At 142 metres above sea level, with the Republic of San Marino and Carpegna in the background,rises Gradara
theatre of the tragic love story of Paolo and Francesca
, mentioned by Dante, Petrarca, Boccaccio and D'Annunzio
. The first construction dates back to 1150, the Castrum Cretarie independent from Pesaro. Following this, the Malatesta, after buying it, transformed the tower into a Rocca
incorporating it into two tall and towered city walls. In 1464 their dominion which had transformed Gradara into an "Embellished villa with superb buildings, pleasant plantations and ample vineyards" came to an end. Then began the era of the Sforzas which gave the Rocca and all-round rinascimental appearance: the massive stair case, the open gallery, the Pala of Andrea Della Robbia and the frescoed room, amongst which gave the small room of Lucrezia Borgia when she lived there for the three years of her marriage to Giovanni Sforza. With the premature death of young Costanzo, and shortly after the death of Giovanni, the Sforza dynasty ceased, and in 1513 Francesco Maria Della Rovere, nephew of Pope Giulio II came on the scene.
In 1631 the Rocca, along with the Dukedom of Pesaro and Urbino became part of the Papal State. These were the years of decay with French Pillages, and finally culminating with the earthquake of 1916. The engineer Zanvettori in 1920 bought the fortress and destined it to a comprehensive restoration which would last for three years. His wife Alberta Porta Natale, after the death of har husband, chose Gradara as her pleasant retreat in the summer and the spring. On her death in 1983 the fortress become property of the state.