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Locarno –Visconti Castle

One castle, four dominations, 800 years of history!

Svizzera, Cantone Ticino, LOCARNO


(CH 1903) E   704660 N   113820 H   202.0
(WGS 84) Long.   8.794 Lat.   46.168
INTERESSE CONTESTUALE Archaeological, Historical, Architectural
ARCHAEOSITE   fortification structure


Visconti Castle is located in a high strategic position in order to control Verbano and the lake route connecting Milan to Bellinzona. It is closely related to the port facilities, highlighted in the present Rotonda di Piazza Castello, through different stages of domination attested to not only by enlargement of the buildings, but also by the presence of the coats of arms of noble families who once lived there. Today, the castle is arranged around an inner courtyard and consists of the main building with three sections, a small building with a loggia, the great semicircular tower with a portion of the walkway, the ravelin (a triangular fortification) and the harbour. In the interior of the castle there are carved and painted wooden ceilings from the fifteenth century which have been preserved, some original terracotta floors, frescoes and paintings attributed to various historical periods.


The remains of the first structure, destroyed by the Milanese in 1156, are located under the courtyard of Casorella, the last building to be annexed to the castle. The oldest part of the complex which is visible today dates back to the thirteenth century (the Castle of the Orelli). With the conquest by the Visconti in 1342, the castle was reinforced by a semicircular tower and a surrounding wall to protect the port as well. The transfer of the castle to the Rusca family in 1439 saw the strengthening of the defensive structures and the transformation of the castle into an elegant residence. Beginning in 1531, a large part of the castle was dismantled by “landfogti” (administrators of justice and tax collectors) following the peace of Fribourg in 1513, and the material was reused in the construction of the churches of San Vittore and San Francesco in Locarno. The structure, used by landfogti until 1798, owes its present appearance to the restoration conducted by the painter Edward Berta in the years 1921 to 1928, which highlighted the historical aspects of the castle.


The construction of the Rivellino, a mighty polygonal rampart in the Tuscan style, is dated at 1507. It was built by order of Charles II d'Amboise at a time of great tension between the French and the lords of Milan (and therefore of Locarno) and the German Empire. Recently, the structure has been attributed to Leonardo da Vinci. The ten-metre-high rampart has tunnels which are ten and seventeen metres long with walls three-and-a-half metres thick and over five metres in height and width.
scala temporale periodi geologici


By bus: from the station, take the bus for Brione s. Minusio. Get off at the Piazza Castello stop and walk for one minute to Piazza Castello. By car: take the A13 motorway towards Locarno, exit at Locarno, and at the roundabout take Via Vincenzo Vela to the car park. Walk along Via Vela towards the Castle. Opening hours: Tuesday - Friday: 10.00 - 12.00 / 14.00 - 17.00; Saturday: 10.00 - 17.00; Sunday: 10:00 - 17:00. The ruins of the ancient port in the Rusca underpass are always visible.



AA.VV. Guida d’arte della Svizzera Italiana, Bellinzona, 2007

Rüsch E., Carazzetti, R., Locarno, il Castello visconteo e la Casorella, Guide ai Monumenti Svizzeri SSAS, 2002


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Programma di cooperazione transfrontaliera Italia - Svizzera 2007 - 2013 Progetto cofinanziato dal Fondo Europeo Sviluppo Regionale (FESR)
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