Castello Brown

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Castello Brown
Portofino castle.jpg
Castello Brown, as seen from the harbour
LocationVia alla Penisola
16034 Portofino, Genoa
Coordinates44°18′07.48″N 9°12′51.50″E / 44.3020778°N 9.2143056°E / 44.3020778; 9.2143056Coordinates: 44°18′07.48″N 9°12′51.50″E / 44.3020778°N 9.2143056°E / 44.3020778; 9.2143056
Built400 AD; expanded 1557; converted to villa from 1867
ArchitectGiovanni Maria Olgiati [it]
Castello Brown is located in Northern Italy
Castello Brown
Location of Castello Brown in Northern Italy

Castello Brown is a house museum located high above the harbour of Portofino, Italy.

The castle's site is well suited for harbour defence, and appears to have been so used since Roman times. According to the Record Office of Genoa, cannon batteries were constructed on the site in the early 16th century, and military engineer Giovanni Maria Olgiati [it] drew up plans for a full fortress circa 1554. In 1575 the castello was instrumental in turning back an attack on the town by Giò Andrea Doria. The structure was enlarged from 1622 to 1624, and survived in this form for a century and a half. The little tower was destroyed in 1798 by an English attack during Napoleon's Ligurian Republic. The castello was abandoned after the Congress of Vienna in 1815.

In 1867, the structure was purchased for 7,000 lire by Montague Yeats-Brown, then English consul in Genoa.[1] He engaged the architect Alfredo D'Andrade [it], and with advice from his artist friend and fellow-consul James Harris the fort was transformed to a comfortable villa without substantial alteration in its general form.[2] Brown bought many church reliefs during the general selling-up of churches in the 1880s and made them a feature of the villa's interior and terraces.[1]:120

Relief set into terrace wall

Yeats-Brown's descendants held the property until 1949, then sold it to an English couple, Jocelyn and Lieutenant-Colonel John Baber CBE. The Babers restored several ruined sections, and in turn sold it in 1961 to the City of Portofino.[1] Throughout this time, the property was managed by several generations of the Garbarino family.[1]:24

Elizabeth von Arnim wrote her novel The Enchanted April at the Castello in 1922. The award-winning 1991 movie adaptation featuring Miranda Richardson and Joan Plowright was filmed on site.[1]

History of the fortifications[edit]

The castle was a military fortress from 400AD to about 1600, since when it became increasingly residential.[1]:79 The Castello withstood attacks by the Genoese (Ghibelline) admiral Aitone D'Oria in 1330, by a Venetian fleet in 1431, and by the British Navy in 1814. It was occupied by German troops until 1945, who also used it as a prison for partisans.[1]:70

Roman fortifications from the fourth century AD have been found underneath the modern castle;[1]:63 a castrum and a turris are recorded.

As Portofino was an important harbour, the Castello featured in many naval battles between the 13th and 19th centuries. Richard Coeur-de-Lion stayed for several days on his way to the Third Crusade.[1]:61

The castello was one of two key coastal fortresses of the Republic of Genoa. Along with Ventimiglia, it housed a garrison led by a patrician castellano.[1]:79 In 1442, it housed two bombards that fired stone cannon-balls. The Republic of Genoa commissioned the military engineer Olgiati to strengthen it after 1554.[1]:65 By 1697, the armaments included two half-cannon and 14 other guns, and the Castello's inventory included 50 muskets and various arquebus, halberds and spears.[1]:63

Napoleon garrisoned the Castello and increased its armament to protect coastal traffic against the British fleet, which unsuccessfully attacked it in March 1814.[1]:61

The fortress was formally disarmed in 1867, just before it was sold to the Yeats-Brown family.

Castello Brown from the port


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m Jocelyn Baber; John Baber (1965). Castello, Portofino. B.T. Batsford.:25
  2. ^ "I Castelli di Portofino e di Paraggi". Archived from the original on 18 October 2014. Retrieved 18 October 2014.
  • Castello Brown: Brief historical notes, undated brochure from the castello