The Castle is of great importance historically, and above all, architecturally. The construction of the massive fortress, which merges with the underlying sandstone rock so the whole structure seems carved in stone, began in the second half of the twelfth century. The basic design of the Castle of Fosdinovo consists of a square with four round towers, a semicircular rampart, two internal courtyards, a central courtyard , patrol trenches above the roof, hanging gardens, galleries and an ancient defensive wall.
Protected once by a drawbridge, the main gateway enters into a thirteenth century romanesque style courtyard, which is framed at the base by marble columns supporting overhead arcades. From this small courtyard, where guns were once kept at the ready to defend the castle, rises a broad flights of stairs leading to a large central courtyard.
The courtyard boasts an elegant Renaissance porch with stone columns and a beautiful sixteenth-century marble portal leading to interior rooms of the castle, which were decorated and painted pre-1800. Next are the entrance hall, the dining room with a large fireplace and pharmacy ceramics from the 1600s, the throne hall, the Dante’s Chamber, the great hall and the room of trabocchetto (the trap room) with a torture room lying below.
THE SURROUNDING AREA
Seaside. From the patrol trenches at the top of the castle, the stretch of visible horizon includes the long Tyrrhenian coast, the sinuous Magra river, the Gulf of La Spezia, Portovenere, the island Palmaria, the Cinque Terre and on special days, over the clear expanse of the sea, the Capraia island, the Gorgona island and distant mountains of Corsica. The sea, in fact, is another major attraction of the area. The Tyrrhenian coast is extremely varied. The long and relaxing beaches of Versilia and a coastline dotted with villages was inspiration to artists like Shelley, Byron, Petrarca and Montale. The so-called “Gulf of Poets”. Further down the coast lies The Cinque Terre (Montrerosso, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola and Riomaggiore), which are five fishing villages famous throughout the world for their inestimable value and beauty.
Apuan Alps. These mountains offers many different hiking paths for lovers of trekking of all levels, national parks and refuges.
Quarries of Carrara. The most famous marble quarries (Fantiscritti, Ravaccione and Colonnata) are just thirty minutes driving far from the castle.
Castles. The Lunigiana is also named the “land of a hundred castles.” The more important, starting from the north, are the Castle of Pontremoli il Piagnaro, Castle Malgrate, the castle of Castiglione del Terziere, the fortress of Brunella of Aulla. Turning to the eastern Lunigiana, the two main castles are the Verrucola of Fivizzano and the Aquila Castle of Gragnola , restored in recent years.
THE GHOST AND HER LEGEND
The Castle is brought to life by the many infamous legends that surround it to this day.
The most famous of these concerns the young Bianca Maria Aloisia, daughter of Jacopo (James) Malaspina and Oliva Grimaldi. The beautiful girl was in love with a young man who wanted to marry at all costs. Their parents were opposed to that shameful for the family coat of arms, and threatened the poor girl with incarceration and meals of bread and water in the dungeon of the Castle. The young couple were not detered by these threats and refused to give up their love. This rebellion forced her parents to make a tough decision, banishing him to the country and locking the young girl in a convent. Not even this could keep them apart… when this was then reported to the castle, they were both locked in prisons and tortured. Even this did not stop the young lovers from meeting again. Only then, in order to avoid further scandal, the girl was walled living in a cell, together with a dog, a symbol of fidelity, and a wild boar, symbol of rebellion.
To confirm the authenticity of the story, recent excavations were carried out and the remains of bones probably belonging to a girl and two animals, were discovered in the castle.
THE MALASPINA OF FOSDINOVO
The first Malaspina on record, was Alberto, direct descendant of Oberto, founder of the noble and distinguished family of Obertenghi (945 a.c.). The origin of the name is the subject of many theories and legends. One, shown in a painting in the the castle, traces the origin to 540 AD when the young noble Accino Marzio revenged the death of his father by surprising the sleeping King of the Franks, Teodoboerto, by slashing his throat with a thorn. The desperate cry of the King “Ah! Mala Spina (bad thorn) ” gave rise to the surname and then the family motto ” Sum bona spina malis sum mala spina bonis”. In 1221 a.c. Malaspina family it is divides in two branches, the Malaspina dello Spino Secco and the Malaspina dello Spino Fiorito. These last ones will take possession, between the others, of the feudo of Fosdinovo and its castle where, in 1306, Dante Alighieri (a great friend of the Malaspina) will be hosted. Even today the castle still belongs at the Malaspina family.