Construction of the Baronial Castle began in 1319 with the restructuring of the walls – parts of which can still be seen – by Roffredo III Caetani, who wanted to make it the centre of his lordship. The Baronial Palace, connected to the castle by a passage, was built at the same time as the castle.
The Baronial Castle consists of a magnificent round tower, carefully constructed with cut stones, and crenulation resting on overhanging shelves above a square tower of irregular masonry, whose base is formed of large square stone blocks.
The remaining parts of the fortress with high cylindrical towers at the corners, built with irregular stones, date to the same period as the tower.
It was built over three distinct periods: the base or plinth perhaps in the early 13th century, the square and side towers in the early 14th century, and the keep in the second half of the 15th century.
The Castle of Gaeta
This first castle structure on the top of the promontory was probably built by one of the Docibile dukes in the tenth century.
The first substantial changes to the Docibile Castle were made by the Normans, and later, other important constructions flanked the original project. These major transformations were made in the Swabian era with Frederick II in 1227, the Angevin era with Charles II of Anjou in 1289, and Aragonese era with Alfonso I of Aragon in 1436.
Further alterations were made in the 16th century by Charles V. At the end of the 16th century, very little remained of the old Docibile fort, to the point that today we can rightly speak of two castles, one Angevin and the other Aragonese. The first, in a lower position, has a square plan with four circular corner towers, and was later used as a prison; the second, built by Alfonso I the Magnificent, was fortified on three sides with massive cylindrical towers and a lower defensive extension. From 1436 to 1442, it hosted the king of Naples, Ladislao di Durazzo.
In 1870, Giuseppe Mazzini was imprisoned here. Later, it was transformed into a barracks.
The Castle of Itri
This ancient medieval castle, the symbol of Itri, was built by the Docibile dukes of Gaeta, starting in the 9th century. Intended as a stronghold for defence against enemy raids, the castle, together with the ancient upper part of the town, is surrounded by imposing walls. The highest part of the fortress has a square tower and a polygonal tower; the lower part has a third cylindrical tower connected to the central body by an imposing walkway. This third tower is called the “crocodile” because, according to tradition, those condemned to death were thrown here, a delicious meal for the crocodiles kept there.
A series of smaller cylindrical towers enclosing a small evocative military parade ground completes the entire structure. Many of the castle’s elements finish in a crenelated wall, partly destroyed, but undergoing restoration.
The Castle of Maenza
Recently restored, its shape is quadrangular (almost equal sides), with four towers, one of which is semi-circular, a “rompitratta” or passage barrier, completely inaccessible and functioning as a cistern. The other three towers have quadrangular shapes and were used partially for active defence.
The castle is distinctive for a certain overlapping of stylistic elements added in an apparent non-chronological form. One example is the pointed portal, a Gothic reference, which precedes the round arch with a clear Romanic appearance.
During the renovation of the rooms on various levels, it was possible to recover some fragments of ceramics ranging from the 9th to the 16th century (closed forms: jugs, ewers, open forms: bowls, cups, chalices, plates) attributable to workshops in southern Lazio. Some interesting features on the castle’s first and second levels are the wall paintings, mostly in decorative tempera.
The Castle of Minturno
Its construction is to be attributed to Bishop Leone, mentioned in the Original Cassinese Document number 5 of 30-10-839, third indiction.
In 1105, the baronial castle passed to Richard I of L’Aquila and in the 13th century, it was the residence of the Caetani. It has hosted famous people, including St. Thomas Aquinas (1272). In 1452, at the behest of Alfonso d’Aragona, a number of restoration works were carried out.
In the 16th century the manor belonged to one of the most beautiful women in Italy, Giulia Gonzaga, countess of Traetto and Fondi and, subsequently, to Isabella Colonna. The very simple structure has a quadrilateral plan that creates a courtyard with Gothic ogival arches. The walls are made of local limestone reinforced with brick inserts. A cylindrical tower and a square tower are set against the impressive walls, both unfortunately truncated. Along the perimeter is some interesting but deteriorated 14th-century architectural evidence, such as drains, arches on shelves, battlements, part of the high walkway, a beautiful Gothic window and ogival doors. The interior of the Baroni hall is remarkable.
The Castle of Monte San Biagio
Built by the Lombards (7th century) on the ruins of a fortress or Roman temple, in a position dominating the town and plain of Fondi – Monte San Biagio, the Castle of Monte San Biagio can be reached either along the picturesque steps or by crossing the historical centre, which underwent major restoration works and was recently reopened to the public.
The structure, part of a complex defensive system for the town, also composed of imposing walls, barriers and guard posts, has a trapezoidal plan with a triangular tower on the south-west side and two towers, one circular and another semi-circular on the north side.
Altered by the Carolingians, it was later enlarged and fortified by Count Onorato II Caetani. The oldest document mentioning the castle dates back to 1099.
The Castle of Priverno
The palace, known as the Castle of San Martino, is a square-shaped building with four corner towers that almost make it appear to be a fortress. The interior is laid out around a large central courtyard and the entrance, with an arched portal made in ashlar, providing the opening at the centre of the main facade. Above this is the coat-of-arms of the Borghese family who owned the estate in the 20th century. The Castle, as well as hosting the Museum for Mathematics, Giochiamo all’Infinito, is used as a convention centre and has a hotel service. Worth noting in the hallway of the Museum, once a chapel, is a fresco with San Romualdo, founder of the Camaldolese order, a monastic community that inhabited the palace in the mid-17th century.
The castle, originally the residence of Cardinal Ptolemy Gallius (16th century), Secretary of State to Pope Gregory VII, is located in the Park of San Martino, an estate of about 33 hectares now owned by the city.
The Castle of Sermoneta
The majestic Caetani Castle is located in the village of Sermoneta and dominates the entire Pontine Plain.
Built in the early 1200s by the Annibaldi, its defences were increased over time and must have made it almost impregnable. The castle is certainly one of the most intact monuments of the ancient medieval architecture of Lazio and Italy.
All that remains of the 12th-century fortress, built by the Annibaldi, is the Maschio or tower, 42 meters tall, and the counter-tower called the Maschietto, dominating a quadrangular military courtyard or parade ground.
The rest was demolished by the same Castani, owners of the castle since 1297. They rebuilt the Sala dei Baroni and the adjoining building called “Casa delle Camere Pinte”, and built new buildings and walls.
In 1499, after Pope Alexander VI excommunicated and expelled the Caetani from their lands, the castle belonged to the Borgias who altered Sala dei Baroni (the Hall of the Barons) and built the so-called Casa del Cardinale Valentino Borgia and the powerful fortifications including the “Citadel” designed by Antonio da Sangallo.
When it returned to the Caetani at the beginning of the 16th century, after being looted in 1798 by French soldiers, massive restoration work was undertaken in the late 19th century.
Today the castle belongs to the Roffredo Caetani Foundation, created by Lelia Caetani, last descendant of the Sermoneta branch, deceased on January 11, 1977.