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Castel del Monte Town (Abruzzo): the History, the Town and the Hospitality. How to get there..




Castel del Monte is a small village in the Province of L'Aquila near the two beautiful medieval villages, Santo Stefano di Sessanio and Rocca Calascio.
Castel del Monte is at an altitude of 1345 meters, between the high Gran Sasso Mountain (with the Campo Imperatore Upland), one of the most fascinating and the highest mountain in Italy, and the Sirente and Maiella Mountains.

Castel del Monte is part of the Gran Sasso and Laga Mountains's National Park and it is in the District of Baronage's Lands, in which some of "The most beautiful villages in Italy" are included like Santo Stefano di Sessanio, Rocca Calascio, Castelvecchio Calvisio, Barisciano and San Pio delle Camere with its strange castle.
Castel del Monte has been considered one of the most beautiful village in Italy as the closeby Santo Stefano di Sessanio village has been.

This small and fascinating medieval village attracted the attention of some international film makers, who decided that it was the perfect film set for their movies.
Many sequences of the Ladyhawke movie (with Michelle Pfeiffer and Rutger Hauer) were shot here, in the narrow streets of Castel del Monte, called in the movie "Aguillon", and in the Castle of Rocca Calascio.

Castel del Monte was the main set film of  the movie The American (with George Clonney, Bruce Altman and Violante Placido). The secret atmosphere that permeates the narrow street of the village and the many tunnels underneath and the dark silence enshrouding the sleeping burgh at night were the main features attracting Anton Corbijn's (the director of The American) attention.
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THE HISTORY OF CASTEL DEL MONTE

The history of Castel del Monte begins in the XI century BC as many necropoli near the village attest. Later, in the IV century BC, the Romans conquered the small village and founded the "Three Crowns City", from which Castel del Monte developed.

The first document attesting to the name of Castel del Monte is the Pope Onorio III's Bull, in 1223 AC. In this document, the village is named "Castellum de Montis".
Since 1223, the history of Castel del Monte becomes clear and reliable.

Castel del Monte became a county in the Aquaviva's property, who became one of the most powerful families in the Naples's Kingdom during the XIII century as other families did, such as the Piccolominis from Tuscany, the D'Aquinos, and the Celanos. Castel del Monte was the property of the Aquaviva family until 1474. After that date, the village became Alessandro Sforza's property, but for just four years.

Hereafter, Castel del Monte followed the destiny of other villages of the County of Baronage's Lands (which included and includes some burghs like Rocca Calascio, Santo Stefano di Sessanio, Castelvecchio Calvisio). The new owners of the County were the Piccolominis from Tuscany until 1579, when the County of Baronage's Lands were sold by Costanza, the Duchess of Amalfi, to another Tuscany family, the Medicis, who owned for two centuries. During this period, the County of Baronage's Lands were in contact with Tuscany and Florence, for which it prodided a lot of wool.
The Medicis were the owners of the County and Castel del Monte until the National Unification of Italy in 1861.

Today, the Castel del Monte village has been restored completely and it is visited by many tourists. Here the famous The American movie with George Clooney was shot.



The Village of Castel del Monte: between Folk and Mistery

Here in this small village, the time stopped to admire the beauty of the traditions of the ancient ages- when the warmth of a fireplace and the sweet smell of a soup were enough to warm the hearths of the people; when a stolen kiss under the light of a "sporto" brings a blush to a ingenuous maiden's cheeks.
Walking through the narrow streets and the dark "sporti" of Castel del Monte (narrow tunnels under the village) is walking back to the past: out of the village the world has changed, but inside all is as it was in the past.

Castel del Monte is the village of the mystery, of ancient believes connected with legends and myths, of witches raping children and tales as ancient as the man's fear in front the incomprehensible.
Here, between the "sporti" lit only by a soft light, where the shadows jumble up reality and imagination, sometimes the walking man can hear strange noises coming from far away, like children's moans and soft laughs lost in the dark.

An ancient story teller, Francesco Giuliani, who lived in Castel del Monte in 1800, told the story of The rites to save the children from the witches:
"Here, the people believe in witches. When a child falls sick and the doctor doesn't understand the reason, the people believe the witches are sucking him at night. They believe the witches get in the home through the keyhole or from the roof. Soon, the family gets together and decide they have to walk through the village and under seven "sporti" (narrow tunnels under the village).
[...] There is another way to save the child's life. The family keeps a vigil over the child for ten days and the last night they go out of the village to the place where two streets crisscross and there they put the child's clothes over a piece of wood and beat them many times; then they burn them and the child gets well."
(from the Francesco Giuliani's books Se ascoltar vi piace...)


