I’ve spent a lot of time in Puglia, but not as much time as I’d like exploring it. One day we decided to drive out and see the famous 13th-century Castel del Monte (Castle of the Mount) perched up on a hill out in the middle of the Puglian countryside, near the city of Andria (which, if you didn’t know, is famous for the lovely burrata cheese you all know and love). Castel del Monte is a World Heritage Site as well as being depicted on the back of the Italian 1 Euro cent coin.
Our first glimpse of the structure in the car there really made an impact. It sits out in the middle of nothing, and the forest surrounding it acts as shelter and camouflage both.
The octagon shape is what really sets it apart from other castles I’ve seen, and the smooth exterior which is unfortunately no longer the original.
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You can’t help but walk all the way around the castle to view all of its eight towers. I confirm they’re exactly alike :)
I really enjoyed reading about the castle’s history, which is long and convoluted – it’s been vandalized and ransacked repeatedly and was only restored in the last century. Here’s what it looked like before the restoration:
Though there is some ornamentation in the few castle windows there are, the spartan exterior doesn’t hide any real signs of life inside.
The history helped me understand more about the structure, but very little remained with regards to the actual lives that it once fostered and protected.
There was so little life to the structure that the placement of a single statue in the immense inner courtyard had that much more impact. Two people, a soldier and his lady, locked in an embrace. They are Hector and Andromache, L’Abbraccio di Ettore e Andromaca. I thought it was quite beautiful, but one of my favorite paintings is Il Bacio (The Kiss) by Francesco Hayez, so it’s not that far off. The Greek mythology doesn’t have much to do with the structure, but I appreciated a bit of a human touch.
I was mesmerized by the narrow arrow slits and couldn’t help thinking that you should be able to see outside. To many, the structure is mysterious and the lack of human presence adds to this. To me, it just makes it a little sad.
It didn’t take us very long to visit, and on the way out, I couldn’t help but go for the (literal) “money shot” here. If you’re in the area, schedule an hour or two to check the castle out.