Castelvecchio: a medieval jewel in the heart of Verona

Castelvecchio in Verona (c) Alessandro Pantano
Castelvecchio in Verona (c) Alessandro Pantano
The ancient fortress of Castelvecchio, magnificent example of fourteenth-century engineering, after a careful restoration by the architect Carlo Scarpa, now houses an important art collection.

Castelvecchio, built around the middle of the fourteenth century near the historic center, is an imposing medieval military fortress, which today houses the homonymous Civic Museum (Museo Castelvecchio). Originally called Castle of San Martino in Aquaro, it took the name of Castello Vecchio (Old Castle) when a new and more imposing fortress was built by the Visconti family on the top of San Pietro hill. Over the centuries, it covered multiple functions: it was in fact the arsenal under the Venetians, barracks under the Austrians and finally, in 1944, the seat of the famous Process of Verona, which marked the death sentence of Galeazzo Ciano and other fascist hierarchs.

In the early years of the twentieth century was subjected to a first restoration to transform it into a museum and there were transferred the civic art collections previously kept in Palazzo Pompei. From 1958 to 1964 it was the subject of a second renovation and a rearrangement of the rooms and the works exhibited in them, curated by the great Venetian architect Carlo Scarpa, who tried, as far as possible, to bring to light the original structures, while integrating modern elements and details, in order to make the most usable as possible the museum route. The result is a perfect blend of past and present, in which the typical materials of Veronese tradition, such as marble from Valpolicella, alternate with steel and concrete, so much so that the restoration of Castelvecchio is considered Carlo Scarpa’s absolute masterpiece.

Today the fortress houses the Civic Museum, one of the largest Italian art collections, whose interesting exhibition path ranges from sculpture to medieval jewels, to painting, from 1300 to 1700, including works by Rubens, Paolo Veronese, Pisanello and Mantegna. Particularly suggestive are the castle’s patrol walkways, which allow visitors to admire Verona from above as it dazzles over the Adige River.