The History and Stories of the Fortress

Fortezza Bellinzona

The Fortress of Bellinzona

Fortezza Bellinzona

Castel Grande

Fortezza Bellinzona


Fortezza Bellinzona

Sasso Corbaro

Fortezza Bellinzona

The bulwark

The Fortress:
UNESCO World Heritage Site

Certain sites of cultural and natural heritage have an outstanding universal value that requires them to be placed under the protection of all humanity. To this end, they are entered on the UNESCO World Heritage List.


The Fortress of Bellinzona, consisting of the three castles of Castel Grande, Montebello, and Sasso Corbaro, as well as the bulwark and the town walls, is one of the most important sites of historical and architectural heritage in Switzerland. Recognised as being of international importance, the following unique and outstanding value was highlighted when the site was included in the UNESCO World Heritage List in 2000:


The fortifications of Bellinzona, located in the Canton of Ticino, in Italian-speaking Switzerland south of the Alps, are the only visible example in the Alpine region of medieval military architecture composed of several castles united by fortified walls to protect the population. The walls blocked off the entire valley of Ticino and the ramparts surrounded the town.
This makes Bellinzona a unique specimen among the imposing fortifications of the fifteenth century, both for its size, influenced by the site and its topography, and for the excellent state of conservation of the entire complex. The origin of Bellinzona is linked to the strategic position of the site which, thanks to the Ticino Valley, controls access to the main alpine passes that allow passage from the Milanese region, i.e., from all Northern Italy, to the regions located further north, up to the Danube and beyond. The complex consists of three castles and a network of fortifications interspersed with towers and defensive structures that control the Ticino Valley and dominate the town centre.


Three castles, bulwark, and walls of the town of Bellinzona
UNESCO Declaration of Outstanding Universal Value


Discover the UNESCO page dedicated to the Fortress of Bellinzona  

Fortezza Bellinzona

The Fortress of Bellinzona was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2000 as the only example in the entire Alpine region of medieval military architecture composed of several castles, a bulwark that completely blocked off the Ticino valley, and the walls that surrounded the medieval town. This makes Bellinzona an exceptional specimen among the imposing fortifications of the fifteenth century, both for the size of the architectural works, a result of the site and topography, and for the excellent state of conservation of the entire complex.


The World Heritage List is based on the “Convention for the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage“.


Adopted in Paris in 1972, this Convention arose from the revolutionary idea of placing cultural and natural heritage of exceptional universal value under the protection of all humanity. Cultural and natural heritage is subject to phenomena of spontaneous natural degradation or alteration or destruction directly caused by human beings. The degradation or disappearance of a World Heritage site means the loss of an Outstanding (and therefore unique) and Universal (i.e. important for all peoples of the world) specimen. The Convention defines the types of natural or cultural sites that may be entered on the World Heritage List and the duties of States Parties in identifying potential sites, as well as their role in protecting and safeguarding those sites. The Acceding States undertake to register, protect, and conserve the world heritage located on their territory. At the same time, they undertake to ensure international cooperation and mutual assistance to fulfil these duties.


The World Heritage Convention has become established to the point that today it is a legal instrument recognised by almost the entire international community. The World Heritage List, which currently includes 1154 cultural and natural assets in 167 countries (as of 01.01.2023), reflects the richness and diversity of the Earth. It includes monuments, works of art, and urban landscapes that testify to the progress resulting from the interaction of societies and the evolution of knowledge and identities.

The World Heritage Convention

A management plan for a World Heritage site is an integrated planning and action concept that establishes objectives and measures for the protection, conservation, use, and development of World Heritage sites.


The revised version of the Operational Guidelines for the Implementation of the World Heritage Convention, which entered into force on 1 February, 2005, makes such a plan mandatory for sites on the World Heritage list. A Management Plan for Fortress of Bellinzona was drawn up for the first time in 2022 as part of the development project of the UNESCO site by the City of Bellinzona and the Republic and Canton Ticino.


The Management Plan contains a description of the World Heritage site and its values, a summary of the means of protection, and a presentation of the management system. It also sets outs the main objectives and related measures for the protection of Bellinzona’s World Heritage site for the period from 2022 to 2025.

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