November 9, 2005
The Sasso Corbaro was built to fill what was considered a dangerous gap in the impenetrable line of city defenses – a spot high above the city where marauders could slip through. Built between 1478 and 1482, the smallest of the city’s grand castles is in the final stages of restoration.
To reach Sasso Corbaro, you must be prepared to climb. The local buses will take you most of the way up the hill, and then you must hike a short distance from there. (If you have a private car, a limited number of spaces are available at the top of the hill). The view is worth the climb. If you are really fit, the climb all the way up from the train station takes approximately 1-1/2 hours.
From the parking area, a cobblestone path brings you to the outer bailey; here you realize that the castle is really an enlarged garrison. The main fortress is approximately 25m x 25m, with an observation tower on the southwestern corner, and the fortified keep taking up the northeastern section. Like the two castles lower in the valley, the building is constructed of local grey stone, with machicolations and swallowtail merlons, giving them a very unified look.
Later, during peace times, the fortress was used as a prison. Weather, particularly lightning, damaged the building in the 1500-1600s, and sketches by J.R. Rahn in 1889 showed the building beginning to slide into ruin. Thankfully, the historical value of the castles was realized and the castle has been restored.
A small gift shop and café take up parts of the ground floor. Most of the rooms and hallways within the keep have been transformed into gallery space and meeting rooms; since there is a restaurant on-site with catering available, it has become a popular place for receptions and parties.
In terms of content, there is not a great deal to see here, beyond the Sala Emma Poglia, an outstanding example of 17th century Ticino woodcraft.
The best reason to come up here is of course, the outstanding views of the beautiful sun-drenched valley – on clear days, you can see down the valley towards Locarno, and northwards into the passes – making it easy to see why this became an important addition to Bellinzona’s defenses.
From journal Bellinzona - Gateway to Southern Switzerland