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Provincia di Pesaro e Urbino
Sito in fase di aggiornamento a seguito del riordino delle Province (L. 56/14 e L.R. Marche 13/15)


Stands on a hilly ridge, with its conspicuous sturdy wall and towers and the imposing profile of its famous castle, providing a picturesque scene for vehicles travelling up and down the Adriatic motorway or along the coast road.
The town of Gradara (Castrum Cretarie), protected by its early medieval keep built in 1150, achieved independence from Pesaro through the services of Piero and Rodolfo De Grifo. Subsequently the Malatesta family, having obtained Gradara from the De Grifo family, transformed the tower into a castle, enclosing it with its inner defensive wall. They later added the second wall, which was 700 metres long, with seventeen crenellated towers and three drawbridges and made the fortress impregnable. After the period of Malatesta rule, the castle passed to the Sforza family who left their mark with the construction of the internal loggia, staircase and frescoes which still decorate some of the rooms today. Among these are the rooms in which Lucrezia Borgia lived for three years after her marriage with Giovanni Sforza in 1493. After the Sforza period, the castle passed to the Della Rovere family until the lands of the Duchy of Urbino passed to the Church in 1631. After almost three centuries of neglect, engineer Umberto Zanvettori began the task of restoring the castle in 1920 with great energy. His wife, Alberta Porta Natale, continued this work until the castle was handed over to the Italian State in 1983. Today, Gradara offers the visitor a chance to see not only the castle itself but to explore its two defensive wall systems, its towers, turrets and reconstructed walkways along the battlements. The town itself, built between the inner and the outer walls, conserves its original houses. The church of San Giovanni Battista holds a fine 15th Century wooden Crucifix while the church of the Sacrament has an altarpiece ("The Last Supper") by Antonio Cimatori (1595). Inside the Castle itself there is a fine altarpiece ("Madonna enthroned with Child and Saints") which was painted by Giovanni Santi in 1484 for the original parish church of Santa Sofia.
Legend has it that Giovanni (Gianciotto) Malatesta, nicknamed the 'The Cripple', brutally murdered his wife, Francesca da Polenta and her lover (and Giovanni's brother) Paolo Malatesta within the walls of Gradara Castle. The story of Francesca da Rimini was immortalised in Dante's famous poem.

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