Santarcangelo di Romagna, built on a hill between the rivers Marecchia and Uso and one of best preserved and most pleasant towns of the area thanks to its sober construction and

picturesque little streets that climb up the hill and open onto silent squares. The old town is still largely enclosed by fifteenth century walls,  restored and partly rebuilt under Sigismondo Malatesta in 1447, who ordered the addition of some marble epigraphs. The construction of the Rocca (the Fortress) is owed to him as well: built on one end of a hill next to a great tower ordered by Carlo Malatesta in 1386. This tower was extremely high; as a matter of fact it was one of the wonders of Italy for its height, according to the writers of the time. Even a century later,  it still continued to amaze onlookers for its grandeur and beauty but,  by this time, assaults were made mainly with bronze mortars instead of wooden catapults and Sigismondo did not hesitate to lower the tower.

He used the bottom part as an angular keep for a new fortress (partly built with the recovery material obtained from the demolition), it has a rectangular form with polygonal towers, apt to host a good garrison,  as suggested by the restlessness and intolerance of the people from Santarcangelo towards the Malatesta Seignory, and the need to guard continuously the lower course of the Marecchia and Uso rivers and via Emilia in the proximity of Rimini.

Even this fortress, which unfortunately has completely lost its summit of brackets and merlons, is adorned with inscriptions in ancient language and Latin epigraphs according to a humanistic style that was just starting to establish itself at that time. The keep, the base of the great fourteenth century tower by Carlo Malatesta, is accessed from the courtyard, moving along a picturesque cobbled paving under which there is a medieval cistern that is still functioning. Part of the tower’s ancient winding staircase is hidden in the enormous masonry: it allowed independent communications between the various floors (four have survived today). Galeotto Roberto Malatesta, named the beato (the saint), nephew and successor of Carlo and brother of Sigismondo and Malatesta Novello, died in a room of this tower at the dawn of 10th October 1432 when he was just 21 years of age. Some imaginative nineteenthcentury writers have set here the events that led to the “crime of honour”  of Gianciotto who killed Paolo il Bello and Francesca da Rimini.

The view onto the countryside from the terrace of the keep is stunning: the Marecchia valley opens up to the hills and San Marino on one side, and reaches Cesena and the sea on the other. A careful observer can discern the parish church, a one-nave Byzantine basilica, built in the sixth century next to a roman village close to the river. It is the oldest and best preserved church of all the Romagna area.