Standing sentinel over the city and as testament to Como’s eventful past, the Baradello Castle reopens its doors for the summer with one-off openings on Monday 25th April and Sunday May 1st. Thereafter it is open every Sunday from June to the end of September.
As everyone entering Como from the direction of Milan can appreciate, the castle occupies a strategic position perched on the so-called Baradello hill with a 360 degree view taking in the Po Valley and the foothills of the Alps.
The site seems to have been occupied from the Bronze Age with the first fortification dating to the 10th century but nothing is too certain until we get to Frederick Barbarossa, the Holy Roman Emperor who built the castle in 1158 having just pacified Milan. The original construction consisted of the square tower that still remains, a residential palace, a chapel and two large water cisterns built to withstand siege.
The tower and the additional fortifications constructed by Frederick Barbarossa including the Porta Torre and City Walls helped establish the validity of Como as a city independent of Milan and able to define and enforce its own ordinances. Barbarossa gifted the tower to the city in 1178 and it helped maintain Como’s independence of Milan and the Lombard League up to the 1330s.
A document from 1216 gives some insight on the custodians of the castle. There was a regular guard of 12 citizens elected to serve for a 6 month period with 2 of them designated as captains. They each had to provide their own armour and were obliged to sleep there at night although only 8 were required to stay over during the day. They had a monthly salary of 30 ‘soldi’ a month. My guess is that, outside of moments of conflict, this was an honorary role.
The Baradello Castle also gives it name to the annual Palio del Baradello which is an enactment of the games and triumphal march organised in the summer of 1159 by the citizens of Como as a mark of gratitude to Barbarossa for securing their independence from Milan.
“The city of Como gives him a hearty welcome with great feasts and revel: big banquets, illuminations, contests and equestrian tournaments are organized in his honor”.
See calendar entry for August to see more information on the Palio although details of the event are not yet ready.
Getting back to the Castle, it is open from 10.00 – 18.00 (last entry 17.30) on April 25th, May 1st, and all subsequent public holidays and Sundays from June to September. The entrance fee is €5, €4 for those over 65 whilst children of 13 years and under are free. The interior has been renovated since last year and the exhibition updated with a range of objects found during recent archaeological digs. The exhibition has been organised in conjunction with Como’s Museum of Archaeology. The castle itself is managed by the Parco Regionale Spina Verde who are responsible for marking out the walks. Follow footpath No. 10 from Piazza Camerlata to get to the castle.