Castello Piccolomini - Atlas Obscura

Castello Piccolomini

Balsorano Vecchio, Italy

This castle was once an Italian horror cinema star. 

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From the 1960s to the 70s, Italy was quite notorious for its horror cinema, serving as a haven of excessive gore, Gothic aesthetics, and every shade of macabre. Particularly popular was the giallo genre and its unholy trinity—Mario Bava, Lucio Fulci, and Dario Argento of Suspiria fame—but it was also the heyday of exploitation, B-movies, cheap slashers, and erotic mysteries.

Many of such Italian horror movies were set in a bleak old castle on the hilltop, where a mad scientist or a mysterious vampire lives away from the town below, served by herculean henchmen and old maids with cold dead eyes.

More often than not, that haunted castle was one and the same, filmed at Castello Piccolomini in Balsorano, Abruzzo, a late medieval fortification built by the Conti di Marsi in the 1460s. Designated as a national monument since 1902, it was damaged in the 1915 Avezzano earthquake but retains much of its original Gothic structure.

As a filming location, Castello Piccolomini appeared in dozens of movies. Its filmography includes Terror in the Crypt (1964) starring Christopher Lee, Bloody Pit of Horror (1965), Lady Frankenstein (1971), The Bloodsucker Leads the Dance (1975) and There’s a Ghost in My Bed (1981), as well as a few pornographic films of the 1990s, often loosely based on the works of Marquis de Sade.

Know Before You Go

The castle is currently closed to the public.

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November 13, 2023

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