Rocca Calascio, the highest mountaintop fort in Italy
Each of the picturesque castles dotting the Italian landscape have their own fascinating tale to discover. Some of them are hidden by woods and mighty mountain rocks, some of them stand proudly right next to modern-day cities and urban landscapes. These magnificent structures have survived wars, plagues, fires, reigns, and stood the test of time.
But do you know which castle has the highest location in Italy? Well, spectacular Rocca Calascio in Abruzzo is the highest mountaintop fort in Italy. Sitting at 1.460 m. above the sea, it’s also one of the oldest fortresses standing in Italy and furthermore it has been included among the 15 most beautiful castles in the world by National Geographic.
Built around the 10th century, the mighty Rocca Calascio castle is exactly where you’d want it to be, if you needed to have a watching point to control the area’s most important mountain roads between Tuscany, Lazio, Abruzzo and Apulia.
Today historic site of Rocca Calascio is a part of the Gran Sasso National Park. The startling scenery around, towering mountain, valleys and immense plains, narrow, winding paths makes of it an excelent hiking and climbing area.
The fortress was built exclusively for military purposes and intended only to accommodate troops and never as residence for the nobility. 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. And that’s how the mediaeval Calascio village was born around.
An earthquake badly damaged the fort and part of the medieval village in 1703, after which the castle was left in its ruined state as it no longer served any strategic geographical purpose.
How to get to the Rocca Calascio.
The most comfortable way to get to the Rocca Calascio is by car. We drived from Rome and the whole journey took about an hour and a half.
There are two parking areas – first is spacy and it’s next to downtown. Another brings you much closer to the base of the ruins, but be aware that it’s rather small and the parking place is never guaranteed.
We parked in Calascio downtown parking and hiked uphill to the ruins. For ordinary tourist, especially with kids the walk up could be little bit challenging. But if you are used to walking/hiking I recommend to take this chance in order to enjoy the most beautiful scenic views. We hiked and climbed up around 30 minutes. The path was marked with red and white colours on the stones and trees. Wild flowers were in bloom and the view just got better and better.
Once on top we’ve got awarded with absolutely unforgettable natural 360 degree scenery. Old castle was just beautiful with its setting against the lush green pastures, villages, dry craggy mountains and endless sky.
Furthermore a nice surprise was waiting for us – there was a possibility of a guided tour for free.
…and yess, one thing left to mention …two important films from the 1980s and 1990s were filmed in Rocca Calascio: “Lady Hawke” and “The Name of the Rose”.