This story starts in the Middle Ages near the Gran Sasso, the highest mountain in central Italy.
In the 11th century, a tower was erected on the top of a rock peak. One century later, records show the presence of a large tower surrounded by walls and a wooden bridge (a typical structure in medieval architecture, called ‘rocca’ in Italian). Built at 1,500 meter above sea level, the Castle of Rocca Calascio is the highest castle in Italy. The ‘rocca’ had a strategic and military function, and over the centuries soldiers, servants, shepherds, and iron forgers, with their families, moved their homes nearby, to be close to the fortress and have the protection of its defensive wall.
The first historical record of Rocca Calascio is in a document from 1380, through which Charles III of Naples assigned Count Pietro Berardi from Celano the castles in the Barony of Carapelle (Santo Stefano di Sessanio, Castelvecchio, and Rocca Calascio).
The main role of the fortress in Calascio was to control the area’s most important mountain roads, which were crucial for wool trade between Tuscany, Lazio, Abruzzo and Apulia.
After political and military developments in 1579, the Barony of Carapelle (including Rocca Calascio) was bought by the prominent Tuscan family of the Medici. Hence the region started supplying wool for all of Florence’s fine dress markets.
In 1703, a terrible earthquake destroyed part of the medieval village and of the stronghold.
Two important films from the 1980s and 1990s were filmed in Rocca Calascio: “Lady Hawke” and “The Name of the Rose”. Now, after archeological excavations and architectonical research were conducted by professor Fabio Redi of the University of L’Aquila and his team, the castle and the surrounding town have become one of the most important tourist destinations in Abruzzo.
The castle looks like it was made in the same limestone rock of the Apennine, as if its incredible architecture was the mountain’s natural creation. The strategic position it was given by its original designer now allows visitors to admire breathtaking views, and to feel an extraordinary connection with nature; it sparks the imagination and can take us back to an ancient time, when nature was pure, in all of its majesty, like it is still today in the National Park of Abruzzo, Lazio and Molise.