From Bari, we made our way to a fascinating castle, built during the 1240s by King Frederick II, who had inherited the lands from his mother Constance of Sicily. It has neither a moat nor a drawbridge and maybe it never was intended as a defensive fortress. We arrived in the afternoon and found a hidden spot to park on the backside of the hill on which the castle lies. (41.087038, 16.266301)
In the countryside we had spotted some stone buildings which we went to explore. They are dry stone huts, which don’t have the conical roof of a Trullo, but the way of construction was similar. These houses were used by farmers in the countryside, built of the local stones with very thick walls. They keep the summer heat out and in winter the warmth from the hearth lasts a long time.
We spent the night at our secluded spot and the next day we walked through the forest up to the castle. Frederick II was responsible for the construction of many castles in Apulia, but Castel del Monte’s geometric design was unique. The fortress is an octagonal prism with an octagonal tower at each corner. Both floors have eight rooms and an eight-sided courtyard occupies the castle’s centre. Frederick II may have been inspired to build to this shape by either the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem, which he had seen during the Sixth Crusade, or by the Palatine Chapel of Aachen Cathedral.
On the way back to Bari we stopped at Ruvo de Puglia, where we just went for a walk through town. It was Sunday and many locals were strolling with their friends or kids. We didn’t find a place for lunch, so we bought some pizza bread at a bakery and went “home” again.
We are now following the coast further south, exploring little towns and looking for hikes. More on our next post!