Castle of Palizzi
The fourteenth-nineteenth century Castle of Palizzi Superiore, which stands on top of an enormous sheer-faced rock formation, 300 metres above sea level, dominates the town’s Mediaeval historic centre. It was considered an important defensive stronghold built to staunch the area’s centuries-old enemies, the Turkish pirates. The fact that the only entrance to the castle is through via Castello, proves the validity of its strategic position.
We have no definite information concerning the time of its foundation, but a Latin inscription dating 1580 on a gateway plaque reads: “crumbling due to old age”. Although the original fortress was probably built in the thirteenth century, the present building was begun a century later by the Ruffo family. Over the years, it was restructured many times which helps to explain its present-day variegated aspect.
The original defensive structure was restyled by the Romanos, the Colonnas and the Erbos in the sixteenth century and again by the Arduino di Alcontres in the eighteenth century, before it was definitively converted, in 1866, into a palace by the baronial family of the De Blasios (in the person of Tiberio who decided to rebuild the castle in Palizzi exactly one year after the death of his father which took place in the castle itself). The palace to the west of the castle was built in brick.
After its reconstruction, the castle was used as a summer residence by Don Tiberio until his death in the 1873, at the early age of 46.
Of the original fortified building there remain the tall boundary walls with their sturdy bastions, interspersed with escarpments and tori and containing embrasures which follow the contours of the outcrop and present some traces of the old battlements and louvres. Finally there are two towers, one cylindrical and embattled on the eastern side, the other, angular, on the opposite side.
The main entrance, surmounted by a machicolation, retains its stone arc ring and coat of arms with an inscription recalling Francesco Colonna, who had the castle restored in 1580. In 1943, Carlo de Blasio took refuge here, while Reggio was being bombed by the Anglo-Americans. Between 1950 and 1960, Ferdinando de Blasio, known as Nandino, lived in the castle during the summer with his wife Donna Noemi and their children. Don Nandino arranged to have minor renovations of the residential part of the building carried out, but they proved insufficient to staunch its gradual deterioration. Today, the residential area which he had restored is practically roofless. A certificate drawn up by the Mastro d’atti for Palizzi [a royal Neapolitan official, comparable to a registrar], Xavier Grimaldi, states that, in 1751, the castle was surrounded by walls with two towers, that inside there were: a large stairway with a single window, a kitchen “with a hearth and chimney”, a room with a planked ceiling, a “rustic anteroom with a wooden ceiling”, a number of other rooms, warehouses and cellars.
The building is composite due to the many alterations and additions carried out under the various dominations it experienced down through the ages. Circular crenelated corpora, protruding through the curtain walls of the main building, bestow movement on the overall layout. All the façades are embellished with linear cornices, studded, on the main façade, with small oval chinks. There are numerous openings in the walls, round-arched windows on the ground floor and more complex, pointed ones on the upper floor. The main entrance as well as that leading in from the terrace overlooking the town, are situated on a rounded, battlemented corpus protruding from the wall. The interior presents obvious signs of restoration (on-going) including steel joist supports and new wooden-beamed ceilings. A wooden walkway permits access to the main rooms. On the ground floor, saddles and other items belonging to a rather recent period, when the castle was used to house animals, may be seen. The other rooms, of which those on the top floor are inaccessible because of the collapse of the as yet unrestored roof, were used as stables, kitchens, storerooms and private lodgings. The castle was also equipped with prison cells, gouged out of the underlying rock.
From a technical point of view, the building consists of horizontal layers of multi-form stone cemented together with plenty of mortar, while the tori, cornices and corbels are in solid limestone. All the facings contain brick and broken-tile facings. The latest section, built under De Blasio, is in load-bearing masonry.
The castle was declared a National Monument by the Italian Ministry of Culture and is now being restored.
Palizzi Castle is about 60 kilometres from Reggio Calabria.