1446 Francesco Sforza lays siege to Sigismondo Malatesti’s troops in the castle
1463 Federico di Montefeltro conquers Gradara
1494 Restoration of the Rocca by command of Giovanni Sforza
1510 Birth of Costanzo Sforza, son of Giovanni
1512 Della Rovere acquires dominion over Pesaro
1631 Transferral of the duchy to the Papal State
1921 – 1923 Rocca restored by the engineer Umberto Zanvettori
Rocca di Gradara, a jewel of Italian fortified architecture, is the result of several phases of reconstruction that have occurred over the centuries, until the last great restoration done between 1921 and 1923, which marked the building with a strong imprint of medieval and neo-medieval style.
The castle layout – a quadrilateral with corner towers – can be seen as a typical example of fourteenth century military architecture.
Owned by the Malatesti family until the family’s defeat by Federico di Montefeltro, in 1463 the complex passed to the Sforzas of Pesaro, the family that ruled between 1445 and 1512, years of great splendour for the city and its castles .
The Sforza family commissioned the Putti Room’s paintings, completed around 1510 to celebrate the birth of Costanzo, son of Giovanni Sforza. With this work, the painter sought to depict the auspicious and prosperous continuity of the Sforza line by depicting children playing happily. However, in 1512 little Costanzo died and the Sforza reign rapidly fell, replaced by Francesco Maria Della Rovere, nephew of Pope Julius II, who wanted to give Francesco domain over Pesaro in addition to Urbino.
Documents show that in 1631, after the duchy’s transferral to the Papal State, the Rocca went through periods of glory and decadence until the 1700s, when a restoration was undertaken with archaeological criteria.
Drawings dating back to the mid-1800s show the castle in critical condition, and it was only between 1921 and 1923 that the entire complex underwent a complete restoration thanks to Umberto Zanvettori, a little-known lover and patron of the arts. Besides implementing an impressive consolidation of the walls, he carefully staged the rooms, especially those on the main floor, or “piano nobile”, where he replicated the structure of a stately home between the Middle Ages and the Renaissance.
Room furnishings are carefully chosen, with pieces of great artistic value found in antique markets and eclectically mixed in different rooms. Paintings on walls depict heraldic emblems of ancient lords and, at times, there is a considerable degree of arbitrary choices.
This reconstruction has been conceived not so much with authenticity in mind, but rather with a D’Annunzio-style taste for excess and captivating atmospheres.
In 1928, shortly before his death, Umberto Zanvettori sold the castle to the Italian state, but not without first assigning life tenancy to his wife Alberta Porta. Thanks to an agreement, the most important rooms, such as Francesca’s Bedroom, were opened to the public in 1967.
A legend that developed in fairly recent times says that the tragic story of Paolo and Francesca, the unhappy lovers written of by Dante in Canto V of the Inferno, took place within the residence’s walls.
In 1983, year in which Zanvettori’s widow died, the monument was fully opened to the public, coming into full state ownership.