Chronologically, the castle of Montebello is the second castle in Bellinzona. Often called the “small ”, “new ” or “middle” castle in the late medieval period, it later took on the name of Schwyz castle in 1506 and, after 1818, of San Martino castle.
Located on the hill of Montebello, about 90 meters above the level of the town, the castle consists of a primitive nucleus – an irregular enclosure, slightly oblong and divided inside by several walls – built at the end of the thirteenth century by the Ghibelline Rusca family from Como for residential purposes.
In 1335, when the Visconti family took control over Como, the castle of Montebello also became the property of the Milanese lords, who reinforced it in line with its new strategic and military needs. The fortress was protected by a high wall crowned by Ghibelline battlements and equipped with angular towers. On the eastern front, on the other hand, it was necessary to dig a deep moat, over which a wooden drawbridge was placed.
Similarly to Castel Grande, the enlargement and consolidation works undertaken in the second half of the 15th century (1462-1490) were of particular importance for Montebello castle. They involved, in particular, the construction of a second, thicker and stronger wall with rounded towers. A ravelin and a high ring of walls were also erected on the eastern flank to protect the access to the castle from assaults.
Also watched over by at least one castellan appointed by the Duke, the castle of Montebello should therefore be understood as an essential part of the composite defensive system of Bellinzona; just consider that the walls extended from the diamond-shaped fortress to both the north and the south, joining up with Castel Grande and enclosing the medieval town in a defensive perimeter.