The Castle of Itri
The dominating castle of Itri dates back to the IX century. It was built in a strategic position high on the hill of Sant’Angelo. The castle has a commanding view of the surrounding area. The first stage of the fortress, an imposing pentagonal tower with battlements, was built in 882 AD by the duke of Gaeta, Docibile I. In the next phase the tall square tower was built in 950 by the grandson of Docibile, Marino I. In 1073 ownership of the fortress passed to the Dell’Aquila family of Fondi. The third stage of construction was completed in 1250 and included the addition of the cylindrical tower, ramparts and living quarters. This last tower is known as the crocodile tower as it is said that the dungeon below it had a crocodile which would feast upon unfortunate prisoners. The castle was badly damaged in the bombing of Itri during the Second World War. In recent years it has undergone major restoration works and the building is now used to house exhibitions and cultural events.
During the era when young British aristocrats and scholars undertook the cultural Grand Tour of Italy, a common itinerary would have included Rome, Venice, Florence and Naples. Thus many great artists and writers would have journeyed along the route of the Via Appia or Appian Way, and Itri may have been a welcoming resting place for weary travellers. Charles Dickens, when travelling through Itri during the 19th century described the castle in his journal as being “like a device in pastry, built up, almost perpendicularly, on a hill, and approached by long steep flights of steps.”