Gradara Castle

Two days ago, on Sunday, my family and I were in the mood of having a ‘gita fuori porta’ (literally, ‘a trip out of gate’, i.e. to leave the city), so we decided to head for one of Italy’s main tourist attractions: the castle of Gradara (which is just a 20-minute drive from Pesaro).

Here are a few pictures we took of the beautiful medieval castle where, apparently, the tragedy of Paolo and Francesca took place.

Inside the castle, still inhabited until the beginning of the 20th century, many pieces of art are to be found:  the IMG_0113‘Pala di Giovanni Santi‘ father of the world famous  Raffaello Sanzio (Rapahael), representing the Madonna on the throne with the baby Jesus, surrounded by the Saints:  Stefano, Sofia, Giovanni Battista and Michele Arcangelo. The Altar ‘Pala’ is dated April 10th  1484, and signed by the painter.

I am also particularly fond of the terra cotta invetriata byAndrea Della Robbia behind the chapel’s altar pala_robbiana1_p(15th century) (see picture here on the right).

When I used to work as a tourist guide in Gabicce (5 km far from Gradara), on the Adriatic coast, back in the 90’s (it seems like yesterday!), I remember loving lingering in Francesca’s bedroom and dreaming about what has been one of the most romantic (and tragic!) love stories in world history turned, alas!, into tacky post-cards like the one above… (unfortunately the picture does not account for the glittering effect!).

Anyway, those of you who follow me (by the way, grazie a tutti!) know that I am no history expert nor a fine arts historian. 

I just meant to write about our Sunday trip and give you a hint about what to see if you ever come to this little corner of Italy.

Two last things:

  • pizza at Berto’s – on the left of the main entrance – is also worth to stop by;
  • while walking along the steep path to the castle, you might as well call at Bartolucci shop (woodcraft) and get lost among the many Pinocchios!

And now, a little Dante on the tragedy of Paolo and Francesca (The Divine Comedy, Canto V)

One day,
For our delight we read of Lancelot,[4]
How him love thrall'd. Alone we were, and no
Suspicion near us. Oft - times by that reading
Our eyes were drawn together, and the hue
Fled from our alter'd cheek. But at one point
Alone we fell. When of that smile we read,
The wished smile so raptorously kiss'd
By one so deep in love, then he, who ne'er
From me shall separate, at once my lips
All trembling kiss'd. The book and writer both
Were love's purveyors. In its leaves that day
We read no more

Noi leggiavamo un giorno per diletto
di Lancialotto come amor lo strinse;
soli eravamo e sanza alcun sospetto.

Per più fïate li occhi ci sospinse
quella lettura, e scolorocci il viso;
ma solo un punto fu quel che ci vinse.

Quando leggemmo il disïato riso
esser basciato da cotanto amante,
questi, che mai da me non fia diviso,

la bocca mi basciò tutto tremante.
Galeotto fu ‘l libro e chi lo scrisse:
quel giorno più non vi leggemmo avante».


  1. […] I happened to be in Tavullia on Tuesdays with my sister Cristina, our mutual friend Ferderico and an acquaintance of my sister. My sister’s acquaintance was driving from the neighboring Romagna, so we decided to meet in Tavullia for a quick lunch together, as Tavullia lies in a strategic position between the two regions Emilia Romagna and Marche (incidentally, it also happens to be just a few kilometers away from the enchanting castle of Gradara!) […]

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