Meran is very rich in castles and fortresses, most of them were built between 10th and 12th century to become noble residences, but the construction went on until 19th. After aristocrats, royals and notables from all Europe stayed there to spend their holidays and to rest in this wonderful city of Alto Adige, the mansions of the city have been transformed: some became wineries and cellars, others restaurants and museums.
Among the palaces most famous for their beauty and special features there are Castello Principesco, la Polveriera, Castel San Zeno, Castel Gaiano and Castel Planta.
Built at the very centre of Meran old town, the palace was erect in 1470 and was for a long time the residence of the Counts of Tyrol as well as the summer location for notables’ holidays such as Maximilian I and Ferdinand I who went there with his family. Although it was abandoned from 17th to 19th century Castello Principesco was opened again to the public in 1880 as a museum. The building is one of the best preserved of Alto Adige and offers to visitors a breathtaking view of luxury and greatness now lost in time, but remembered by the wonderful period furniture. There are for instance masonry heater (stube) or common objects that tell a story of everyday life in late Middle Ages, such as the collection of musical instruments and weapons.
The name (powder tower) come from the fact that the place from 15th to 17th century was used to store gun powder, ammunition and explosive. This old fortress is in an elevated position overlooking the city and was built in 13th century as wished by the Counts of Tyrol. It is 22 metres tall, so allows a wonderful view of the districts Maia Alta and Maia Bassa and of river Passirio.
Castel San Zeno
The palace was built during the Roman period to check the commerce and the access to the city. Its strategic position on a crag called Monte Zeno allowed to have a good view of the val Passiria. After the construction of San Zeno chapel during medieval period and after other subsequent structures were built, the palace became one of the residences of the Counts of Tyrol. This happened after a fire destroyed their old castle in 1301. After Charles IV of Luxembourg destroyed it in 1347 it was abandoned until Leopold von Braitenberg bought and renovated it in 1799. Nowadays it is private property and cannot be visited.
Castel Gaiano and Castel Planta
They are in the district Maia Alta and are worth mentioning because of their position and special features. Castel Gaiano is one of the oldest castles of the surroundings, built in 12th century, massive thanks to its 20 metres keep. Its two-metres-thick strong walls are made of squared stones. The construction has a second tower and two defensive walls. The walls of Castel Planta are 250 metres long and covered in ivy, moreover there are small corner towers that create its shape and distinguish it from the other palaces of the area.