Known around the world, and one of the most fascinating and mysterious monuments in Italy, Castel del Monte is naturally the symbol of this territory. Detached from the cities, it truly seems to embrace them all. Upon reaching the top of the hill and looking around 360 degrees, one has the sensation that the castle is a sort of ideal axis, attractive and centrifugal, in which the most diverse histories, the most diverse characters and the most diverse physical and cultural identities of the surrounding places are condensed. For Federico II, it was certainly a symbol of absolute and indistinct imperial power. In the light of a more modern sentiment, it can be said to have been a symbol of the mixing of cultures. And, returning to the particular life and character of the inhabitants of the area, the Castle was, and still is, the main geographical point of reference, a reassuring "sign" of a recognisable centre, which makes it simple to orient oneself. It can be seen from the harbours, from the beaches, from the sea as far away as the Gulf of Manfredonia, from the Murgian highlands, from the fields, the trullos, the forests, the flood grounds, the sanctuaries and, finally, from the cities, beyond the skyline of the modern buildings.
For this reason as well, it is quite alienating to be enclosed within the building where, in an unexpected calm, one seems to be truly in the central nucleus, the heart of an organism. For these reasons, the itinerary proposed here starts from this pulsating and silent heart and, cherishing the sense of this indissoluble whole, is entitled "Voyage in the Lands of Imperial Puglia." A first-class traveller is the ideal guide: Federico II himself, Peur Apuliae, so in love with these cities and aware of their uniqueness, as to assign each of them a different role, and to the whole of the territory, a single powerful symbol.
The Castle rises above one of the highest hills of the Murgia, at 540 m above sea level. It has a regular octagonal layout of 16.5 m per side, with eight large towers, also octagonal, built into the corners and is made of hewn stones of tufaceous limestone. Two ramps of stairs lead up to the grandiose main portal, in the east-facing facade. The two internal floors are each made of eight, identical trapezoidal rooms, variously connected. On the facades between two towers there are single windows on the lower floor and mullioned windows on the upper floor (except for one window with three lights). The towers, which only have small crenels, have service rooms or stairs. The interior courtyard, which can be accessed from three rooms, repeats the octagonal layout of the building.
Begun before 1240 and already finished at the time of Federico II's death, it was first called Castle of St. Mary of the Mount, after the name of a Benedictine Abbey noted from the end of the 12th century, but no longer in existence. The current name appeared in 1463 in a decree by Ferdinando d'Aragona, and has remained the same since then.
Federico died on December 13, 1250, sixteen years later the Castle, which had been turned into a prison, hosted the three sons of Manfredi and, in 1277, Corrado, Count of Caserta. It was later a feud of Nicola Acciaiuoli, then of the Del Balzo family, dukes of Andria and, then, of Consalvo de Cordova, who sold it in 1552 to Fabrizio Colonna. The last owners were the family of the Carafa counts of Ruvo. Abandoned by its owners, for three centuries it was used as shelter for brigands and shepherds until it was bought, in 1876, by the Italian government. Today Castel del Monte has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.