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Sassocorvaro: the wonder of "the wrong rock"

The Renaissance fortress that saved Italian art


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Where is


Via Crescentini, 61028 Sassocorvaro PU, Italia (324m s.l.m.)


What it is and where it is

In Sassocorvaro is the Rocca Ubaldinesca of Sassocorvaro, a small and massive fortification. It looks like a giant stylized turtle, with circular shapes as legs and a more ogival protuberance as head. The rectilinear surfaces of this defensive structure are minimized, while the curved volumes alternate and chase each other as in a dance. One spontaneously looks for the access door to peek inside. One finds it rather recessed, hidden behind a defense tower, but open to a beautiful courtyard. The living stones of the exterior give way to white plaster and elegant loggias, as befits a stately palace.

Why it is special

The Rocca di Sassocorvaro is the first attempt by that Francesco di Giorgio Martini who played so much part in the construction of 15th-century strongholds. It was he who tackled the problem of bombard blows, the innovative weapon of the time. In fortresses, straight lines disappear in favor of curved ones, so the force of the bombard is more easily dispersed, if not deflected. This first attempt, however, has one flaw: the defending sentries have little vision. A "magnificent mistake," which nevertheless did not diminish the importance of this unique fortress , among the greatest masterpieces of Renaissance architecture.

Not to be missed

Inside the castle are several very interesting rooms, including a theater. The most exciting rooms, however, are those dedicated to the extraordinary episode of the rescue of Italian art orchestrated by Pasquale Rotondi. There are life-size reproductions of works from the Peninsula's major museums that were stationed here from June 6, 1940 to September 14, 1945, along with photographic material from the time.


The "wrong rock" was used to save Italian art from the dangers of Allied aerial bombardment and later from the dangers of Nazi robbery. With "Operation Rescue," Professor Pasquale Rotondi-at the time Superintendent of Cultural Heritage in Urbino-succeeded in storing in the fortress and concealing great masterpieces of Italian art: from Piero della Francesca, to Titian, to Paolo Uccello, to Lotto, all the most important works from the Marche region and those from the full Gallerie dell'Accademia in Venice, including Giorgione's Tempest. About 10,000 works of art from all over Italy found refuge there.

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Francesco di Giorgio Martini's "wrong stronghold" was used to save Italian art from the dangers of Allied aerial bombardment and later from the dangers of Nazi robbery.