Verona's Castelvecchio, or Old Castle, has had a long and varied life, serving as a stronghold for local rulers, then for Venetian overlords, Napoleon's army (he even slept there), the Austrian army, the Italian army, and German invaders.
These days, it's a museum both of art and of its own history.
All those different occupiers have left little visible change on what is basically an Italian brick Gothic structure without a lot of decoration; it was never meant to be a noble home.
When the local rulers, the Scaligeri, built it in the mid 1300s, they were worried about one thing: Defending their territory, and having an escape route to the north in case that failed. As allies of the Holy Roman Empire, they were surrounded by hostile neighbors, especially Venice. As rather erratic, despotic and sometimes cruel rulers, they were surrounded by often hostile Veronese.
And that's why Castelvecchio, with its back to the Adige River, has an attached and fortified bridge leading north to the Alps and Germany, and that's where, when the Scaligeri family lost its hold on Verona, they went and never came back.
Except during World War II, the castle's military role ended in 1923, when it was renovated and restored, but still held by the Italian military. That ended with the castle's latest restoration in 1963, when the museum moved in.
But wandering through the castle, and seeing the small courtyards and the one tower, it's easy to imagine it as a crowded and bustling fortress, even today.