You can start the virtual stroll at the place of your choice by selecting a key location from the list below.
Castelgrande (1)
Paradoxically, the extension of this monumental complex in the 15th century was not intended to defend Switzerland but to protect the Duchy of Milan, which was threatened by the Helvetic Confederation's desire to expand. Switzerland at that time was rather imperialist and the country's neutrality only began to emerge in the 17th century.
Castelgrande (2)
The castle has had different names throughout history. Until 1500 it was disputed between the Alpine states of the Swiss Confederation and the northern states of present-day Italy. In 1503 it fell into the hands of Uri, Schwyz and Nidwalden, who renamed it Uri Castle. Later it was also called St Michael's Castle.
Castelgrande (3)
Archaeological excavations have shown that the rocky ridge has been continuously occupied since the 4th millennium BC. The first fort was built by the Romans around 15 BC. In the mid-4th century, the Romans built a defensive installation that could accommodate an entire cohort. Over the centuries, the Roman fort continued to serve as a military base for the various powers that be and as a refuge in case of attack for the inhabitants.
Castelgrande (5)
After crossing the large northern and western courtyards of the castle, we are at the entrance to the southern courtyard. This is where the two restaurants, the museum and the entrances to the two towers are located.
Castelgrande (6)
To get here, there is a less tiring way than the ascent along Salita al Castel Grande. Since 1985, a lift has been going up to the foot of the White Tower from Piazza del Sole, where there is a large underground car park.
Castelgrande (7)
The two towers of Castelgrande were built long before the ramparts. On the left, the Black Tower, 28m high, was built in 1310 and has an Escape Room for those who enjoy escape games. On the right, the White Tower, 27m high, was built between 1250 and 1350 and offers an impressive view from the openings of its panoramic platform.
Castelgrande (8)
Behind us, a gate in the walls leads to the Grotto San Michele, one of the two restaurants in the castle, and to the stairs that lead down to Salita al Castel Grande, from where a path leads directly down to the old town. On our right, the alleyway leads to the lift down to Piazza del Sole.
Ramparts Gate
Salita Castelgrande passes under the walls and continues to climb towards the castle, offering more and more views over the city and distant glimpses of the other castles of Bellinzona.
Salita al Castel Grande (1)
Our walk to the castle starts on the street called "Ascent to Big Castle", a stone's throw from the old town. You can get here from the bottom of this street or from the Vicolo Socino path, both of which leave from Via Orico a little further down.
Salita al Castel Grande (10)
Our panorama here is directed towards Piz de Molinera (2288m), north of Bellinzona. To the left, the valley follows the course of the Ticino River, and splits further up between Leventina (towards Gotthard and Nufenen Passes) and Val Blenio (towards Lukmanier Pass). To its right, Valle Mesolcina climbs towards San Bernardino Pass.
Salita al Castel Grande (2)
In places you can see over the walls of the path the vines that cover the slopes of the hill to the south and west of the castle, whose crenellated towers you can already see.
Salita al Castel Grande (3)
We are not showing you the most direct way up to the castle, but the most spectacular. It is by passing the foot of its walls that you can see what a formidable fortress Castelgrande was.
Salita al Castel Grande (4)
Below us we see the large church Collegiata dei Santi Pietro e Stefano with the castle of Montebello above. On the right we see the high tower of the Palazzo Civico, the town hall.
Salita al Castel Grande (5)
The path leading up to the castle of Castelgrande offers beautiful views of the city, with in the distance the castles of Montebello and Sasso Corbaro, which once completed the city's defences.
Salita al Castel Grande (6)
With such a fortress standing on its rocky spur and reinforced by two other castles and ramparts crossing the whole valley, it was possible to control the entire passage between northern and southern Europe through the Alps.
Salita al Castel Grande (7)
We come within sight of the top of the ramparts, where we will find large lawns and superb views of both the fortress, its ramparts, the city and the surrounding landscape.
Salita al Castel Grande (8)
Above the battlements of the city walls, we can see the two castles that completed the city's defence system, Montebello and Sasso Corbaro.
Salita al Castel Grande (9)
Above the battlements of the city walls, we can see the two castles that completed the city's defence system, Montebello and Sasso Corbaro.
Salita San Michele
A few metres ahead is where our street crosses Salita San Michele. On the right, this path climbs up from Piazza Collegiata, in the old town. On the left, it continues up the stairs to the terrace of one of the castle restaurants and to its esplanade. But our stroll continues straight ahead to climb quietly to the castle.
Vicolo al Sasso
The path passes here at the top of Vicolo al Sasso ("alley to the rock"), a path that climbs up from the old town and starts from the Palazzo Civico, the town hall of Bellinzona.
Walls of Bellinzona
A first phase of construction in the 13th century was followed by the "Milanese" works in the 15th century, then by a restoration in the early 17th century and modifications in the 19th century. In the past, the walls joined the castle of Montebello to the east and the banks of the Ticino to the west, and were further reinforced in the 15th century with a bridge over the river and a tower against the mountain. An almost total lock on the valley!
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