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Rocca Sonora (EN)

Rocca Sonora (EN)

Rocca dei Borgia

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full ticket € 3,50 (with free audio guide)
reduced ticket € 2,50 (with free audio guide)
(For a group of more than 8 persons, children up to 14 years and over 65)
free ticket
(For Pro Loco members of Gualdo Cattaneo, children up to 6 years, disabled and journalists)
FAI members € 2,50


stone tour € 5
reduced stone tour € 3
(For a group of more than 8 persons, children up to 14 years and over 65)
Rocca's tour + stone tour € 8
reduced Rocca's tour + stone tour € 5




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In the 15th century, military architecture underwent great changes due to development of a new war technology: artillery.
Building high towers or walls, inaccessible to enemies who would have to use exposed ladders to climb the walls and thereby enter the defensive structures, was no longer effective. Cannonballs fired from a distance could now penetrate these structures and allow troops to enter.

Following an order from the city of Foligno, the fortress of Gualdo was built between 1494 and 1498, in light of the new requirements for defensive fortifications. A pre-existing Rocca, built by the Trinci family, had been destroyed in 1439 when the Trinci family lost control to the Cardinal of Florence, Patriarch of Alexandria.
In August 1494 the architect Francesco di Bartolomeo da Pietrasanta was summoned to plan and build a new structure. Previously he had built the church of Madonna delle Lacrime in Trevi and the atrium of the basilica of S. Francis in Assisi. In addition, for the Trinci family, he built the oratorium of the Nunziatella which is not far from Palazzo Trinci.

The fortress of Gualdo was the last of several military structures built as part of a system of fortifications that had been developed east of Gualdo from the early Middle Ages until the Renaissance - on the border of territory that included the towns of Todi, Foligno and Perugia.

Even today several fortifications (castles, watchtowers, fortified villas and so on) survive in the vicinity of Gualdo.
The architect identified a triangle as the ideal shape for the fortification. It was called “angular”. and the design made it possible to have towers on the edges of the entire structure thereby bringing all the fortifications under the defenders’ control. As a triangular fortress, the Rocca has a central tower and two smaller lateral towers connected to each other through a system of underground walkways.

The Rocca has been completely restored and is now known as the Rocca Sonora because the visitor is guided through the structure accompanied by war sounds, voices and music from the Middle Ages.
In 1495 the works of the central tower, the heart of the fortress, started. There were no external stairs to access the building; the only way to do this was through a ladder that could be easily retracted, so that intruders would be unable to enter the Rocca. The first castellan was Giovanni Olivieri da Foligno.

He, like all the others who followed him, was obliged to reside here for six months together with his soldiers who were poorly-paid mercenaries. The group had to stay in the fortress for these six months, and after that they were substituted by a new team.
Perugia was always against costruction of the Rocca. For this reason, the city sent troops guided by Virginio Orsini to
destroy it but the siege was ineffective.

Works ended in 1500. The sumercio is the root of the fortress. A circular path connects it to the CORTILE, the court yard above ground. All day two soldiers, working in shifts of two hours, patrolled the area.
From the beginning of the 16th century the popes, and especially Julius II, reinforced their power over the territory with the result that conflicts between towns within the Papal States diminished.

In 1520, under Leo X (di Medici), the local territory was ruled by the pax romana and this mitigated hostilities between the towns.
The Rocca underwent a period of abandonment and decline because it no longer served a purpose. (In 1695, though, the town of Foligno decided to restore the fortress.)

In 1624, Galileo Galilei spent a few days in the Rocca, mentioning the healthiness of the air. He was on his way to Aquasparta to visit to Prince Federico Cesi, then president of the Accademia dei Lincei, the first academy of sciences to endure in Italy and a locus for the incipient scientific revolution.
In 1877 the fortress was again in a poor state, parts of the becatelli (open-floored galleries on the outside of battlements) were ruined, though they were rebuilt during another restoration in 1955. The last restoration was undertaken between 2000 and 2005 bringing the Rocca back into its original state, which is as we see it today.

During those periods when it was not used for its original (military) purposes the Rocca has served a pigsty, as a tool store and for food storage. In World War II partisans and some allies found refuge here.


The Rocca is a military fortress of triangular structure having a central tower and two smaller towers at its angles.
The towers are connected to each other through underground walkways. The MASTIO is the highest tower, at 20 metres high, with a circumference of 80 metres. The original architecture remains unmodified. (The central tower has lost its roof but the inside of the fortress is the same as it has always been.) The original access to the fortress it wasn’t the current one but it was accessed through a gap between the 2 turrets, visible from the Municipal Gardens, making the building impregnable.

The current entrance leads directly into two rooms which were the ARMERIA, the armory and the GUARDIA, the guard’s room. Going up the narrow stairs, you can reach the first floor with two rooms that served as CUCINE, kitchens.
The walls of these rooms have a special meaning for the locals: during the last restoration it was decided not to remove the plaster from them because they were covered with writing and signatures, the work of many locals who, beginning in the late 18th century, started to give notice of their presence here.

Going up to the next floor, other two rooms come into view; these were the DIMORA DEL CASTELLANO, castellan’s rooms. The last flight of stairs leads to the TERRAZZA PANORAMICA, the panoramic terrace, from which it’s possible to observe not just Gualdo from above but also the surrounding area and it can then be understood fully why this fortress was of such strategic importance.

Returning to the entrance, there are yet more stairs; they lead down to the SUMERCIO, the underground section of the fortress. In the Sumercio there are two larger rooms used as WAREHOUSE, a smaller room communicating with the previous ones, used as a SEPTIC TANK and another, currently locked, used as a TANK to collect water.

Pro Loco Gualdo Cattaneo

La Pro Loco Gualdo Cattaneo, nata nel 1812 promuove, valorizza e fa riecheggiare le eco della storia di questo splendido territorio.