|Taking a small break from sight-seeing, we enjoyed the beach and the water|
steps from our room at La Belle Trani.
If you've heard of Trani at all, it may be because of its dessert wine, Moscato di Trani. The town also has a 13th-century fortress, an 11th-century cathedral, and two synagogues attesting to its once-flourishing Jewish community. We saw none of these. We walked the scenic mile between our inn and the town center several times, enjoyed three unexpected (by us, at least) major firework displays, and ate marvelous seafood and drank Italian wines and people-watched to our hearts' content. All without taking photos. I was on vacation.
I took a break from that vacation, however, when we drove into the countryside to see Castel del Monte, built by Frederick II (king of Sicily, Germany and Italy and emperor of the Holy Roman Empire) in the first half of the 13th century. Supposedly it was intended to be a center for studying the sciences of Europe and the Arab world. Umberto Eco used it as inspiration for riddles in "The Name of the Rose." It's an octagonal fortress with eight octagonal towers. To me it seemed like the realization in stone and mortar of something you might doodle during geometry class. It sits at about 1,800 feet on a hill overlooking vast swaths of fields and forests. Its chambers were once elaborately finished with marble and fine furnishings. There are bits of marble left and some architectural carvings, but after centuries of disuse and pillage, today's tourists are lucky to see that the structure itself survived.
|This aerial view was on a poster at the castle. All the|
other photos here are mine.
|The simple proportions somehow mask the size of the castle.|
|A view from the floor of the courtyard shows some of the stonework to need repair.|
|What I thought were archers' slits|
on the outside are actually ways
to let light into the castle. This
is one of the two stairways.
|Glass was extremely expensive|
in the Middle Ages, so windows
tended to be small, even in
something built by a king.
|This little man appears to be holding up the ceiling inside the castle, but the groins|
above his head are merely decorative. They're missing in some parts of the castle
and it's clear they existed just to give the vaulting a little extra pizzazz.
|The exotic stone in this complex column|
gives some idea of how posh the castle
|Vandals or stone thieves demolished|
most of the chimneys that once warmed
the large rooms on the top floor.
|You can see for miles and miles from Castel del Monte.|
|On the way to the exit, we encountered local|
winemakers and oil producers offering free tastings,
and if you wanted to buy anything, the money
went to a local charity. We got a bottle of
olive oil to take home as a gift.
|Small fishing boats at the beach by our inn.|
|The ramp at right connects the inn La Belle Trani with the public beach. In the distance|
is a private lido beach with white umbrellas, but the water and the sand are the same.