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Castello Orsini Odescalchi, Bracciano, Province of Roma, Latium, Italy

At about 20 miles from Rome, along the southern bank of Lake Bracciano, the Orsini Odescalchi Castle is one of the most beautiful feudal mansions in Europe, a fine fusion of military architecture and elegant mansion for Popes and the aristocracy, with rooms completely furnished, frescoes and innumerable paintings and works of art.
Address and Contacts: Castello Odescalchi di Bracciano - Piazza Mazzini, 14 - 00062 Bracciano (RM)
Telephone: (+39) 06 99802379 - Fax: (+39) 06 99802380
Telephone for the Museum: (+39) 06 99804348 - Opening times Tuesday to Sunday (usually also Mondays in August) 11.00 - 12.00 am, 15.00 - 17.00 pm, but check the castle official website: http://www.odescalchi.it/

More info on the town of Bracciano

History

Castello Orsini Odescalchi - Lazio During the centuries the castle had many famous guests as Pope Sistus VI in 1478 or in 1494 the French king Charles VIII, as well as its bloody events and legends. The whole castle is today a museum as well as a location for receptions, and recently was chosen for their weddings by Tom Cruise and Eros Ramazzotti.

Before the 12th century AD there was on the site a square sighting tower, around which the Prefetti family of Vico built their fortress. In 1419 the castle and its area came into the properties of the Orsini family, and from 1470 Napoleone Orsini began the construction of the powerful structure, that was completed under his son Gentil Virginio; the project is by some ascribed to Francesco of Giorgio Martini. In this period the fresco of Antoniazzo Romano was made. In the late 15th century the castle withstood two sieges led by the natural sons of Pope Alessandro VI Borgia.

view from the Giardino SegretoA renovation was made by Paolo Giordano I during the latter half of the 16th century, to bring the artillery of the castle up to date with the recent military developments. In 1560 Paolo Giordano Orsini who was at the time the Duke of Bracciano married Isabella Romola de' Medici (1542-1576). In this period Giacomo del Duca, a pupil of Michel Angelo, made a number of works on the occasion of the Orsini - Medici wedding. There is a story that she was unfaithful to him and used to spend the night with men that in the morning disappeared through a secret opening in the floor, where they died plunging into a well full of blades and lime. Some years after the marriage the Duke fell in love with a Roman lady, Vittoria Accoramboni, married at the time to Francesco Peretti; the duke got free of his wife, accusing her of adultery and strangling her, then organised the murder of Vittoria's husband. Some years later the new pope Sistus V, an uncle of Peretti, deprived Paolo Giordano of his title, and he fled with Vittoria to northern Italy, where he died immediately thereafter while Vittoria was killed on order of his cousin Lodovico Orsini; the tragical story is narrated in John Webster's "The White Devil".

In 1696 the Orsini family sold the castle on auction to the Odescalchi, originary of Como, Lombardy, related to Pope Innocentius XI (1676-1689), who made Livio Odescalchi a Prince of the Holy Roman Empire for his feats in the war against the Turks. In 1804 the French invaders plundered the castle, and the Odescalchi had to sell it, reserving the right to redeem it, to the Torlonia prince. In 1848 Prince Livio III Odescalchi married a rich heiress and was able to bring the castle back to his family, who still owns it today. His son Baldassarre ordered a renovation project directed by architect Raffaello Ojetti that brought the castle back to its pristine Renaissance splendour. In 1952 prince Livio IV Odescalchi opened the castle to the public, who can now follow an itinerary that through the sumptuous chambers, the paintings and furniture, the books and manuscripts in the library, the weapons and armor, tell of a magnificent history of some of the most relevant Italian families spanning for over six centuries; 2 of the rooms can also be hired for congresses and events.

Description

The castle rises in an elevated position, dominating all the lake and itineraries leading to Rome; it is built on a trapezium plan, with 6 big towers, 5 of them round and connected by a military corridor, while the 6th, partly truncated, is the oldest tower existing in the 12th century AD. The towers and all connected locals were the military soul of the castle and hosted a large garrison, which defended also the town. From the lodge of the inside courtyard it is possible to walk the ancient military corridor, and admire the wonderful Secret Garden.

