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Set in Stone

The Brancaleoni family traveled to the village of Piobbico in the 11th century and built a castle that now holds the history of this tiny town.

Located in the heart of Piobbico, the castle has survived hundreds of years of battles and numerous owners and currently is a peaceful museum of medieval and ancient history. Next year a restoration school will be based there.

The condition of the building and exhibitions are unimaginable. Walking through the restored castle in the Marche region — known for its natural beauty and rich Italian culture — it is easy to imagine what life was like there 1000 years ago.

View of the courtyard from the inside
The exterior of the castle

The clock tower

Throughout the castle you will find the Brancaleoni symbol, a growling lion and a cross. The symbol represents their motto, Mite e Fiero, which means to be calm and be proud.

From one end of the second floor you can see through every room to the galleria on the opposite side. The galleria once held the Brancaleoni’s collection of paintings, which are currently displayed in museums around the world.

The 10 rooms of the second floor vary with different decorations, personal objects and writings. One room was built during the Romantic period, and the paintings represent that period.

There are two prayer rooms, one with painted scenes from the Old Testament on the ceiling, and another that presents scenes of the Virgin Mary’s life.

The rooms display a highly valuable collection of costumes and clothing that were given the to castle by the Brancaleoni family before they left in the 19th century, such as medieval dresses, jewelry, weapons and bibles.

Sante Fini, tour guide




Story by: Meghan Franich

Photos by: Philippa Petronis

Video by: Meredith Hope

Web Design by: Claire Hoffman



An aerial view of the Brancaleoni castle in Piobbico


“All the history of Piobbico is inside the castle,” said Sante Fini, a tour guide for the palace and the author of the Brancaleoni Family Castle and Piobbico guidebook. “The beginning of Piobbico started there.”

The original castle was built in the 11th century, but the Brancaleoni family built the existing castle during the 14th century. Specific dates are still a mystery, Fini said.

“The Brancaleoni family were travelers, and they built the first family castle on the first mountain in Piobbico,” said Fini. “But due to the weather they could not travel to the mountain, and they made the current Brancaleoni castle their home.”

The Brancaleoni family was very close friends with the German King Federico Barbarossa, who controlled nearby Cagli and other towns in Italy. Barbarossa gave the family — Antonio I, his wife Victoria, eight sons and one daughter — the land in Piobbico as a gift in return for their hospitality and friendship.

There are only two doors into the entire palace. The castle, which contains more than 130 rooms, was built with stones from nearby mountains. Within the castle was once a small village, known as a borgo, which housed all the Brancaleoni servants and employees.

A typical house in the Brancaleoni castle was entered through a small wooden door that is no more than two feet six inches wide. The symbol of Nicolosa — a stone carving with three faces representing the present, past and future — hangs above many of those doors.

Fini explained that the clock tower, built in 1510, is very unusual as there are only two of its kind in all of Italy. The clock ran counterclockwise and displayed Roman numerals, rather than numbers.

The courtyard consists of an open garden surrounded by pillars, doors and windows to many rooms.

“This is the most interesting and beautiful part of the castle,” Fini said.

Each door and window had the name and date of the person who made it carved in stone above it.


The Brancaleoni symbol
"All the history of Piobbico is in the castle," said Sante Fini.... "The beginning of Piobbico started there."

The second floor hallway

“The family lived in the castle until 1860 or 1870, but it is not certain,” said Fini, a retired elementary school teacher and native of Piobbico.

As the age of feudalism passed, the Brancaleoni’s castle was taken over by the state.

“You will see that the Brancaleoni family had everything taken from them, and it wasn’t a pretty sight before restoration,” said Fini.

Renovations to the castle began in the 1970s and continue today.

The Brancaleoni family has thousands of descendants. Now, over 1000 years after the family established their home in Piobbico, members of the Brancaleoni family continue on their travels.

“There are Brancaleonis everywhere,” said Fini, “in Pesaro, Fano, Rome and all over the world.”