Inland from Rimini, the Fortress of Montebello di Torriana elegantly dominates the Marecchia and Uso valleys from the height of its 436 meters.
This fascinating place steeped in history, art and nature is made all the more mysterious and magical because of the legendary presence of Azzurrina, or Guendalina the little girl with “sky-colored eyes and light hair with blue highlights,” who disappeared back in 1375.
According to ghost and paranormal enthusiasts, she still reveals herself in mysterious circumstances.
The history of the castle
Montebello turns out to be interesting from a historical point of view because its origins date back to pre-Roman times: it seems that the first inhabitants of this site were Celtic peoples and that, at the foot of the cliff, there seems to have been a place of worship of theirs.
The first masonry construction is from the Roman period (3rd century), a square tower, now incorporated into the castle structure. The later early medieval settlement carried the Latin name Mons Belli (Mount of War). The first news of the castle comes through a notarial document dated September 24, 1186, when the castle was sold by Ugolinuccio di Maltalone to Giovanni Malatesta.
Montebello was enfeoffed in 1464, by the Counts Guidi di Bagno, who have held the property ever since. After the 16th century, the fortress underwent interventions to adapt it to a noble residence. Compared to the 1464 structure, the Guidi family renovated an entire wing of the castle to a noble wing.
Between 1968 and 1973, the castle underwent major restoration to restore the fortress from the extensive damage of World War II bombing and then became a museum starting in 1989.
Since the same 1989, it has been open to visitors and is listed among Italy’s national heritage monuments for its high historical value.
The ghost of Azzurrina
Azzurrina was actually named Guendalina Malatesta di Montebello, and was the daughter of Uguccione, lord of the castle in the late 14th century. The child was born albino, thus with very light skin and hair, a sign that at that time was identified with something bewitched, linked to the devil.
To avoid fears and superstitions that could have harmed their daughter, the Malatesta family decided to dye her hair periodically black. The dyeing, however, in humid conditions typical of the climate of the area rendered a blue effect that gradually faded to blue. Because the child also had blue eyes she was nicknamed Azzurrina.
On the night of the Summer Solstice, June 21, 1375, the little girl was playing alone and went as far as the castle cellars, becoming trapped in the snowbox. When her parents realized she was missing, they searched everywhere for her. They went all the way into the snowbox and dug through the ice. But Azzurrina was never found again.
In the centuries that followed, many people testified to hearing strange noises coming from the now-empty snowbox. In particular, on the night of June 21-22 each year those noises are repeated. And that is the “night of Azzurrina“.
Recently within the walls of the legendary Castle was shot the film Azzurrina, a horror feature film by director Giacomo Francios, whose production was suspended several times and under mysterious circumstances.
Guided tours of the castle museum
Today, as mentioned, Montebello Castle is a museum that testifies to the way of life of medieval lords. Some areas were renovated in the 16th century so Renaissance art and furnishings can also be admired. The organization that runs the manor organizes guided tours for individuals and groups, both during the day and in the evening. Day tours, suitable for everyone, include a tour of the terraces and outdoor courtyards, then a discovery of the stately apartments and Azzurrina’s room.
Night tours are for adults only, as they explore only the paranormal aspects of the legend of Azzurrina. They take place indoors only, and lead all the way to the dungeons and the famous snowbox where you can expect to see the ghost at any time and hear Azzurrina’s voice!
Both day and night tours end with a documentary that shows the work of the “ghost hunters” and lets you hear the mysterious sounds they recorded during their exploration and can swear it is the voice of the ghost!
Reservations are not required for daytime tours; reservations are required for night tours.
Admission and guided tours are charged 8 euros, reduced 6 for groups and 4 for children ages 6 to 10, if you want to take a day tour; for the night tour the price rises to 15 euros with a reduced 7 for groups. Children from 0 to 5 years old get in free during daytime visits.
The castle allows dogs during visits, accompanying their owners.
Visits can be made, in summer, Tuesday through Sunday 2:30-7 p.m.; in winter, weekends only 2:30-6 p.m. At night, times can be arranged by calling 0541/675180 or by sending a message on the appropriate Facebook page.
To reach the Castle, from Rimini North, follow the signs to Santarcangelo di Romagna and from there to Poggio Torriana. Those arriving by train, get off at Rimini station and from there take bus number 9 to Santarcangelo, then local bus number 166 to the villages.