The castle, the residence of the Malatesta of Gradara stands on a hill 6 km away from the beaches of Cattolica and Gabicce and is a magnificent example of military architecture of the XII – XIV centuries.
The town and castle are in good condition and still have many original parts despite numerous restorations undertaken. The fortress which was originally built 900 years ago by De Griffo, was enlarged and embellished over the centuries by the many lords of Gradara: the Malatesta family, the Sforza family and the Della Rovere family.
Today the castle is a national museum. Even the walls surrounding the old town are completely accessible and offer visitors a pleasant view of the rolling hills of the Marche. The fortress is accessed via a drawbridge. In one corner there is the mighty tower that was used as a courthouse and jail.
One of the rooms in the castle which was restored in the twenties, was the scene of the most famous love story of all time, between Paolo and Francesca narrated by Dante Alighieri in the Divine comedy. Francesca, the daughter of the Lord of Ravenna, married Gianciotto Malatesta, Lord of Rimini, who killed her when he discovered that he had been betrayed by his brother Paolo. Not to be missed is the dressing room of Lucrezia Borgia, the wife of Giovanni Sforza (Lord of Pesaro) and Alfonso d’Este (Duke of Ferrara). Also a must see is the castle chapel where you can admire the beautiful terracotta altarpiece by Andrea della Robbia.
Grand Hotel Des Bains> Gradara: 25 minutes
www.gradara.com (suitable in all weathers)
In the Marecchia Valley lies one of the most beautiful villages in Italy, San Leo, the origin of which has been traced back to Roman times. Its fortress dating back to 1479 is the work of the architectural military genius Francesco Giorgio Martini. San Leo was the birthplace of the noble family of Montefeltro, Duke of Urbino but the town owes its fame to that of Giuseppe Balsamo. This mysterious Count of Cagliostro, magician and healer was sentenced to death due to his Masonic activities but was then pardoned by the Pope and imprisoned in the fort where he died in 1795. The fortress itself contains important collections of ancient and modern weapons, prints, paintings and furniture. The village also boasts the medieval remains of the twelfth century cathedral dedicated to St. Leo and the ninth century parish church dedicated to St. Maria Assunta which remains virtually intact.
Grand Hotel Des Bains> San Leo: 40 minutes
www.comune.san-leo.ps.it (suitable in all weathers)
Visit to the Old Town
The Republic of San Marino is one of the world’s smallest states and lies within the Italian borders. The capital city of the country also called San Marino was founded in 301AD by the saint of the same name. This little country is so famous that it does not require a long presentation as all the information regarding its origin, monuments, towers and palaces, museums, shopping and tourist attractions are the subject of numerous guide books. San Marino is a very popular tourist destination. The walk through its quaint narrow streets full of shops, its breathtaking views and the displays of the unique ceremonies of state are a classic for both Italian and foreign tourists.
Grand Hotel Des Bains> San Marino: 40 minutes