The Castles of Montecchio Maggiore

imagesCommonly known as the castles of Romeo and Juliet, the Castello della Villa and the Castello della Bellaguardia are located a short distance from each other, on top of a hill overlooking Montecchio Maggiore. This is such a strategic location that the Romans were the first ones to build observation towers here. The first historical documents that mention the existence of a castle in this area date back to the year 1000. The first owners of the castle were the Bongiudei, then ownership of the castle remained in the hands of the Pilei, a family of German origins, for over two centuries.

In 1243 the castle was destroyed by Ezzelino III da Romano and it was only in 1354 that Cangrande II decided to built on its ruins a fortress that included two castles.

At that time the castles in their entirety were connected by walls, the inner area was of about 15 hectares (corresponding to the local measurement of 40 fields of Vicenza), on which stood wood and stone buildings, where soldiers and citizens could find refuge in case of war. Today nothing is left of those walls.

In 1514, during the Lega di Cambrai war, Bartolomeo D'Alviano ordered the destruction of the castles, so that they could not be used by other invaders for war purposes. The castles were finally bought by the city of Montecchio Maggiore in 1742, but the real restoration didn't start until 1936.

The Castello della Villa is Romeo's castle. It has an area of 1850 square meters and its tower is 22 meters tall. The Castello di Bellaguardia is Juliet's castle. It is the castle that controls the access points. It has an area of over 1500 square meters and its tower is 20 meters tall. Inside visitors can admire the works of Pino Casarini, which include twelve scenes that tell the love story of Romeo and Juliet, and the portraits of William Shakespeare and Luigi da Porto.