Bellinzona’s second castle dominates Castelgrande from above on Montebello hill, perched ninety metres above the city.
This is the starting point of the walls that once encircled the ancient hamlet until they encounter those descending San Michele hill. Two sections of these walls, which protected the flanks of the formidable fort, are still standing.The oldest section dates back to the thirteenth/fourteenth century and is believed to have been erected by the Ruscas, a wealthy family of merchants from Como, who kept it even under the rule of the Visconti. The external courtyards with their towers and the triangular fortress were built between the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, with their current appearance the result of Sforza construction work during the second half of the fifteenth century.
The castle was previously known as Castel Piccolo (“small castle”) (1457-1472), or Montebello Castle. During the Swiss occupation it was renamed Svitto Castle and after 1818 San Martino Castle.
The Ghiringhelli family acquired it towards the end of the eighteenth century. It was later acquired by the Canton in 1903 for the centennial of Ticino independence and restored.