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Fairytale fortresses, military towers and ancient strongholds

Liguria is a region with a wealth of castles. Medieval fortresses and more speak of its ancient story. Here are the ones you shouldn’t miss, from east to west.

ALBERTIS CASTLE AND THE FORTS OF GENOA

This castle was the residence of navigator, writer and ethnologist Enrico Alberto d’Albertis, who had it built in the late 19th century on the Montegalletto hill. Today it is home to the Museum of World Cultures, containing the vast collection amassed by the captain during his travels in all five continents. Meanwhile, the eighteen fortresses are part of Genoa’s 17th century city walls. The most spectacular are the forts of Diamante, Sperone and Puin.

PORTO VENERE CASTLE

This famous pentagonal fortress is perched over the sea of the iconic fishing town. Its construction probably dates back to the 12th century, but today it displays 17th-century exteriors and beautiful Renaissance-style interiors.

LERICI CASTLE

We cross the gulf of La Spezia to a castle built in the 12th century by the Pisans, complete with a 29-metre tower specially constructed to intimidate nearby Porto Venere, at the time under Genoese domination. The beauty of this castle has fascinated poets including Byron, Shelley and Keats.

FORTRESSES OF FIRMAFEDE AND SARZANELLO

The former stands on the city wall around the historic town of Sarzana, and owes its appearance to none other than Lorenzo the Magnificent. The latter, whose origins date back before the 10th century, was modified in the 14th century by Castruccio Castracani, who inspired Machiavelli’s Prince.

GAVONE CASTLE

Moving to western Liguria, we come to Finale Ligure, and a feudal castle built in the 12th century by Enrico I del Carretto, known as Il Valoroso. The tower, with its original diamond-patterned stonework, is absolutely unique.

DORIA CASTLE, DOLCEACQUA

We’re still in the 12th century, atop the hill overlooking Dolceacqua, the medieval town in Imperia province that enchanted Monet. It was the noble Doria family who turned the castle into a grand aristocratic residence; today it is sadly deteriorated, but still worth a visit, both for the building itself and the magnificent views.