Le Castella town of Isola Capo Rizzuto represents what remains of a more large ancient area. The fortress is surrounded by the Capo Rizzuto Marine Reserve and from one of the rooms it is possible to observe the seabed thanks to of underwater cameras positioned in marine environment.
The fortress built in the fifteenth century never hosted the nobility of the place but served as a shelter for soldiers committed against attacks by invaders from the sea. The current stronghold rests on foundations dating back to the Hellenistic period, used over time also by the Romans was the retreat of Hannibal. Even today it is possible to notice the different building phases superimposed on each other in different periods, Normans, Swabians, Byzantines, Angevins and Aragoneses who raised on the Greek walls strong defences castellane modelled according to the times. The fortress continually attacked by the Turks, remained populated until the beginning of the 800, when the population moved to the mainland giving life to a small village of sailors, today the current tourist center. The original unit of the fort goes back to the Angevin Age, and the massive cylindrical tower as well. Now it has a sixteenth-century shape and it dominates the fortress complex with its magnificence. The original plant of 13th century was built to defend the Gulf of Capo Rizzuto, and it is part of the Angevin system of fortifications. Towards the end of the 15th century the fortress passed in Aragonese hands and between 1510 and 1526 Earl Carafa implemented, according to the Spanish construction uses, the quadrangular rammed bastions.
The tower, divided into three floors connected by a spiral staircase, presents at the base a cavity for the collection and conservation of rainwater. Inside of fortress there are typical remains of an urban agglomeration, a kind of small village with shops and the ruins of a little church.
Le Castella was often the centre of strong quarrels and subjected to pirates attacks: in 1459 the King Ferdinando of Aragon came down on the battlefield, against the noble feudatory, Antonio Centelles. Then Castella was submitted to different noble families such as Carafa, Ruffo, Filomarino, Baraccos and Berlingeris. Between 1548 and 1553 the pirates Dragut and Barbarossa pillaged the area. In 1799 Castella was still the centre both of the fight between French and Bourbons and the landing-place for the troops coming from Sicily. Later, Castella was included first in the district of Crotone and then it became a part of the Isola di Capo Rizzuto.
Located nearby to the Aragonese fortress, “Le Castella” seabed hosts the ruins of an ancient Greek quarry along with those of an imposing wreck; while at “Capo Alfieri” site, divers will be able to explore some ancient Roman millstones.
ARMATA BRANCALEONE FILM
The Aragonese Fortress was chosen by Mario Monicelli to set some scenes of “Armata Brancaleone” movie. Brancaleone (Vittorio Gassman) succumbs ingloriously to the assault of Saracen pirates with his shabby company, after taking possession of the fiefdom, abandoned by the local population too.
THE PIRATE UCCIALÌ
Uluc Pasha, a powerful Turkish admiral, born in Le Castella, was kidnapped as a boy and became part of the ranks of Barbary pirates, up to the summit of the army and power. His ability and his strength as well as his origin particularly impressed the Italian companies of the sixteenth century. According to historical reconstructions, Giovan Dionigi Galeni was entering a convent to become a monk when, at 16, he was captured by the Algerian corsair Khayr al-Dīn Barbarossa in 1536, in Le Castella. The prisoner-boy was immediately put on the oars as a slave, but managed to survive thanks to an uncommon resistance and to the understanding of the enemy's codes. In this change, he was helped by contact with barbarian corsairs of Calabrian origin, including Ja 'Far Pascià, whose daughter he married, after having converted to Islam in order to be able to kill without a consequence a Turk from whom he had been offended.
The audacity of the failed Calabrian friar was enormous. As a privateer he raged throughout the Mediterranean and carried out acts of reckless robbery. He landed the Sicilian and Neapolitan coasts and woods, captured ships, attacked towns and cities, until he went to Liguria in Civezza, currently in the province of Imperia, which managed to resist him gloriously and also attacked the Dalmatian town of Korcula. He tried to capture the Duke Emanuele Filiberto of Savoy. His sea races therefore also had wide-ranging political goals. It was said that he had even tried, through strong local support, to turn Calabria into a Turkish-dominated Muslim region, snatching it from the Spaniards. He first became commander of the fleet of Alexandria, then Pasha of Algiers, and finally bey (governor) of Tripoli, became admiral of the Ottoman fleet, fought in Lepanto. In Italy, the former aspiring monk was called "the renegade" or, popularly Uccialì, which derives from his Islamic name.
He died in July 1587 in his palace on the hilltop of Top-Hana near Istanbul and left his many slaves and servants houses and possessions of property, concentrated in a village he founded and called "New Calabria". According to some reports, on his deathbed he would return to the Christian faith, but the Turkish historians denied this eventuality, given that already in life he had been offered fiefs and riches in Christian lands that he had always refused, preferring the freedom of which Christians converted to Islam at that time enjoyed.