If you love atmospheres full of suggestions, scenarios that refer to distant times, tales of heroic deeds, then you can't miss a tour of the fascinating castles of Barletta, Andria, Trani.
The castle of Barletta This mighty and fascinating building has a thousand-year history that is intertwined with that of the city: located on the edge of the town, originally lapped by the waters of the Adriatic, it was probably founded by the Normans in the 11th century. A trace of the oldest tower is still visible in the courtyard today. It became a castle and a Swabian residence as evidenced by the imperial eagles carved in the lunettes of two windows in the same courtyard. Emperor Frederick II resided there several times and the first construction of a quadrilateral structure dates back to his engineers. It was rebuilt by Charles I of Anjou who elected it as his privileged Apulian residence, intervening in both the military and residential aspects: he built a palatium, a tower, the new walls, and a chapel.
The works ended with Charles II in 1291. Evident testimony of this phase are the foundations of the corner towers still visible in the basement because they were subsequently incorporated into the powerful sixteenth-century structures. Charles V, in fact, starting from 1532, made it an impregnable fortress, adapting it to the new firearms so that it was never attacked. Having lost much of its strategic function during the 1800s, it was symbolically attacked by the Austrian fleet at dawn on 24 May 1915: the signs on the sea side are evident, signs that also highlight the solidity of the structures. Today the imposing structure has an important cultural function: it houses the municipal library, the De Nittis collection, other art collections of which the city is rich, a series of splendid ancient and medieval tombstones.
You enter the castle by crossing the beautiful municipal gardens and crossing the large moat. Crossing a brick bridge, the entrance hall and some rooms behind it you reach the beautiful courtyard, an evocative setting where it is nice to stop and imagine the impressive gatherings in the large parade ground. The courtyard is the main junction to reach the different rooms both in the basement, through steep walkways and stairs, and in the upper floors with a beautiful staircase on the courtyard up to the beautiful terraces from which to enjoy an enchanting view of the sea, on one side. , and on the historic center and the apses of the cathedral on the other.
The castle of Trani, also built by Frederick II of Swabia, has preserved, perhaps better than the others, its most legible architectural features, despite the many interventions it has undergone over time. Strategically inserted in the castle system wanted by the Emperor for the defense of the coasts, it was built in a bay where the low water level was a natural defense against attacks from the sea.
The quadrangular layout, simple and functional, traces the Crusader castles built in the Holy Land: four square towers at the corners, an external facing with ashlar, a walkable wall with slits and arrows, three courtyards (to the east, south and west) and a moat once flooded by water.
Passed under the control first of the Angioni and then of the Aragonese, in the 16th century the castle was adapted to the new defensive techniques, firearms having been introduced, for the defensive needs of the Mediterranean coasts against the danger of Turkish invasions. The southern front was fortified and two bastions were built at opposite edges (south-west and north-east). In the 19th century it was used as a provincial prison until 1974. After the restoration by the Superintendence for Cultural Heritage, it was reopened to the public in 1998.
When you approach the hill on which the marvelous castle of Castel del Monte dominates perched and solitary, among the solemn quiet of the Alta Murgia, you have the feeling of being in front of something mysterious, perhaps due to its octagonal shape that distinguishes it. from any other fortress or for the legend that wants it to be the casket of the Holy Grail. Castel del Monte is the work of Frederick II of Swabia, in fact, by carefully examining the building, one realizes how strongly there is a strong imprint of his thought and his personality.
A figure of great culture, temperament and spirit of initiative, Frederick II studies classics, science, mathematics and astronomy with passion and rigor; a knowledge that seems to be reflected in the project of the great manor, where nothing is left to chance. Castel del Monte has an exceptional universal value for the perfection of its forms, the harmony and the fusion of cultural elements from northern Europe, the Muslim world and classical antiquity. It is a unique masterpiece of medieval architecture that reflects the humanism of its founder. The octagonal plan of the castle and the repetition of the use of the number eight, in the various architectural components, has freed the imagination of scholars, fueled by the magic that unleashes the obsessive application of the geometric rule in every element of the building.
Crossing the imposing entrance portal, in coral rubble, you enter a first room and a subsequent adjacent one, finally from the latter you reach the internal courtyard. In the whole castle, only three rooms have direct access to the courtyard, they are large rooms that get light from single-light windows and French doors. The whole journey is conceived as a journey towards purification, beauty and truth. There is no doubt that Castel del Monte is much more than an artifact that contains architectural references from various sources; it is also a symbol of human knowledge where mathematical, geometric, astrophysical laws and the course of celestial bodies merge into a single seamless body of stone. It is possible to take guided tours of the castle which also offers beautiful temporary exhibitions for more.