Castel del Monte
Castel del Monte is one of the most magical places in Italy, visited every year by many tourists and also chosen by different artists as a location for shooting films. The fortress dates back to the XIII century and was built by the Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II in the western Murge plateau, in Puglia, in the municipality of Andria, 17 km from the city. The castle was listed in 1996 as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Castel del Monte is built on a hill 540 meters above sea level and is universally known for its octagonal shape. The fortress was conceived following a geometric and mathematical rigor and the number eight recurs almost obsessively. Considered a brilliant example of medieval architecture, the castle combines different stylistic elements, from the Romanesque cut of the lions at the entrance to the Gothic frame of the towers, from the classical art of the interior friezes to the defensive structure of the architecture up to the delicate Islamic refinements of its mosaics .
The castle has two floors and the sixteen rooms that compose it, eight on each floor, have a trapezoidal shape. The connection between the two floors takes place through three spiral staircases inserted in as many towers. It is believed that there was also an octagonal basin in the inner courtyard.
Castel del Monte is not only a splendid example of medieval architecture, built with quartz and limestone, but it embodies magic and esotericism too. Even the position of the castle on the hill is designed in such a way as to create particular effects of light and shadow at certain times of the year, such as the days of the solstice and the equinox. In short, everything seems to have been made on purpose to suggest symbolism. Devoid of boundary walls, moat and stables – elements that characterize most medieval military buildings – it has been assumed that Castel del Monte may have had various functions: temple, ideal place for study, even a place of relaxation on the model of the Arabic hammam. Its rooms, some observe, even seem designed to be crossed according to an obligatory path, linked to astronomical symbols. The octagonal shape, according to others, would recall the geometry of a crown, to represent the imperial power of which Frederick II was invested. In the structures of Castel del Monte, with its perfect geometric design reminiscent of an intricate labyrinth, you can still find symbols left by Emperor Frederick II, such as the one found in the sixth room where, almost hidden by a play of light: a lily with 3 leaves and a stem. Another element of observation is that of the entrance to the castle, characterized by an imposing portal consisting of 2 columns and 2 statues of lions, the first one looking towards the sunrise at the winter solstice and the second has the look in the direction of sunrise on the summer solstice.
Of particular interest is the hydraulic system for the collection and distribution of rainwater, of oriental origin. The castle is open to the public throughout the year. The ticket gives access to the visit of the whole castle and can be purchased directly at the ticket office or online for a small supplement.
Castel del Monte is easily accessible by plane (from the nearby city of Bari with many air connections through the Bari Palese airport), by train or by car. Once in Bari you can reach Castel del Monte with a train trip to Andria and then take a bus that will take you directly to the castle: however, the service is only active from the beginning of April to the end of October. If you are traveling by car, take the A16 motorway to the Andria-Barletta exit and then take the state road 170. Just follow the signs for Castel del Monte for about 18 kilometers.
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