Castel Baradello near Como: the fortress that was destroyed
10 Oct

Castel Baradello near Como: the fortress that was destroyed

Castel Baradello is situated on the hill of the same name, the one overlooking the town of Como, in a spot where you can enjoy a breathtaking view: from here, you can admire the city, the lake, the Po Valley, the peaks of the Alps and even the Apennines. The name itself, in its origin, means "high place".

The best-preserved structure in the whole complex is undoubtedly the Romanesque square tower, whose base measures approximately 8 meters on each side. Its overall height is about 28 meters. The lower part is about 19 and a half meters high, it rests its foundation on the rock and it was formerly adorned with Guelph battlements; the upper part, which is also the most recent one, it’s 8 meters high and it was formerly crenellated with Ghibelline battlements. The battlements is now gone.

The first order of walls surrounding the tower dates back to the Byzantine era, to the Sixth or Seventh century, thus representing the castle’s oldest structure. We find mention of them already in the early Seventh century, thanks to the historian George of Cyprus, who described a complex defensive system called “Byzantine Limes”. Another wall, a newer one, surrounds these walls; it is contemporary with the raising of the tower and the inner walls. It is accessible through a charming and fascinating pointed doorway.

Nothing is the left of the other structures being part of the castle, except for their foundations; however, it was possible to reconstruct the whole layout. There was the chapel of St. Nicholas, which according to studies and researches is contemporary with the primitive walls; therefore, it dates back to the Sixth century. According to tradition, Napo Torriani was buried here, but no bones were ever found.

According to historical records, this castle served as a place of refuge for the population during the wars between Como and Milan. Thanks to subsequent agreements, Emperor Frederick Barbarossa rebuilt the city walls and Castel Baradello in 1158, strengthening it with the new tower. The following year the castle was home to the emperor and his wife, Beatrice of Burgundy, and on that occasion, the victory over Milan was celebrated with a Palio, that is still relived annually.

Castel Baradello was demolished in 1527 by the Spanish captain Cesareo don Pedro Arias on the orders of the governor of Milan, Antonio de Leyva, to prevent it from being conquered by French troops. Only the tower remained standing.

The castle is accessible in the summer months, from April to September, on Saturdays and Sundays afternoons. The weekday visits are available for groups of at least 10 people and must be booked.

The entrance ticket costs 4 €, reduced to 2 € for children and the elderly.