First built in the second half of the 13th century, it is an exquisite example of fortified architecture in the period between the Middle Ages and the Renaissance.
The Fortress was home to the reigning leaders of Imola throughout the centuries. First of all the Roman Catholic Church, then the noble families Alidosi, Visconti and Manfredi, but the renaissance transformation of the fortress began under the Sforza reign.
The Fortress was given as dowry to Caterina Sforza, on her marriage to Girolamo Riario, nephew of Pope Sixtus IV and new Lord of Imola.
In the original fortified layout, nine towers were built along the perimeter and the tenth at the centre of the courtyard, where it still stands. The renovated building includes dungeons, residences on the main floor and a terrace that offers a beautiful view of Imola and the hills around the city. The only element of the original building that is still visible is a Gothic arch that was the first entrance to the castle in ancient times.
At the end of the 15th century, the corner towers were englobed in wider, rounded structures or “torrioni”, for better defense. The effects of this transformation are visible in the tower on the east corner. The same period saw the construction of a noble living quarters inside the Fortress, called “Il Palazzetto”.
With the death of Pope Sixtus IV, the Sforza-Riario leadership began to crumble, culminating with the arrival of Cesare “il Valentino” Borgia in 1499 and the definitive return to power of the Vatican.
The Fortress was used mostly as a prison until the beginning of the current restoration in 1958. The Fortress has been open to the public since 1973 as museum, housing collections of weapons and ceramics.
Photo by Wwikiwalter and Eugenio Tampieri, licensed by CC BY-SA