Do you love exploring medieval castles and walled cities? Are you a romantic soul who wants to walk within the walls of ancient ruins or restored palaces? Well, you’ve come to the right place!
In this article, we will offer you an adventure of a lifetime through Northern Italy. Reserve several days for a road trip to the country’s scenic villages and history-rich regions.
Many of these villages and towns are homes to magnificent Italian castles. They are widely known as the Castles of Veneto, which are basically the Italian counterparts for the Bavarian Castles in Germany.
Some of the buildings are isolated castles in the middle of nowhere, while others are entire walled cities where modern life has taken over.
Getting To The Italian Castles
You can use our map to easily find all the castles in Italy, including the five walled cities (marked in green), Soave Castle and Palmanova (marked in pink), the Scaligero Castle in Sirmione at Lago di Garda (marked in purple), and the original castles of Romeo and Julia (marked in yellow).
To learn more about Italy and how to get around check out our simple travel guide to Italy.
The Five City Walls
First, we must mention the five Walled Cities in Italy, and those are Bassano Del Grappa, Asolo, Marostica, Cittadella, and Castelfranco Veneto.
Each of these is special in its own way, and it takes about two hours to drive from Bassano Del Grappa to Marostica. This circle is about 72 kilometers long and takes you along mesmerizing local roads of Veneto, Italy.
You can quickly explore each city within an hour or take more time for a coffee or lunch break. Keep in mind that most afternoons during business days tend to be slow as most people have their lunch break at their homes.
1. Bassano Del Grappa
Bassano Del Grappa is one of the Five Wall Cities in the Veneto region in Italy. All five cities are enclosed by unique medieval walls that, at one point or another, were used as military outposts.
Bassano Del Grappa is located in the Vicenza Province of Italy in the Northern part of the country. It’s a small and beautiful place, with lots of landmarks and busy Sundays. Even though small, the town has many shops for retail shopping as well as an open market where you can buy fresh produce, including meat products, cheese, wine, and fresh pasta.
This charming Italian town is known for its famous wooden bridge, Ponte Vecchio. This 13th-century bridge has been destroyed and rebuilt numerous times throughout the decades because of its strategic position – separating the town from the mountains by the Brenta River.
Bassano Del Grappa Things to See
- Main Cathedral
- Upper Castle or Castello Superiore
- Dieda Gate
- Ponte Degli Alpini (the famous wooden bridge)
- Palazzo Micheli-Bonato
- Town Hall
- Civic Tower
- Town Square Piazzotto Montevecchio.
Bassano Del Grappa is 33 kilometers away from Vicenza, 87 kilometers away from Verona, and 48 kilometers away from Treviso.
Another town in the Northern Italian regions, Asolo is the second Walled City that should be on your road trip itinerary. Many call Asolo “The Pearl of the Province of Treviso” due to its beauty. With only less than 10,000 inhabitants, this Italian town provides an authentic image of everyday life in urbanized medieval locations.
Asolo Things to See
- Aqueduct and amphitheater
- Main Cathedral
- Caterina Cornaro Castle
- Palazzo Della Ragione
Marostica is incredibly near Bassano Del Grappa, and part of the Province of Vicenza. This place is especially famous for its chess tournaments and cherries. It is interesting to note that in the middle of the Marostica there is a large chess pattern printed on the ground, which the locals use during the Human Chess Game event. As you can guess, people act as the chess pieces and play out a game of chess – all dressed up in costumes. It’s a spectacular show, but its does require ticket purchase.
The entire town is walled, but as you go up, you will get to the impressive Marostica Castle, or Castello Superiore, where entrance is free of charge. The structure is impressive, and you can actually climb the walls and enjoy the fantastic panorama.
Things to See in Marostica
- Chess Set
- Castello Marostica
- Animal Park and Dino Park
- Scacchi Square
Cittadella Italy is a beautiful walled city in Italy. It is a military outpost in the Padua providence of Veneto. This medieval city was created by the Paduans to counter the Trevisans, who built the military fortification of Castelfranco Veneto.
Today, the walls of this citadel are intact and create an equally amazing sight from afar and up close. The impressive fortification is 1,461 meters long and includes four main gates that are the main entry points inside Cittadella.
While there isn’t an actual Italian castle in the town, the destination is mesmerizing, nonetheless. Plus, there are many other attractions you can visit while in Cittadella too.
Sights to See in Cittadella
- Social Theatre
- Archeological Museum
- Pretorio Square
- San Francesco Convent
- Porta Treviso
- Moat of the Walls
- Torresino Church
5. Castelfranco Veneto
Castelfranco Veneto is small and beautiful. Most of the town resembles the rest of the local spots in the other regions of Italy. Yet, what makes this gem stand out is the fortified square, surrounded by a canal. Similar to the one in Padua, the canal is ornamented with statues. The canal has a total of four bridges that are main entry and exit points to the center.
While parking seemed the most serious issue in the other towns, there is a huge open parking just outside the Castelfranco Veneto fortification. Plus, it’s free of charge on Sundays. Castelfranco Veneto is a great Italian destination to visit in the summer.
