#19 / The summer solstice in Castel del Monte

#19 / The summer solstice in Castel del Monte - Marco Moreo Milano

As there is so much to see in Puglia, today’s trip covers an entire province. It is known as BAT, which is an acronym for the 3 provincial capitals: Barletta, Andria and Trani.

And it is precisely in Trani that we begin our tour: from this small fishing town made famous by its beautiful cathedral that looks out across the sea. White in color – although the limestone from which it is built has a pinkish hue – it is one of the finest examples of the Apulian Romanesque style.

It is truly moving to stand and admire the typical gabled facade and imposing bell tower silhouetted against the cobalt blue of the sea and sky – today this place is very tranquil and the sea is flat as a pancake.

It took 2 centuries to build the Cathedral (which is dedicated to Saint Nicholas the Pilgrim). Construction began with the church in 1099 and the bell tower was completed in 1300. A peculiar feature of the bell tower is that its base is shaped like a tunnel so as to always guarantee access to the sea; it’s basically a bell tower with a road running through the middle.

Heartened by so much beauty, we take a short stroll through the old town where we find the same limestone on the buildings and pavements: you can probably hear the echo of our steps along the narrow alleys crammed with small cafés and chit-chatting locals.

But that’s enough walking for now: we get into the car and in under half an hour we reach another monument where limestone white and sky blue go arm in arm. We’re in Castel del Monte, the famous octagonal castle built by the Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II. You catch a glimpse of the castle from afar, perched on the hill like a sentinel that has been standing guard for 800 years. Majestic and elegant, with a balance of shapes that stir my imagination, it is unforgettable.

Do you want to know a little gem about this place? The two lions that stand above the entrance are looking in opposite directions but, in a sense it is the same; one looks to where the sun rises on June 21 (the summer solstice) and the other to where it rises on the winter solstice.

Given that it is almost 6 months until the next solstice, we have time to get back in the car to head for our customary gastronomic break. I suggest the lively town of Barletta and a great classic of the local cuisine: a hearty dish of orecchiette pasta with turnip tops. This pasta is disc-shaped and comes dressed with a sauce of slightly fibrous and bitter-tasting turnip tops. Yummy!

Before we head back north, we absolutely must stop off in Andria, the land of mozzarella, in its thousand shapes and consistencies: fior di latte, scamorza, burrata, stracciatella, caciotta, provola… every name is a pure delight! Italian way of life ;)

A big Italian hug to you all,