There are records of a fortified nucleus at the crossroads of two areas of the Roman centuriazione, cardo and decumanus, from the 10th century. The complex was destroyed by the Faentines in 1218 and rebuilt several times in the 13th-14th centuries. Among the scarce information that has come down to us, historians highlight the initiative of the Ghibelline leader Uguccione della Faggiola in the years 1298-1300, whose name is traditionally associated with the north-west donjon, the current appearance of which, in reality, seems to be due to 15th-century arrangements.
The most significant period for the development of the fortification corresponds to the Este domination during which the features of the defensive apparatus were modified at least twice. In the second half of the 15th century, on the initiative of Ercole I Este, the square of arms in front of the fortress was transformed into a citadel, provided with a wall with round towers and completely enclosed by a moat. The quadrangular layout of the inner courtyard, some sections of the curtain wall and the so-called Uguccione Tower remain legible today from this phase. The 15th-century complex, however, appeared too closely linked to medieval warfare practices and not very functional compared to the destructive power of modern bombards and artillery, so it was completely rebuilt. In 1568-1570, Duke Alfonso II Este had the citadel, which had become superfluous for defensive purposes, demolished: part of the material resulting from the demolition was probably used to equip the fortress with bastions on the south, east and west sides, as well as to thicken the northern curtain wall and the bases of the towers. The cleared area was then used for the Fair in the mid-17th century. Through this intervention, the Fortress of Lugo took on a peculiar appearance somewhere between the 15th century type of the quadrangular plan fortress and the late 16th century type of the bastioned fortress. With the passage of Lugo to the Church, the fortress underwent some extensions with the addition of a palace, partially burnt down in 1775, which became the seat of the papal governors. In the same period, the parts that were no longer used for military purposes were adapted as prisons, in particular the circular north-west tower and the square south-east tower, while the south-west bastions were transformed to create the Hanging Garden that we still admire today, and which can be accessed from the inner courtyard. It occupies an area of about 1,000 square metres at a height of about 7 metres above the level of the current squares in the historical centre; the tree composition includes species with needle-shaped, squamiform and broad-leaved leaves, naturally with both evergreen and deciduous characteristics; the garden has no particular architectural design. Along its sunniest outer walls, the Capparis Spinosa, of the Capparidaceae family, finds its natural habitat. The monument is currently made up of the interweaving of two components: an emerging part, corresponding to the modern-day superimpositions, and a half-hidden part, representing the remnant of the ancient fortified organism. The moat that surrounded the complex was filled in several times between the 18th and 19th centuries. The main door that closes the entrance was made from the wood of the old drawbridge, and the old sheet metal covering it still bears signs of gunshots, probably dating back to the period of French domination that began in 1796 (the people of Lugo had put up stiff resistance and the town was sacked after the defeat of the rebels).
In the vast room on the ground floor on the north side of the fortress, formerly the artillery room in the 15th-16th century, the Pescherie (fishmongers) were located at the end of the 19th century, after the ruinous collapse of the neo-Gothic building that had previously housed the fish trade, built in 1846 behind the ancient curtain wall to the west. It currently hosts visual arts and documentary exhibitions. Around 1860, the Rocca became the seat of the municipal administration. Previously, offices and services that in previous centuries had been located in the old town hall, demolished at the end of the 19th century and located in the area now occupied by the Banca di Romagna, were gradually transferred to it. Finally, it should be noted that towards the 1930s, the loggia and floors above it had been built on the eastern side of the Rocca to house offices, in particular judicial and postal offices.
Text credits: Municipality of Lugo.