Castel del Monte is one of the most magical places in Italy, visited by many tourists every year and also chosen by various artists as a location for films.

The fortress dates back to the XIII century and was built by the Roman Emperor Frederick II on the western plateau of the Murge in Puglia, in the municipality of Andria, 17 km from the city. The castle was inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1996.

Castel del Monte was built on a hill 540 metres above sea level and is commonly known for its octagonal shape. The fortress was designed according to a geometric and mathematical rigour, and the number eight recurs almost obsessively.

The castle is considered a brilliant example of medieval architecture and combines various 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 and the delicate Islamic refinements of its mosaics.

The castle has two floors and the sixteen rooms that make it up, eight on each floor, have a trapezoidal shape. The two floors are connected by three spiral staircases inserted into as many towers. It is believed that there was also an octagonal basin in the courtyard.

Photo above: Castel del Monte, Barletta, Andria, Trani, Apulia, Italy.    foto © D-VISIONS /

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Castel del Monte is not only a magnificent example of medieval architecture, built of quartz and limestone, but it also embodies magic and esotericism.

Even the castle’s position on the hill is designed to create special light and shadow effects at certain times of the year, such as the days of the solstice and equinox. In short, everything seems to have been done on purpose to suggest symbolism. Without boundary walls, moats and stables – elements that characterise most medieval military buildings – it has been suggested that Castel del Monte may have had various functions: Temple, ideal place for study, even a place of relaxation along the lines of the Arab hammam. Its rooms, some note, even seem to have been designed to be traversed along an obligatory path associated with astronomical symbols. The octagonal shape, according to others, recalls the geometry of a crown to represent the imperial power with which Frederick II was endowed. I

n the buildings of Castel del Monte, with its perfect geometric design reminiscent of an intricate labyrinth, one can still find symbols left by Emperor Frederick II, such as the one found in the sixth room, in which, almost obscured by a play of light, a lily with 3 leaves and a stem can be seen. Another observation element is that of the entrance to the castle, marked by an imposing portal made up of 2 columns and 2 lion statues, the first looking towards the sunrise at winter solstice and the second looking towards the sunrise at summer solstice.

Of particular interest is the hydraulic system for collecting and distributing rainwater of oriental origin.

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The castle is open to the public all year round. The entrance ticket entitles you to visit the entire castle and can be purchased directly at the ticket office or online for a small additional fee.

Castel del Monte is easily accessible by plane (from the nearby city of Bari with many flight connections via Bari Palese airport), by train or by car. Once you arrive in Bari, you can reach Castel del Monte with a train ride 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 arrive by car, take the A16 motorway to the Andria-Barletta exit and then take state road 170. Just follow the signs to Castel del Monte for about 18 kilometres.

Text: Luca ©

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