ARCHAEOLOGY | The Acropolis of Lipari and the Castle overlooking the Mediterranean

The Acropolis of Lipari is the promontory on which the Castle stands. Located in a large bay between Marina Corta and Marina Lunga, it was formed less than 40,000 years ago. It is a real rock of volcanic lava, about 50 m high. Its steep walls and flat surface provide natural protection. This feature has meant that the site was inhabited since the Neolithic. The evidence of the settlements that have followed one another over time have created a notable elevation of the promontory; moreover, the fortress is the subject of an interesting inverse natural phenomenon: the wind, instead of eroding the walls, contributed to the accumulation of volcanic ash, favoring the growth of the deposits of the earthy layers. The archaeological excavations, in fact, as evidence of this accumulation, have brought to light a long stratigraphic sequence of overlapping settlements more than 10 metres high.

The Castle of Lipari

The Castle of Lipari represents one of the most important centres of the cultural life of the Aeolian Islands and is the repository of a millenary history. Its current appearance derives from the reconstruction, commissioned by the Spaniard Charles V, around 1560. This reconstruction became necessary following the attack of the Tunisian pirate Khayr ad-Din Barbarossa who in 1544 had conquered and destroyed the city, deporting part of the inhabitants as slaves.

The mighty Spanish fortifications covered the rocky ridge to the base and were equipped with numerous positions for artillery and cannons. The latter are now closed by walls. The Spanish walls have incorporated the previous Norman towers, dating back to the 12th century. Among these, there is a tower-gate, which was the ancient entrance to the Civita and which today is the access to the Castle. Of particular interest is the presence of a tower from the Greek age (4th century BC), made up of 23 rows of square blocks of Monte Rosa stone, incorporated into the walls.

Greek tower integrated in the castle walls
Archaeological remains

Going along the access road from the Roman age and passing the entrance door, you will find a short gallery with barrel vaults. Here is kept the machicolation in which the iron gate was housed. The gallery leads to a second open-air passage, later covered by pointed vaults in the 19th century. You arrive in front of an imposing door, on the top of which there is a coat of arms depicting an eagle, symbol of the Bourbons. The surrounding area of the castle, until the eighteenth century, housed part of the city. What remains are various religious structures, including the now disused church of Santa Caterina, the Church of the Addolorata from the 16th century, characterized by a Baroque-style facade, and the Cathedral of San Bartolomeo, in the centre of the plateau.

In the early 1900s, the built-up area inside the Castle was abandoned and the inhabitants moved to the city built on the plain below. Then the bishop, in order not to go through the sad destroyed houses, decides to build a large access staircase in front of the Cathedral. In doing so, however, he cuts a large section of the Spanish fortifications and destroys the remains of the oldest settlements. Today, the Acropolis of Lipari is home to the Castle, which houses, inside, the Regional Archaeological Museum “L. Bernabò Brea “.

Prehistoric village seen inside the Castle area

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