Together, the Castello di Bornato and Villa Orlando comprise a very rare example of a Renaissance villa built within a medieval castle. Located in a panoramic position, they dominate the gentle rolling hills of the Franciacorta region, which is renowned worldwide for the excellence of its wine production. Owned by the Orlando family since 1930, they still reside in the Castle today, and are committed to sharing the magic of these walls with their guests.
Originally a Roman fortress erected to guard the consular road that connected Bergamo to Brescia, the castle's central nucleus is still standing tall today. It was later expanded with a 300-metre circle of crenellated walls, towers and buttresses, a moat and a drawbridge, all of which are still visible. The Villa was built inside the walls in 1564 by the Gandini family, heirs of the Bornati dynasty, and contains frescoed halls, a grand staircase and rooms with coffered ceilings, all beautifully preserved.
The park surrounding the Villa within the walls features an Italian-style garden to the south and an English-landscaped garden to the north, with numerous ancient trees such as Lebanese cedars, deodar cedars, ginkgo biloba, and a very rare 200-year-old Japanese pagoda tree, the only surviving specimen of the first ones imported to Europe at the end of the 18th century. In the woods to the north east, visitors can also explore a romantic cave built in the 1800s and situated inside underground passages dating back to the Middle Ages.
The ancient cellars where wine from Bornato Castle has been produced for 700 years, continuing until the early 2000s, are to be found under the main tower of the castle, and it is possible to view the old oak barrels that housed the red wine, the glass-cement barrels that contained the white wine and a small museum exhibition of the antique equipment formerly employed. These days, the wine production of one of the most prestigious labels in Franciacorta has been decentralized to accommodate modern machinery, following the most advanced techniques in organic winemaking. Produced in small quantities of excellent quality and bottled only in the best vintages, the wine is now available for purchase at the residence.
THE HISTORY OF CASTELLO DI BORNATO
The central nucleus of the castle was a mighty Roman fortress built to guard the consular road that connected Bergamo to Brescia. Inverardo da Bornato expanded and strengthened the stronghold with a 300-metre circle of crenellated walls, towers and buttresses, moats and a drawbridge, giving it the appearance it still retains today. Giambellino, Inverardo's nephew and a great patron of the arts and literature, turned the residence into a meeting point for artists and poets from all over Italy, including the illustrious Dante Alighieri. The increasing importance of Bornato led, within a few years, to the construction of a second set of defensive walls protecting the entire village, of which the Castle represented the citadel. Only a few short sections of this second wall remain today, while its circular path is still discernible. The invasion of Franciacorta by Azzone Visconti in 1326 marked the beginning of Bornato's decline, which was often at the centre of a series of bloody battles. In 1509, Franciacorta briefly came under the dominion of the French king Louis XII. Bornato's splendour returned in 1564 after the Bornati family line had died out, when the Gandini family built the Renaissance villa inside the castle, known today as Villa Orlando, and named after the final family to own and reside in it.
FACILITIES AND SERVICES AT BORNATO CASTLE: A HIDDEN TREASURE IN FRANCIACORTA
The Castello di Bornato is open to the public for guided tours every day from mid-March to mid-November. It is also available by prior reservation on weekdays for groups of at least 20 people. The tour is conducted by local guides who take visitors around the Italian garden with its ancient trees, the frescoed halls of the Renaissance villa, the chapel and the ancient wine cellar. At the end of the visit, there is a tasting of Franciacorta wines produced by the estate, which can be purchased on-site. The wines available for tasting are Curtefranca Rosso and Curtefranca Bianco, and upon request, Franciacorta Brut. The visit with tasting lasts about one hour.
The Locanda del Castello, located in a 13th-century farmhouse close to the castle walls and overlooking the vineyards, has been renovated maintaining the original structure, materials and details of the period. It provides five apartments with stone and brick fireplaces, terracotta floors and exposed beams that can accommodate 2 to 6 people for a stay focused on relaxation, good wine and great food.
In the former stables adjacent to the castle walls, Restaurant Palafreno serves traditional local dishes reinterpreted with a modern twist.