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Rocca Pia, Tivoli

Rocca Pia: The Pride of Tivoli

Castle of Rocca Pia in the hilltop town of Tivoli

Rocca Pia is an ancient castle located in the historic city of Tivoli. The castle replaced the earlier Callisto II Borgia and derives its name from Pio II Piccolomini, the Humanist Pope who had ordered that the castle be built in Tivoli. Niccolo and Varrone were the two architects entrusted with the construction of the castle. The castle took one year to build and its main purpose was to control the city and to prevent any future revolts or violence.


The castle was built at the end of the medieval and communal era of Tivoli. Several changes were made to the city in order to make way for the new castle. The Roman amphitheater was leveled out and medieval walls with a door were constructed in the northern part of the city in order to defend it from invasions.

Detailed view of Rocca Pia, Tivoli

During the 18th century, the castle was occupied by Austrian and the French troops. During those years a few changes were made to the original structure in order to use it as barracks and prison. During the time of Napoleon the castle underwent changes as well, in order to facilitate its use as a prison. A factory had been added close to the northern walls. Till 1960, Rocca Pia continued to be used as a prison after which it was returned to the municipality. Tivoli then got the castle restored to its original glory.

After the construction of the Rocca Pia in Tivoli began the age of several castles and villas in Tivoli, for which the city is internationally renowned today.

The Castle

Rocca Pia, Tivoli – The castle – Photo courtesy of Arpingstone/Wikimedia

The castle boasts of four large towers of different dimensions. They are joined to the large walls with hanging bows, which is typical medieval architecture. The fire mouths which were introduced in those times can still be seen today. The two larger towers are situated outside in order to afford better protection. The largest tower is 13.20 meters high and has six rooms and the other tower has five rooms.

The two smaller towers of the castle are located towards the inner courtyard of the castle in order to control the inside of the city and the fortress. Both of these towers have three rooms each. The walls of the castle are quite thick and are still standing strong, defending the city even today.

For better protection, the entrance to the castle was controlled with the help of a drawbridge which is located on the northern side. The portal of the castle features an inscription with Latin text on it which mentions that the castle had been built by Pio II for the protection of the good people of Tivoli from the enemies.

If you are visiting Tivoli, you cannot leave this spectacula hillop town without exploring the castle of Rocca Pia, and seeing the sights of the city from its ramparts.

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