 1500s villa, so only a small portion of the home is open to the public. However, you will be guided through the halls of the villa, gardens, the chapel, and the cantina (wine cellar). A villa tour and a wine tasting of 5 wines of our choosing was just 10€/person. They also have a conference/banquet room, and a few rooms available in parts of the villa and the watchtowers to rent. Our tour guides, Julia and Beatrice, were incredibly knowledgeable, not only about the history of Castello di Roncade but also about wine in general. In their words, “Drinking wine is a journey!” I couldn’t agree more!
For more info, visit https://www.castellodironcade.com/en/
#8: Castelfranco Veneto
Castelfranco Veneto is a small, historic walled town in the Province of Treviso that was developed and fortified by Treviso in 1195. Castelfranco consists of high, fortified walls with a surrounding moat. It is located near Cittadella and would be a great add-on if visiting Cittadella. Even though the walls have suffered some damage and decay, they are still very large and worth the trip to see. At the main entrance of the town, you should search for the beautiful clock tower with the Venetian Lion, worthy of photographing. The day that we visited, they were having a chocolate festival. Outside of the walls, you will find a quaint little town where you can grab a bite to eat or a cappuccino. Take time to go for a stroll through the park surrounding the wall.
For more info, visit http://www.comune.castelfrancoveneto.tv.it/
#9: Castelli di Giulietta e Romeo
For more of a love story vibe, visit the Romeo & Juliet Castles, which inspired Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet tragedy. Located on the hills of Montecchio Maggiore, Castelli di Giulietta e Romeo stand viewing-distance apart. It is there that the origin of the feud between the Capulets and the Montagues can be found. Inside Castello di Giulietta, there is a wonderful restaurant that is also open for lunch. Be sure to head to the top for views of the surrounding countryside and to peek at Castello di Romeo, which is now used as a theater space during the summer. Inside the walls of Romeo’s Castle are a stage, a bar, and seating on a grassy area. Before it became a tourist attraction, it was used over the centuries for military interests, including Napoleon’s troops. In between the castles, you will find an entrance to the “Priare,” which are big caves underneath the Castle of Giulietta. You can read more about visiting the caves here.
For more info visit also: www.italybyus.com/vi/giulietta-romeo-castles
At the time of this posting, Juliet’s castle was under construction and most of it was covered in scaffolding. Check their websites for more information before visiting.
#10: Castello di Arzignano
Coming in at number 10, just a short distance from Castelli di Giulietta e Romeo, lies Rocca Scaligera del Castello di Arzignano. On top of the hill in Arzignano, you will find a stunning castle among the rock walls and fortress.
Fearing raids, the Scaligeri built castles and fortifications dating back to 1370. They were quite effective thanks to military support. Although the castle cannot be visited, as it is currently serving as a residence, you are free to roam about the fortress and the areas around the castle. Be sure to take a short walk up to the castle for a photo op of the large castle doors and antique post box. The views from the parking lot of the castle and the wide panorama are spectacular. Inside the walls, you will find a Duomo, a bar, and a restaurant. This would make a great day trip combined with Romeo & Juliet Castles, or a lovely night out for dinner.
For more info, visit http://www.comune.arzignano.vi.it/comune.html
Places that I have yet to explore, but are on my list:
- Castello Porto Colleoni di Thiene (Province of Vicenza)
- Castello di Avio (Province of Trentino)
- Castel Beseno (Province of Trentino)
So, there you have it. A list of the ten best castles and fortresses to visit around the Vicenza area. All of these sites are within an hour (plus maybe a few minutes) from Vicenza.
I hope you will save this list for future reference, and that you will be able to visit as many of these amazing sites as possible. Especially if you’re like me and love castles and/or history! Have you visited any of these yet? Let us know what you think down below!
Thanks for reading! Stay tuned for more posts, or check out great guides around Italy and Europe over at Outside This Small Town.