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Castles in Eastern Sicily

Our dive into the castles of Sicily continues… You can also read the articles about the Castles of Western Sicily.

Castles in Catania

Castello di Aci Castello

The castle of Aci Castello was built in dark volcanic stone and it is situated on a cliff on the sea, not far from the town. Due to its strategic position, this place was used as a fortress and it was conquered by Normans. The castle was destroyed several times and it was partly damaged by the eruption of the Etna volcano in 1169. It also witnessed the clash between Aragon family of Sicily and Anjou of Naples but later in the time it became a prison in 1787 under the reign of Bourbons.


sicily castles
Castle of Aci Castello. Ph. gnuckx on flickr (flic.kr/p/8KnZG4)


Castello di Adrano

This castle in the Etna Natural Park was built by the count Ruggero that had freed Adrano from Arabic dominion. The castle has a rectangular basis and it was strengthened with lava stone on its corners. Some Islamic influence can be detected especially in the doors of the castle. The earthquake destroyed some parts of the castle but it is still possible to see several things such as the chapel and the baptismal font on the second floor.
The use of this castle has changed in the course of time: it has been the house of some noble families, a prison and then the museum open to visits.

Castello di Paternò

This is one of the best examples of Norman architecture that has been left in the region. It was built on a pre-existing Arabic building by Roger of Hauteville in 1702. The castle was used by Frederick II of Swabia in order to be used for short imperial staying. The towers were in the course of time used as prisons and the castle became property of the state under Bourbon dominion. The castle is made up of three levels: a wide living room and the chapel are on the ground floor, on the first floor there is a big room enlightened by four limestone mullioned windows, while on the second floor there is a gallery enlightened by two mullioned windows, one with a marble column and the other in lava stone.

Castello di Ursino

The castle is today a museum and it hosts art exhibitions. Frederick of Swabia asked architect Riccardo from Lentini to design it, and he opted for simple geometrical lines. The castle was originally built at only 50 metres from the sea, but the lava stone coming from an eruption of the volcano Etna in 1669 (the biggest in its history) covered the moat and expanded the coast for hundreds of meters. The inner part of the castle is rich in artistic elements such as the elegant vault, prestigious capital and statues.


sicily castles
The Ursino Castle in Catania. Ph. Lorenzo Blangiardi on flickr (flic.kr/p/Qn6cZH)


Castles in Messina

Castello di Milazzo

The castle of Milazzo dominates the whole town and it is situated in what was once a crucial position for several peoples in the past. Actually, the origins of this building are still unknown but it is likely to have Arabic roots as Arabic people partly built the castle, whose birth seems to date back to Greek, Roman and Bizantine times. Some changes were made by Norman, Swabian, Aragon, Spanish people to increase their defensive structure. Due to several people that contributed to its development it allows to follow a path throughout history.

Castello di Montalbano Elicona

The name of this castle was probably due to its position on the mountains coming from the name Mons Albus. It was built in the 14th century for military defense purpose thanks to its high position and it was one of the main buildings to protect the territory. It was then subject to several changes on behalf of Norman, Aragon, Spanish peoples who turned it into a royal palace and today it is the seat of cultural events where inside there is the famous Byzantine real chapel.


Castello di Scaletta Zanclea

This castle was built on three floors for military purposes by Swabia population in 1220. In the course of time several peoples lived in the castle until it was definitely inhabited by the Ruffo family who used it as a hunting residence. The castle is placed on top of a hill, making it quite difficult to adopt the building to the existing rock, and it can only be reached from one side. Although being a beautiful castle, its structure has been ruined due to its condition of abandoning.

Cittadella di Messina

This castle still preserves its beauty despite having been destroyed various times, especially in the 19th century when the Bourbons started to demolish its walls to probably enlarge the town of Messina and later on because of the population who wanted to fight against the Bourbon dominium. Although it was spoilt, it used to be one of the most important fortresses in the Mediterranean sea and it was all surrounded by water and protected by strong bastions making it impregnable. It was built by Iberian population to control some revolts of the local population. Today it is still possible to visit the inner part of the building and see some galleries in the small fort of Santo Stefano, the Controguardia Santo Stefano, the Opera Carolina e the Opera San Francesco.


Castles in Ragusa

Castello di Donnafugata

This castle, built in the 17th century and modified in the course of time, currently represents a mixture of styles including gothic and Venetian. More than a castle it was used as a house and its name is linked to the legend of Regina Bianca, the white queen, of Navarra escaping from Bernardo Cabrera who wanted to marry her to receive the title of king; this is the most enchanting legend surrounding the castle, but  there are some different positions on it as the castle was built after the legend. The palace is divided into three floors and if the inner rooms and ornaments are beautiful to see, what really deserves a visit is the 8 hectare park surrounding the palace where people spend a lot of free time in the coffee house, the stone maze and the artificial caves with fake stalactites.


Sicily Casltes
Donnafugata Castle, Ragusa. Ph. Jon Shave on flickr (flic.kr/p/aqFYe5)

Castles of Siracusa

Castello di Maniace

This castle is one of the most important witness of Swabia presence on the territory, and it was built thanks to the Byzantine commander Giorgio Maniace in 11th century. The castle was damaged in the course of time due to the war between the Anjou and Aragon family and it ended up becoming a prison. However, the worst damages were caused a heavy explosion in 1704 subjecting it to some works introducing Baroque style; nevertheless, the castle kept the original structure with square plan and four cylindrical towers.


castles sicily
Castello di Maniace. Ph. Jon Shave on flickr (flic.kr/p/aqDJok)


Forte spagnolo Portopalo

This Swabia-Aragon fortress was mainly built to protect the town from pirate attacks. The castle was built with square plan and there are not many windows. The fortress was divided into two main parts: the ground floor with a church while the upper part was destined to the accommodation of officers; two stairs shaping an L allow the entrance to the castle.

Forte di Vittoria Augusta

The legend around this castle sees Frederick II as the main protagonist who, after sheltering in this place during a storm, was so enchanted that he decided to build a house there. The forte was actually built by Frederick II and it has the aspect of big barracks; the building was destined for some period to the Navy. It underwent several changes but the structure has always been the same: square plan with towers at the corners.


Author: Anna De Filippo

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4 years ago

Hi Marcia,
sorry for the late reply. I tried myself to find some info about the castle you are mentioning, but it’s indeed quite hard to come across information. What I’d suggest you to do is to contact local associations specialized in local Messinese history, such as this one:http://www.istitutosalvemini.org/lastoria.asp. (Here’s their contact page:http://www.istitutosalvemini.org/contact.asp). I am fairly sure they will understand if you write in simple English.
Alternatively, you could consult websites such as archive.org, europeana.eu, or even google books, where you may be able to find full versions of books about the Messina 1908 earthquake, or about the Duke of Messina. It seems you may have to do some fine-comb research to find material, but it’s not impossible.
Let me know how it goes!


Marcia Panebianco
4 years ago

There was an Aragonese Castle built in Cumia, and occupied by the Duke of Messina, After the earthquake in 1908, I do not know what became of it and all records were lost. I would very much like as much information as possible. I do not speak Italian and have no way to find information.