Castello Orsini OdescalchiThe Inner Castle - The entrance is at the base of the eastern tower; in the hall a spiral stair leads to the study and library, called Sala Papalina. The courtyard, over 600 sq mt, has the form of an irregular triangle, along the western side is a lodge with columns decorated with the Orsini coat-of-arms.

The Church of Santo Stefano, attached to the western wing of the castle, was built in 1427, and was repeatedly renovated in the centuries.

The Giardino Segreto (=Secret Garden) a secluded oasis with an exceptional view of the lake, planned as a typical Italian garden, with 2 huge century-old cedar trees from Lebanon, and against the castle walls surrounding the garden on one side sculptures representing hunting scenes.

The Sala Papalina, where Pope Sistus IV was a guest during the plague of 1481, is inside the entrance tower, and is especially remarkable for the ceiling frescoed by Taddeo (1529 -1566) and Federico Zuccari (1542/3 - 1609), two painters born in Urbino, belonging to the Roman mannerist school, who made the frescoes with the natal charts of the spouses and the coat of arms of the two powerful families for the Orsini-Medici wedding.

The Sala Umberto I is so named because the Italian king sojourned here, just a few months before his assassination by an anrchist on 29 July 1900. The ceiling in wood covered with paintings is a work of Antonio of Benedetto Aquilo degli Aquili (c. 1430 - c. 1510) , nicknamed Antoniazzo Romano made in 1491, and features in the centre the coat of arms of the Orsini family; of great elegance is also the furniture in the Venetian style of the 18th century.

The Sala del Trittico - this rooms takes its name from a huge 3-part paintings of anonymous artists of the 15th century belonging to the Umbrian school; the 3 paintings represent the Annunciation, the Virgin Mary and St. Giovannino (st. John the Baptist in his childhood). Of great interest two nuptial chests and cupboards of the 16th century in the Tuscan style.

The Sala del Pisanello, with decorations in the "Fregio" (the frame below the ceiling) with frescoes ascribed to the school of the Italian painter Antonio di Puccio Pisano (1395-1455), nicknamed Pisanello, in the late Gothic style. The room also features majolica collections of different styles, from the 15th to the 18th century. On the walls are paintings representing members of the Odescalchi family, the work of Flemish painters of the 18th century.

The Sala dei Cesari, named from the presence of the busts of the 12 Caesars (Julius Caesar, Augustus, Tiberius, Caligula, Claudius, Nero, Galba, Otho, Vitellius, Vespasian, Titus, Domitian) placed around the room; this is the largest room in the castle, and was originally 15 mt high, then the 19th century renovation divided it into two floors: a whole wall is covered with a magnificent fresco of Antoniazzo Romano.

The Sala degli Orsini so called because on the walls were once 151 portraits of members of the family. Of that collection only those representing Giordano Paolo I, Isabella and Gentil Virginio are extant, together with the coat of arms of the Medici and Orsini families. In the room also antique furniture and ceramics of the 15th century.

The Sala Isabella or Red Room, from the colour of the tapestry once covering the walls, was the private bedroom of Isabella de' Medici, and features the legendary trapdoor where her unfortunate night lovers ended their days. The room is beautifully furnished in the 17th century Venetian style, with the Orsini monogrammed letters in the ceiling.

The Sala d'Ercole, so called from the Fregio under the ceiling representing scenes from the life of Hercules, shows armour and weapons collected by prince Ladislao Odescalchi.

The Sala d'Armi, which houses a remarkable collection of medieval armour from the 15th to the 17th century, including equestrian armors for tournaments also from Germany.

The Sala del Trono, or Science Room, originally a library or study, with walls decorated with a frame frescoed with allegorical images representing the disciplines of the Trivium (logic, dialectic and rhetoric) and Quadrivium (arithmetic, geometry, music, and astronomy), as well as the Muses and Planets.

The Courtyard and Lodge Other wonderful chambers are the Sala del Leone, with a marble sculpture of a lion of the 16th century, the Sala Siciliana, or Balcony Room, with an iron-wrought bed, which was originally plated in gold, a sophisticated work of a Sicilian school, the Sala Gotica, so called for its furniture and paintings, the Sala del Bobolaccio, the Sala degli Etruschi, which features a collection of items from Etruscan sites in the vicinity.

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