• Interesting places to visit in le Marche: Gradara

Interesting places to visit in le Marche: Gradara

Happy Valentine’s day!.

Today we will talk about one of the most interesting places to visit in le Marche: Gradara.

Built during the 12th century from an ancient roman tower, Gradara was an important strategic location ruled by the Malatesti the archenemies of Montefeltro.

The Duke of Urbino tried to besiege the castle during the winter of 1446 but had to retreat after 40 days of war. Gradara will fall only 20 years later when the Malatesti family lost the long war against Montefeltro.

In 1463 Alessandro Sforza becomes Gradara’s new lord. His nephew, Giovanni improves the building structure to better suits the renaissance warfare. You can still see their insignia in the main gate. There is a lion symbol of Alessandro (and his nephew). The two dragon wings are a symbol of Francesco Sforza of Milan, his powerful brother. A third symbol is a ring with a diamond in the center of which a wild flower entangled. The ring represent the Sforzas, the diamond stands for strength and the wild flower for evil. Thus the overall meaning is: The Sforza are strong against evil.

After the Sforza’s family the castle is given to Della Rovere, new lords of Urbino Dukedom until 1631.

From that time up to the 20th century the castle, is left to ruin and later restored in 1920 by a private wealthy family.

Interesting places to visit in le Marche: Gradara

Gradara: Romance and Tragedy

Why Gradara is an interesting place to visit in le Marche? Well, Gradara is very famous thanks to Dante Alighieri. It is said that here the tragic love story of Paolo and Francesca was consumed.

Francesca was married with Gianciotto Malatesti but this, as was the custom, was just a political marriage. So in secret she started a passionate relationship with Gianciotto’s younger brother: Paolo. 

One day however they were discovered and killed just before they could escape through a trap door.

Their love and their death was so famous that was even immortalized by Dante in his Divina Commedia. The Poet meets the damned couple in the Inferno. There, beaten and transported by furious winds, the lovers manages to speak briefly with Dante.

Their story was so dramatic that the poet, moved to tears, faints.

Who knows if their love story inspired Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. One thing we know is that we have historical proofs of Gianciotto, Paolo and Francesca’s death. According to some scholars the assassination of Francesca by Gianciotto could have had a political purpose that the so-called “honor killing” would have been able to disguise. Gianciotto, eager to obtain the alliance of the city of Faenza, intended for this purpose to get rid of his wife (whom he had already married not for love but for political agenda).

Gradara: Politics and Romance

Often left in the shadow by Paolo and Francesca, is the marriage between Giovanni Sforza and Lucrezia Borgia.

Lucrezia, is an interesting figure of the Renaissance. Initially she was mostly seen as a cold and calculative woman interested only in power. More recently this view shifted. She is surely a dramatic character, a prisoner and a tool of the terrible Father: pope Alessandro VI. The Pope used her in a series of political marriages and divorces. With Giovanni it happened the same. The wedding cancellation process stated that the Sforza was impotent. At first Giovanni obviously refused to sign a declaration of impotence. This meant to become the laughing stock of all of Italy. However he was then forced to accept the cancellation due to his family pressure. Thus, the marriage between the two was canceled, with the husband humiliated!

Inside the castle: Lucrezia’s Room

Of the many rooms to visit in the castle, 2 are the most intersting: Lucrezia’s Room and Francesca’s.

Lucrezia’s room is decorated with frescoes to celebrate the marriage of the two nobles. We can still see frescoes of council of greek gods and the myth of Paris Judgement.

This is the story.

One day Zeus organized a banquet to celebrate the marriage of Peleus and Teti (Achilles parents). Zeus invited all gods except for Eris, the goddess of disagreement. Eris was extremely angry thus decided to come nevertheless. Once at the banquet she threw a golden apple right towards the gods. The apple had inscribed: to the most beautiful goddess. Immediately Hera, Aphrodite and Athena tried to grab the apple and started to quarrel. When Zeus tried to calm them down, The goddess asked him which one of them was the most beautiful. Zeus then turned the same question to a mortal man: Paris, the future prince of Troy.

Each goddess promised the man a prize. Athena said she would have made him a strong warrior. Hera said she would have made him a king. Aphrodite said she would have given him the most beautiful mortal woman. Paris choose Aphrodite, and the goddess helped him to kidnap Helen thus starting the trojan war.

Inside the castle: Francesca’s Room

Here we are in the heart of the Castle, located in the wing of the fortress which is the oldest after the keep: the Palatium. The space that was chosen to reconstruct the story of Paolo and Francesca.

In this room you can see the lectern with the two seats and further down the famous trap door.

Gradara Today

Today, this medieval town is perfect for a day trip. In summer you can have a nice ice cream right at the kiosks nearby the gates. The town has many little restaurants that serve local dishes. If you want to celebrate your love or just simply enjoy a photoshoot, I can organize one with historical clothes!. Click here for more info. If you look for an interesting place to visit in le Marche that combines love, passion and history Gradara is your destination!.

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