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From the Castle of Celano to Villa della Regina in Turin, seven alternative itineraries for Italy’s hidden beauties

by Lorenzo Zanini

In Italy, art is everywhere. Rome, Naples, Palermo, Florence, Venice and Milan are “can’t miss” destinations for visitors wishing to experience the country's beauty. However, there are other places just as beautiful but not so widely known:

The Castle of Celano (L'Aquila)
The Piccolomini Castle in Celano (L'Aquila) is a manor built between the 13th and 14th centuries. It was expanded in 1450 and was acquired by Antonio Todeschini Piccolomini, nephew of Pope Pius II, who was named Count of Celano by Ferdinando I of Naples. It is possible to walk along the perimeter of the outside walls and discover the military technologies that were used in the late Middle Ages. Today, the Castle of Celano also houses an interesting Museum of Sacred Art of the Marsica area.

Cagliari: the archaeological museum
Visitors at the National Archaeological Museum of Cagliari have a chance to get to know the history and culture of Sardinia, from the pre-Nuragic Age (around 6000 BC) to the Byzantine period (8th century A.D.). The castle houses the ancient museum collections.

The Ducal Palace in Gubbio and its collections
The Ducal Palace, also known as Corte Nuova (”New Court”), was built in 1470 by the Duke of Urbino Federico da Montefeltro on existing medieval buildings. Gubbio was part of the Duchy of Urbino (1443-1631) and the palace erected by the Duke Federico (born in Gubbio like his son Guidobaldo) was a summer residence. Guidobaldo and his wife Elisabetta Gonzaga often stayed there and had a guest house built. The last ruler of Urbino, Francesco Maria II Della Rovere, also set up a rooftop garden.

The Towers of the Ducal Palace in Urbino
The Ducal Palace in Urbino, located to the side of the cathedral, is one of the most interesting architectural and artistic examples of Italian Renaissance and houses the National Gallery of the Marche region.
It was built for Federico da Montefeltro by various architects (Luciano Laurana and Francesco di Giorgio Martini, etc.) and is characterized by slender Torricini (i.e. towers) overlooking the cliff towards Porta Valbona.

The Abbey of San Fruttuoso
The Abbey of San Fruttuoso, nestled in the coast of the Portofino Mountain in Liguria, was donated to FAI (the Italian National Trust) in 1983 by Frank and Orietta Pogson Doria Pamphilj.The building dates back to the 8th century, when Prospero, bishop of Tarragona, on the run from Spain, that had been invaded by the Arabs, sought refuge in the bay and built a church where the relics of martyr Fruttuoso could be placed.

Most of the Abbey dates back to the 10th-11th century, while the dome - which was built in the 10h century - was later incorporated into the octagonal tower.

From Racconigi to Villa della Regina
An exhibition running at the Racconigi Castle, near Cuneo and entitled “Traditions of the Rising Sun at the Racconigi Castle” (celebrating 150 years of relations between Italy and Japan) displays in its halls - still furnished with 18th century Chinoiserie pieces - objects that bear witness to the spread of Japanese culture in Italy.
Turin's Villa della Regina, finally, offers guided tours of its historic vineyard, twinned with that of Vienna's Schönbrunn Castle.