San Leo and the history of the Rock of Cagliostro

The Fortress of San Leo dominates the hills of the Marecchia Valley, offering visitors a unique view and a journey back in time. Within its walls lies the story of one of the most enigmatic and controversial characters of the 18th century-Joseph Balsamo, better known as Alexander, Count of Cagliostro. His figure remains shrouded in mystery: magician, charlatan, alchemist, or simply an unscrupulous adventurer? The fortress of San Leo was the site of his imprisonment by the Inquisition in August 1795. Today you can visit stone tomb, without a door, connected with the outside by a small trapdoor.

Who was the Count of Cagliostro?

Born in Palermo on June 2, 1743, Joseph Balsamo always aroused curiosity, admiration and scandal. His fame as an alchemist and healer led him to travel among the most important courts in Europe, to form friendships with the likes of Schiller and Goethe, and to become the protagonist of episodes that would make him legendary.

An adventurous and controversial life

A prominent figure in Masonic circles at the time, he openly challenged the Church and founded an Egyptian Rite lodge in London. His participation in the mysterious "affaire du collier," which defamed Queen Marie Antoinette and helped spark the French Revolution, made him famous but also attracted the attention of the authorities.It was arrested on December 27, 1789 to Rome, where he hoped to obtain recognition of his Egyptian-rite Freemasonry from the pope, and subjected to a harsh trial that ended on April 7, 1791 with the death sentence for heresy, later commuted to life imprisonment in the fortress of San Leo.

The Fortress of San Leo: an Inaccessible Prison.

The fortress of San Leo, described in great detail by Monsignor Gianmaria Lancisi in 1841, was famous for its inaccessible prisons, which were considered among the most secure at the time. Cagliostro was locked up in the Pozzetto cell, a cramped room with no contact with the outside world, where he spent the last years of his life in extreme conditions until his death on August 26, 1795.

The Mystery of the Death of Cagliostro

Cagliostro's death is shrouded in mystery. Legend tells of a life beyond death and a secret burial at the west-facing tip of the mountain. The death certificate, preserved in the parish archives of St. Leo, tells of a man who lived and died in infamy, but his figure continues to arouse fascination and curiosity. The Count of Cagliostro's death itself is shrouded in mystery: some say he died of hardship, the newspapers of the time spoke of murder, the prison chaplain of a stroke. Many since that August 26, 1796, swear to have met him.In fact, his story inspired Goethe, who mocks him in an opera buffa, The Great Coptic. Mozart, on the other hand, pays homage to him in The Magic Flute.

Visiting the Fortress of San Leo

Today, the Fortress of San Leo is a museum open to the public, offering the opportunity to explore the cells where Cagliostro was imprisoned and to immerse oneself in the history of this fascinating character.

Practical information for the visit

The fortress of San Leo can be visited on Saturdays Sundays and holidays from 10 am to 5:45 pm.Tickets: Buy Online
  • Full: from €11.50 (online)
  • Reduced (over 65): from € 10.50
  • Reduced (18-25 years old): € 3.50
  • Combined tickets with the Verucchio Fortress and the Ronda walkways.


Places of interest
  • marker Center (Ceccarini/Dante Street)
  • marker Station
  • marker Aquafan
  • marker Cattolica Aquarium
  • marker Fiabilandia
  • marker Italy in miniature
  • marker Mirabilandia
  • marker Overseas
  • marker Rimini Fair
  • marker Palacongressi Riccione
  • marker Riccione Spa
  • marker Riccione Adventure
  • marker Cocoricò disco
  • marker Rimini Spa
  • marker Tollbooth A14 Riccione
  • marker Rimini Airport
  • marker Misano World Circuit M. Simoncelli