The Ruffo Castle, known in Italian as Castello Ruffo di Scilla or Castello Ruffo di Calabria, is an ancient fortification built on the promontory of Scilla, on the southern shore of the Messina Strait, being one of the most characteristic elements of the Calabrian landscape.
The first fortification built on the rock of Scilla dates back to the beginning of the 5th century B.C.. During the tyranny of Anaxilas, the city of Reggio assumed a considerable importance, and in 493 B.C., to put an end to the raids of the Tyrrhenian pirates who had a secure base in Scilla, defeated them and started the building of the fortress. The fortress will become for Anaxilas an important outpost for controlling the sea routes.
The fortification was under the rule of the tyrants of Reggio, often engaged in clashes with the pirates, until 390 B.C., when Dionysius, the tyrant of Syracuse, conquered the fortress after a long siege. Fifty years have passed from that moment, until the regaining of the independence of Scilla, favored by Timoleonte di Corinto, who destroyed the tyrannical power of Syracuse in the year 340 B.C..
In 1060, during the siege of Reggio by the Normans, the Castle of Scilla resisted for a long time and surrendered only by hunger. The Norman Robert Guiscard left a military garrison in the fortress.
In 1255, by order of Manfred, King of Sicily, Pietro Ruffo strengthened the fortress by assigning a garrison. In the 13th century, the castle was further fortified by Charles I of Anjou.
In 1469, King Ferdinand I of Naples granted the castle to Gutierre De Nava, a Castilian knight near the Aragonese court, who had new interventions for expansion and restoration. In 1533, the castle was bought by Paolo Ruffo, who restored it and made it his residence.
The strong earthquake of 1783, which damaged the whole area of the Messina Strait and part of southern Calabria, did not spared the castle of Scilla. A few years later, in 1808, the Castle became State property and was restored starting with 1810.
The terrible earthquake of 1908 destroyed much of the ancient structure of the castle. Then, during the fascist period, some rooms were divided into apartments intended for civil servants and public officials, a use that contributed to the damage of what remained of the structure.
In the last years, the castle has been used as a youth hostel, but today, after a new restoration, it has been destined to become a cultural center – it hosts the Regional Center for the recovery of the Calabrian historical monuments and is home to exhibitions and conferences.
The castle has an irregular plan with parts dating back to different eras. A bridge leads to the stone portal built with a pointed arch, on which stands the Ruffo coat of arms and the plaque that celebrates the restoration of the castle executed in the 16th century.
After passing the lowered vaulted hall, a courtyard opens up, and from here, along the grand staircase, you reach the entrance of the building.
Given the dominant position of the castle on the Messina Strait, a lighthouse was built in 1913, to provide a reference to ships crossing the strait. The Scilla lighthouse, a small white tower with a black base, is still active and is managed by the Navy.
HOW TO GET THERE
Castello Ruffo is about 650 meters away from the Scilla Train Station. Visible from any corner of the town, you can easily find it, the subsequent climb to the castle being your biggest problem.