Gradara is a small town in the Marche area and for a couple of years I dreamed a visit to its castle. I was intrigued by a youtube series and, at the first opportunity, I went there right away! From Cattolica you can get up to the Gradara castle thanks to a little train that runs between the two cities: the ticket costs 8.00€ (with return)
and there are several rides every day (09,00 – 10,00 – 11.00 to 12.00 – 15.00 to 16.00 – 17.00 to 18.00; from the first weekend in June there is also the evening service: 20.00, 21.00, 22.00, 23.00). If you arrive by car I report you a paid parking lot near the City hall (It is the nearest to the castle entrance, you can hardly go wrong).
The small village, surrounded by the castle defensive walls, strucked me immediately: time seems to go slow and peaceful throughout the village.
According to legend, in this castle was born the love between Paolo and Francesca (wife of Gianciotto, Paolo’s Brother):
Dante speaks of this pair of lovers in the fifth canto of the Divine Comedy, in which Francesca tells how he was deceived, and how evil her husband was: according to the story of Francesca, her husband had ordered his servant to follow the two young people and to report what they were doing; while they were reading the story about Lancelot and Guinevere the two young lovers deeply exchanged a kiss: The servant ran to alert Gianciotto who killed two lovers. The marriage between Francesca and Gianciotto Malatesta was decided by their families just to reach a political stability between the two most powerful families in the Romagna.
Still to this day we do not know if this crime really happened (there are no official evidence). The ticket can be bought at the Tourist Information and Reception Office of Gradara (Via delle Mura 4) and you can choose between two kind of ticket: one only for the castle (6€) and one for the castle and and the walkway (7€): we have chosen, of course, the second and we just started with a stroll along the walkway (the access is from the same tourism office where you buy the ticket). The walkaway, at one point, takes visitors down from the walls and continue the walk through the village itself, up to the small bridge that gives us access to the castle
(there you have to show your ticket to the staff). To visit it in full it takes just over an hour and I was pleasantly surprised by the fact that I found a lot of explanation around the various rooms and all the explanations were relatively well made (in other occasions I came across very few explanatory signs that gave explanations and were almost useless). We started from the torture chamber and we continued through all the rooms and bedrooms that housed the lords of the castle. I was particularly impressed by the small details of rooms, from tapestries to the frescoes on the walls and chimneys. Of course I could not resist to look out through the open windows: the Marche countryside know how to give visitors magnificent views to photograph!
I recommend you to throw an eye also to the views during your visit. Since we arrived in Gradara pretty soon, a little bit before 10 o’clock, we didn’t find too many visitors: This for us was very pleasant because it allowed us to enjoy the castle smoothly, without other people talking too loud to each other. Therefore I recommend you to arrive early to fully enjoy the castle! We end the tour with a visit to the castle chapel. I conclude the story with a note: hanging out on the Internet to find useful information and information about the castle I have read that some people say that the “castle of Paolo and Francesca” was the fortress of Castelnuovo near Meldola and not the Gradara Castle (which is the truth? I will tell you when I will find out)
One day we reading were for our delight
Of Launcelot, how Love did him enthral.
Alone we were and without any fear.
Full many a time our eyes together drew
That reading, and drove the colour from our faces;
But one point only was it that o’ercame us.
When as we read of the much-longed-for smile
Being by such a noble lover kissed,
This one, who ne’er from me shall be divided,
Kissed me upon the mouth all palpitating.
Galeotto was the book and he who wrote it.
That day no farther did we read therein.”
And all the while one spirit uttered this,
The other one did weep so, that, for pity,
I swooned away as if I had been dying,
And fell, even as a dead body falls.