<p>(by Giancarlo Dessì, CC BY-SA 3.0 Wikimedia Commons)</p>
  • Europe /
  • Italy /
  • Sardinia

A truly breathtaking climb to discover a castle shrouded in mystery.

Maritime republics
Pisa Republic coat of arms (by Gherardus, CC BY-SA 3.0 Wikimedia Commons)

Maritime republics

During much of the Middle Ages, the Mediterranean Sea was a theatre of trade and military clashes between the maritime republics, i.e. some of the Italian port cities that relished political autonomy and economic prosperity thanks to their maritime activities. Uniformly scattered along the Italian peninsula, North, Centre and South, the maritime republics were essential for the history of navigation and trade: in addition to valuable goods otherwise unobtainable in Europe, new artistic ideas and news about distant countries also arrived in their ports.

Pisa, an ancient independent state that existed from the 11th to the 15th century and one of these so-called maritime republics, links this castle to our history today. Around 1000 CE, Pisa became one of Italy’s central maritime republics. This naval power in its day fought for hegemony in the Tyrrhenian Sea with rivals Amalfi, Genoa, Gaeta and Noli. Its maritime military campaigns led it to control territories in Sardegna, and it was here that it had founded a stronghold to protect and manage the mineral raw materials of the rich Sardinian domains in its possession. The castle of Acquafredda rises at a critical strategic point because, above this rocky spur, it dominates a view that stretches for kilometres from Cagliari to Iglesias.

It is fairly widely believed that the castle was built at the behest of an exceptional and obscure character, giving rise to legends and mysteries: Count Ugolino Della Gherardesca (Pisa, circa 1210 – Pisa, 1289).


1. Origins

2. Ugolino Della Gherardesca

3. The stronghold

4. The Legend