Puglia, the heel of the boot, is home to numerous castles (castelli in Italian), throwbacks to battles of yesteryear. The castles and medieval fortresses in Puglia date from as early as the 11th century and are popular amongst visitors to this southern Italy region. Castles that are open to visitors often have minimal or no entrance fees, making them good places to visit for families and historians.
Many of Puglia's castles are protected and preserved and some have been renovated to be used for housing art galleries or museums.
Castel Del Monte
Castel del Monte is a must-see for visitors as it is everything a castle should be. Built in 1240 by Frederick II, the Holy Roman Emperor and King of Sicily, Castel del Monte is known for its unusual octagonal shape and its architecture is a mixture of classical antiquity, Islamic, and European Gothic styles. The castle is made up of a crown-like ring of rooms and buildings. All of the rooms are connected and visitors proceed from one room to another around a central octagonal courtyard.
Castel del Monte is open all year, with shorter hours in winter, and has a modest entrance fee. Allow about an hour to visit it. The closest town is Andria, about 18 kilometers away. In the area are several masserie, or manor houses, where you can stay such as Lama di Luna or Posta Santa Croce, near Trani, where we stayed.
Castel del Monte is one of southern Italy's UNESCO world heritage sites which helps to preserve it and protect it from damage and harm.
The Norman-Swabian castle in Bari, called the Swabian Castle or Castello Svevo, was built by the Norman King Roger II in 1131 and later rebuilt by Frederik II.
The castle features a working drawbridge, moat and numerous ramparts. It now houses the Museum of Gypsum Works, sculptures and artifacts of Puglian history, and temporary art exhibits. This waterfront castle near the harbor, just outside Bari's old town center, served to guard the city from attacks.
Bisceglie Castle and Tower
Located in Bisceglie, on the Adriatic coast, this 27 meter tall Norman tower was originally designed as a sighting tower and stronghold surrounded by walls. Built by Count Peter I in 1060 the Normans originally constructed only the first floor. Due to advances in weaponry the main tower, which became a last resort of refuge for local inhabitants in the event of an attack, was constructed later along with the castle. The tower is known by fisherman as the Torre Maestra and was used by seafarers as a guide for ships when entering the port. The castle now houses an ethnographic museum.
A nice place to stay near Bisceglie is the seaside town of Trani, where there is also a small castle on the waterfront that can be visited. Mare Resort is a boutique hotel in Trani.
Otranto's Castello Aragonese sits at the entrance to the town's historic center.
Although the original castle was built before the 15th century, the most recent restructuring is from the Aragonese period. The castle complex has been restored and is open to visitors. Outside the castle you can walk up to the top of the walls for great views of the town and the sea. It is believed that the first Gothic novel ever written, the Castle of Otranto written in 1764, was inspired by this castle.
Commonly known as the red castle due to the color of the bricks, Brindisi castle is made up of two sections. The castle was originally built during the reign of Emperor Frederick II in 1227, restored during the fifteenth century, and extended during the sixteenth.
The distinct characteristics of the castle showcase trademarks of Puglian history.
During the Second World War the castle became home to King Victor Emanuel III who was fleeing Rome and subsequently promoted Brindisi to become the temporary capital of Italy.
At the top of the small, charming hill town of Oria sits Oria Castle, also built in 1277 by Emperor Frederick II. Originally it had one square tower but two round towers were added later. In August a parade in medieval costume and historic tournaments amongst the town's four quarters are held at the castle. You can see photos of the festival on these Oria Castle Photos.
Some information in this article was provided by Charming Puglia, boutique and luxury hotels.