The Medieval village of Calascio stands at 1,210 metres above sea level, nestled between the Gran Sasso d’Italia chain and the Campo Imperatore plateau. Its winding streets are lined with stone houses and towers, and its squares feature noble homes and churches, bearing witness to ancient splendour. During Lombard domination, the small village belonged to the Duchy of Spoleto and later to the Barony of Carapelle. Reminders of its religious faith are the sixteenthcentury church of San Nicola di Bari, with a fine wooden portal carved with scenes from the Old Testament and the life of the saint; the monastery of Santa Maria delle Grazie from 1594, with its small cloister open to visitors; the church with its sixteenth-century terracotta statue of the Virgin and Child; the ancient chapel of San Leonardo, dating to 1263. Above Calascio, at an altitude of about 1,450 metres, is the ancient hamlet of Rocca Calascio, and at 1,512 metres soars the famous castle of the same name, one of the highest and most beguiling fortresses in Europe. The castle features a typical fifteenth-century plan, with a regular square base and four round corner towers. Comparing its architecture with other castles in Abruzzo, scholars have confirmed that it was expanded in the late 1400s, when various forts were being modernized and adapted to new military strategies and weapons of attack. Some scholars think the large square tower at the centre of the fortress is what remains of a much older castle, or perhaps an isolated watchtower around which the castle was built. Supporting this theory is the absence of stairs inside and the unusual fact that the entrance is situated a few metres higher than the courtyard. Most probably, the soldiers would use a wooden ladder and pull it up behind them, making it impossible for others to follow. The walls of the corner towers, all in solid stone, have only narrow loopholes with circular gun ports below. The original construction was probably built around the year 1000 AD and was long controlled by the Barony of Carapelle, before it passed on to the Piccolomini clan (who expanded it) in the second half of the 1400s. In 1759 it was bought by the wealthy Medici family of Florence. A short way from the castle is the picturesque church of Santa Maria della Pietà, which is said to have been built in 1451 as a votive offering on the site of a clash between a band of brigands and the troops of the local feudatories. Rocca Calascio will also be familiar to those who have seen it used as a film set on numerous occasions.