The walls, towers, moat, drawbridge – nothing is missing! How could this structure have survived so well since 1356? Of course, it’s not as simple as it looks. The surprises begin with the name. “Castelvecchio” means “Old castle”, but it sounds really weird to call a castle “old” when it’s just built. Up to the middle of the 19th century, it was called “Castel San Martino in Aquaro” in memory of a tiny church that used to stand inside the castle walls. It became “old” when in the mid-19th century the Austrians built their headquarters on the hill.
This castle has long been used for its intended purpose, for the protection of those who lived in it. The military purpose, defined by the Della Scala dynasty, remained with the Venetians who succeeded them, and later French and Austrian garrisons were stationed here.
During the popular uprising in 1797, the French survived only because they hid in the castle and shut the gate just in time. The Austrians used one of the towers as a base for a military optical telegraph.
All these adventures have pretty much ragged the castle walls. In the 20th century, the military moved to the left-wing, which still houses the officers’ club. In the former premises of the military quarters, there is a museum, and in the adjacent courtyard, some architectural elements of the demolished buildings were stored. One of them later was used to create... Juliet’s balcony!
In addition to exhibitions, various political rallies were held in the museum premises, up to the trial of the Fascist party hierarchs who tried to overthrow Mussolini. (By the way, 40 years before that, Duce was doing his military service right here in the castle.) Among the conspirators was the husband of his daughter Edda, Galeazzo Ciano. In January 1944 Ciano was shot together with his accomplices at the Verona shooting range.
After World War II, the castle was in very poor condition. The restoration was entrusted to the architect Carlo Scarpa, who was able to combine modernism and antiquity. The castle was restored with maximum respect for the past, but not to the detriment of modern requirements. Look at how carefully the drawbridge mechanism has been reproduced: by removing the hook that holds up the structure from the inside, the bridge will rise upwards under the weight of the inner beams.
Carlo Scarpa made one radical change: to optimally place the funerary statue of Cangrande Della Scala, Scarpa cut off the corner of the building, replacing it with a bare cement balcony, which effectively underlines the elegance of the medieval statue.