ItaliaRail Names Three Must-See Majestic Castles in Italy

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Italy is home to some of the most interesting castles in Europe and they are easily accessible by train.

A classic example of medieval military architecture, Castel del Monte is featured on the back of the Italian Euro 1 cent coin

While Italy is known for its delicious food, spectacular scenery and passionate people, prospective visitors may be surprised to find out that it is home to some of the most beautiful and interesting castles in Europe.

The country’s history, from the fall of the Roman Empire to occupations by France, Spain and the Normans is reflected in the architecture of its castles. Each ruling nation and culture brought its own unique style of castle construction, making the edifices even more compelling to explore. ItaliaRail offers up three colossal castles, easily accessible by train, and not to be missed:

Castel del Monte, Andria, Puglia

Prominently featured on the back of the Italian Euro one cent piece, Castel del Monte is one of the more well-known castles in Italy. In 1966 the castle was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site which increased its visibility and brought many visitors to the quaint town of Andria.

Built in 1240 by the powerful Frederick II, Holy Roman Emperor and King of Sicily, who had strong ties to Germany and the Middle East, experts say the architecture combines features of both Northern European and Islamic construction. The castle boasts eight octagonal corner towers with eight rooms on each floor around a center courtyard. While the interior of the castle is sparse, the outside is dramatic and, with the backdrop of sun-drenched Puglia countryside, well worth the trip. The castle is open year-round, 7-days a week, with extended hours during the summer months.

By train: From Rome to Barletta takes about 3 ½ hours with fares starting at $28. From the Barletta train station you can catch a bus to the castle.

Belfort Castle, Trento

Feeling more like half a castle, the ruins of Castle Belfort still strike an imposing and royal stance in the green rolling hills of the Italian province of Trentino. Built in 1311 by Henry I of Tyrol, the castle became home to a succession of ten different ruling families, each putting their own touch on it, over many centuries. It’s surprising the castle is still standing at all. Only the grand fortress and the rectangular outside walls remain, but the political history of warring families and the drama they created is fascinating. In fact, some say the ghost of an embittered and insane Lord still wanders around the castle on rainy nights. Dressed in black and carrying a sword, the jilted lover is still searching for evidence of his wife’s infidelity. That story alone makes it worth the trek. Open year-round to visitors.

By train : Belfort Castle is located between the towns of Spormaggiore and Cavedago. The closest train station is Trento from which you can grab a taxi or bus to the castle. Venice to Trento takes about 2 ½ hours and fares start at $32.

Castello Orsini-Odescalchi, Bracciano

One of the largest and most well-preserved castles in Italy is located only about an hour outside of Rome in the town of Bracciano. Odescalchi Castle was built in the 15th century to be used as both a military fortress and house of residence for papal families, including the Borgias and the Orsini, both powerful players during medieval times. Over the centuries it was the subject of many battles between warring noble families, but remains today meticulously restored. The architecture is reflective of the military structures of the Renaissance era with six stately towers surrounding an inside courtyard. Many of the rooms are completely furnished with period pieces and the castle boasts its own museum full of medieval artifacts, plus a spectacular view of Lake Bracciano. The castle is so stunning, it has played host to many high-profile weddings including that of Tom Cruise to Katie Holmes. Hourly tours are offered daily throughout the year.

By train : From Roma Ostiense take a regional train to Bracciano. It takes a little over an hour and costs about $5.

About ItaliaRail: ItaliaRail are the experts on Italy train tickets and passes. In cooperation with Trenitalia, Italy's only national railway, ItaliaRail provides a direct connection to Trenitalia's reservation system allowing rail travelers access to the most routes at the best prices. Travelers are able to book in multiple currencies and knowledgeable customer service agents are available to answer questions and give advice on train travel throughout Italy. ItaliaRail was launched in 2005 and is a division of International Rail, LLC.

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Mary Ekelund
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