La Rocca Calascio – The Highest Fortress

“He who controls the high ground controls the battle,” goes the old military adage – and it doesn’t get much higher than the Rocca Calascio. Standing at  1,460 metres above sea level – that’s 300 metres higher than Ben Nevis – this medieval fortress provides a vantage point over huge swathes of land…


Standing in the mountains in the Province of L’Aquila, the Rocca Calascio is the highest fortress in the entire Apennine range. This may be sunny Italy, but it’s generally pretty cold up here and you don’t have to be particularly careful about when you come with your camera if you want to get a photo of the Rocca with snow at its feet. From December to February, temperatures rarely rise much above freezing point; in a brief high summer – July and August – they are roughly comparable with Glasgow, though it’s generally rather cooler than Glasgow in June and September.

We know that there was farming here in the Bronze Age and that, some time later, earth fortifications, indicative of Iron Age settlement, were built, some of which are still visible today. The Ancient Romans were here too, but they were not interested in farming the land. Their concerns were entirely military, and such has been the case for all who have followed them.

It is likely that construction of the fortress began in the 10th century, at the dawn of the Feudal Age, though the first written record of there being a tower here is from 1380. Antonio Piccolomini is credited with the building of the four later towers around the original tower in around 1480. The stones at the lower levels are much larger than those at the top, making the building strong. How strong, we don’t know, as it has never been tested in battle. What we do know, however, is that it is susceptible to earthquake damage.