Things to See in Castelfranco Veneto
- Giorgione Museum
- Brion Cemetery
- Cilla Cornaro
- Historical Center
- Civica Tower
- Giorgione Square
- Musile Gate
The Castles of Romeo and Juliet
Most people know about Juliet’s balcony located in the old town of Verona, Italy. At least that’s what most travel guides to Italy will tell you. Not far from Juliet’s house, visitors can find Romeo’s by the Piazza dei Signori square. However, the original story and homes of Romeo and Juliet take place in Montecchio Maggiore, Italy.
William Shakespeare took inspiration for Romeo and Juliet’s play from Luigi da Porto, who wrote a novel Historia novellamente ritrovata. The story focuses on the tragic love story between teens from two feuding families – the Montecchi and the Capuleti. Their Italian castles overlook each other in the Montecchio Maggiore region, which eventually led to them falling in love with each other.
So, any local in the region will tell you this is the authentic story of the unfortunate Romeo and Giulietta rather than the tourist attraction of Juliet’s balcony in Verona.
Romeo’s Castle (Castello Della Villa)
A short uphill drive takes you right to Romeo’s Castle, i.e. the Castello Della Villa. Entrance fee there is 3€ per person while walking around the grounds, and parking is free of charge. Inside, besides the castle walls, there isn’t too much to see. Sometimes, however, they organize events or have theatre plays.
Juliet’s Castle (Castello Della Bellaguardia)
Just keep driving a bit more, and you’ll get to a small parking lot right under Juliet’s Castle, widely known as the Castello Della Bellaguardia. At the time of our visit, the castle was closed for visits. Yet, you can walk around it and take a photo under the actual balcony where she used to meet her loved one. Don’t forget to take a look at Romeo’s Castle and feel her desire just for a second.
Besure to visit Juliet’s cave. It’s located right underneath the castle, with an entrance to the cave off the main road before the castle. If you like medieval castles, both these spots are a must-visit!
Lago Di Garda (Sirmione)
Lago Di Garda or Lake Garda is the largest one in Italy. This is a popular vacationing spot for locals, and a tourist attraction. The lake is in Northern Italy, quite close to Verona. Since it’s large, it belongs to three different Italian regions – Veneto, Lombardy, and Trentino-Alto Adige.
Since we focus on castles here, we recommend you visit the historical center of Sirmione and its magnificent Scaligero Castle. This superb fortress comes from the Scaliger era, and Scaligeri is its owner.
A short stroll takes you to the bridge that leads right inside the Castello Scaligero di Sirmione, where you can explore free of charge. There are lots of bars, restaurants, and souvenir shops. Most notably, there are lots of ice-cream shops where you can get freshly made Italian ice-cream.
The site was built in the 13th century using stone, bricks, and mortar.
Sirmione Sights To See
- Castello di Sirmione
- Abbazia di San Salvatore
- Aquaria Thermal
- San Pietro in Mavino Church
- Grotte di Catullo
- Acqua Termale Pubblica
- Parco Callas Arena
- Sojourn Beach
- Grifone Beach
- Maria Callas Square
- Pala Banco
Keep in mind that parking can be tricky during high season. We couldn’t find a spot even in mid-October. Parking comes at a cost, depending on the zone. Sirmione has lots of open parking lots and getting to the castle generally takes between 5-20 minutes on foot. Consider using a bus to avoid problems with parking.
Is Soave, Italy marked on your map? Well, it should be! This is another small town in the Veneto region and a home for approximately 6,800 inhabitants. This charming place is only 23 kilometers away from Verona, so it can be your perfect single-day adventure.
Visitors can walk around Soave and explore its beautiful streets. When there, make sure to try the delicious Soave wine as this is one of the famous wine regions of Italy. In fact, Soave is actually a dry white wine, which is especially popular in the US.
However, before becoming a popular wine destination, Soave used to be a medieval military fort. So, it’s hard to miss its huge castle, which still stands tall on top of Tenda Hill. This fortification has a gate, a draw bridge, and remains of a small church. In fact, the castle contains three separate courts, and each of them is magnificent.
Main Sights in Soave
- Soave Castle
- Justice Palace
- Scaliger Palace
- Scaliger Walls
- Cavalli Square
- Parish Church
- Church Santa Maria dei Domenicani
- Santa Maria della Bassanella Sanctuary
I must admit that Soave reminded me of Erice in Sicily. The castle is elevated and hides an entire town inside. Unlike deserted ruins, both these destinations have managed to preserve life to this day and that’s fascinating.
Palmanova is not exactly part of the Veneto region. Instead, it belongs in the Friuli-Venezia Giulia Province of Udine. We still mention it here because it’s worth visiting. Palmanova has a unique form that resembles a star. In fact, the Fortified Town of Palmanova is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and its fortress includes nine bastions, nine ravelins, nine lunettes, and 18 cavaliers. Three main gates that take anyone straight to the center of the town and entrance is free of charge.
Things to See in Palmanova
- Palmanova Town Hall
- Palmanova Cathedral
- Bell Tower
- Three Palmanova Gates
- Piazza Grande (main square)
- Palmanova Outlet Village (shopping)
The Castles of Veneto Road Trip – Bottom Line
All in all, driving through the northern part of Italy and visiting all the fantastic Italian castles is an unforgettable experience. From the actual homes of Romeo and Julia to impressive fortifications, there’s a lot to experience in that generally small area.
Of course, these sights are nothing like the fairy-tale Neuschwanstein Castle in Germany. Still, they do take you to medieval times and provide an incredible mix of contemporary life and ancient structures.