Castle of
Sorbello

The Castle of Sorbello, perched on a hill opposite Reschio – in the municipality of Cortona – but not far away from Umbertide, on the former border between the Grand Duchy of Tuscany and the Papal States, gives historical evidence of the imperial feud of Sorbello that remained independent for 4 centuries until 1815 and is still owned and lived in by the noble family that originally built it in the 10th century.

This Castle is the result of different modification works carried out over centuries in order to adapt it initially for defense and military reasons and more recently for dwelling reasons. Originally the Castle looked like a small fortress that was part of a series of military buildings used for defense purposes and constructed by the will of Marquises del Monte.

Then, in the 16th century, Ludovico III wanted to give the Castle of Sorbello the appearance of a court to emphasize the importance of its state of independence and sovereignty and to respond to the governmental and administrative needs of the imperial fiefdom, by adding an imposing donjon to the original defense tower, a new large entrance staircase, a series of rooms with elaborate stucco decorations and paintings, and a large entrance hall with an annexed courtyard that allows access to a church.

Architecture of the Castle

The Castle of Sorbello is characterised by a massive palace with rectangular ground plan with a crenelated tower erected on a trapezoidal base bearing evident tapering and traces of bastions with bartizans on top.

The building is not surrounded by curtain walls, but has two imposing gateways, one East-facing and one West-facing, linked by a large courtyard. In the center of the courtyard you can admire a beautiful staircase, lit by a second courtyard that overlooks the rooms that were once used as feudal prison.

The entrance hall, the staircase, the guardhouse, and the prison give all evidence of the feudal times, whereas the interior spaces of this monumental palace were almost completely remodeled in the 17th century in Baroque style.

The Castle consists of 365 rooms each representing a day in the calendar year. The main floor called “piano nobile”, the Marquis’ Room, the Throne Room and the Hall of Busts representing many members of the dynasty are also very interesting for their decoration and the works of art they preserve.

From 1416 to 1815: history of the feud

The feud of the Bourbon di Sorbello family was defined imperial because it was granted in 1416 by Emperor Sigismund of Luxembourg (1410-1437) to Lodovico I (1416-1441), who belonged to a branch of the Bourbon del Monte family, Marquises of Monte Santa Maria: their sovereignty over this little but strategic territory (4 km² and 500 inhabitants) lasted until the Congress of Vienna. The Lords of the feud used to draw up public deeds, recognized by other governments, and used to administer civil and criminal justice in a room of the castle.

The marquisate was subject to the Holy Roman Empire, however, for defense and protection reasons in case of war, it made an agreement of protection with the Grand Duchy of Tuscany: on 24th June of every year the Sorbello family used to go to Florence to take part in the St John The Baptist parade for feudal homage and they were the first in the hierarchy of noblemen.

The Ranieri di Sorbello Family

The Marquises, after the Bourbon di Sorbello bloodline ended due to a marriage between Giovanni Antonio Ranieri and Altavilla, great-granddaughter of the last feudal Lord Lodovico IV (1805-1815), used the castle as summer house together with the villa del Pischiello situated on the hills around Lake Trasimene.

Today the Ranieri family and the homonym foundation preserve this historical and artistic site offering the opportunity to attend guided tours. According to the foundation website: “We want to offer people the opportunity to go on a journey back in time to explore this unique place where the memory of old times has been preserved mostly thanks to its distance from the great communication lines and the main cities.”

The ghost of Battistello di Sorbello

It is said that a spooky ghost appears in the Castle of Sorbello every year on the 19th July.

Marquis Uguccione Ranieri reports this is the ghost of Battistello di Sorbello, the illegitimate son of Guidone I and his favorite Rosa di Bagnolo, who was beheaded in the Justice Room of the castle on 19th July 1558 by the will of his uncle Lodovico II for fear that he might interfere with the succession of his heir Tancredi II.

It seems that the ghost with dangling head performs a sort of ritual appearing in the Throne Room, walking along the Hall of Busts and stopping in the place where he was beheaded through a staircase that no longer exists.

Sources: Sito Web Fondazione Ranieri di Sorbello, Wikipedia

Guided tours

Open upon reservation only from May to October with guided tours in Italian or in English. The entry ticket costs € 10.00 per person (€ 5.00 for children under 10).

Useful Info

  • GPS Coordinates: 43.2866255 12.2028222
  • Distance: 11,8 km
  • Journey time by car: 17 min
  • Journey time on foot: 2 h 28 min