 The night of witches

From these strange rites and events to the mysterious atmosphere enshrouding the village, it is no surprise that here is where The Night of the Witches originated, celebrated on 17th August of each year. It is one of the most fascinating event in Italy, during which the narrow streets and the small squares become the perfect set for tales and strange shows which tell the ancient beliefs and rites connected with witches.





Arts and Crafts
On 12th August of each year, all the streets of Castel del Monte live again the ancient traditions connected with the rural life. "Arts and Crafts" is a feast of the past, which live again in front of the eyes of the tourists of the present.





The Madonna of the shepherds
On 8th September, an ancient tradition is celebrated in this small village. It is the feast of The Madonna of Shepherds or Madonna del Suffragio. During this night, a procession starts from the St Marco's Church and arrives at the Church of the Madonna del Suffragio. Here, in an ancient time, the shepherds prayed for protection and divine grace before leaving for a long journey to the far off land of Apulia, through the ancient transhumance streets.







WHAT TO VISIT IN CASTEL DEL MONTE

Castel del Monte is on a high mountain as many other medieval villages are. The highest part of Castel del Monte is named "Ricetto" and it was the place where the people got together to escape from enemies. All the Ricetto is surrounded by walls and in the middle of it is the high Bell Tower, an ancient sighting tower that soars above the village.

All the village was built over the rocks and it is crossed by narrow underground tunnels named "sporti". The "sporti" were used to move through the village safely and today they are the main feature of Castel del Monte.

Many churches were built in this small village and many of those are still intact to this day.
One of those is the Church of St Donato, patron of Castel del Monte and it is located just outside of the village. 
But the most famous churches in Castel del Monte are the Church of the Madonna del Suffragio (or Church of the Shepherds) and the Church of St Marco. These churches hold precious treasures of the past: bas-relieves, toils and wood statues.

Castel del Monte is full of many museums. Here it is possible to see tools of the ancient rural worlds and to learn more about it, with places like the Museum of the Wool.








TYPICAL PRODUCTS: the "Canestrato of Castel del Monte"
The ancient flavors keep living in the mind of those who consider them the most important expression of a past to preserve. The people living in Castel del Monte live by this idea and this is why they keep producing an example of the best pecorino cheese in Italy, the Canestrato of Castel del Monte, produced with uncooked sheep milk, rennet and salt. But the recipe is a secret!
Today this pecorino cheese is preserved by the Slow Food Protection.

Canestrato chees from Castel del Monte


Where to sleep in Castel del Monte: Hotels, Farm Hotel, B&B, Camping
  • Parco del Gran Sasso Hotel: Castel del Monte - Campo Imperatore street n.7 - Tel: +39 0862/938484
  • Miramonti Hotel: Castel del Monte - XX Settembre Square n.10 - Tel: +39 0862/938142
  • Della Pineta Hotel: Castel del Monte - Vittoria Street n.72 - Tel: +39 0862/938263
  • "D'Angelo Stefano" Bed and Breakfast: Castel del Monte - Vittoria Street n.20 - Tel: +39 0862/938136
  • "Nel Borgo Antico" Guest House: Castel del Monte - Tel: +39 333 7272972
  • "Monte Camicia" Inn: Castel del Monte - Rione Occidentale Street n.44 - Tel: +39 0862/938225 - Cell: +39 333 7272972
  • "Palazzo Colelli" Medieval Mansion: Castel del Monte - Cell: +39 334 6167360


Where to eat in Castel del Monte: Restaurants, Trattorias, Farm Restaurants

  • Osteria del Lupo: Castel del Monte - Vittoria Street n.20 - Tel: +39 0862/938112 
  • "Dal Gattone" Restaurant: Castel del Monte - Campo della Fiera Street n.10 - Tel: +39 0862/938446
  • "Il Borgo del Tempo Perso" Restaurant: Castel del Monte - Rione Orientale Street n.9 - Tel: +39 340 6408321
  • "Parco del Gran Sasso" Restaurant: Castel del Monte - Campo Imperatore Street n.7 - Tel: +39 0862/938484
  • "La Loggia" Restaurant: Castel del Monte - Largo Umberto I n.11 - Tel: +39 0862/938424


The Geographic Location




HOW TO GET TO CASTEL DEL MONTE

  • By car from Rome: Take the A24 Highway to East L'Aquila; Continue driving on the SS17 Street in the direction of Pescara and take the Barisciano exit. Drive on SP Street in the direction of  Castel del Monte and turn to Calascio.
  • By car from Pescara: Take the A25 Highway in the direction of Rome; exit the Highway with Bussi exit; drive on SS153 Street in the direction of L'Aquila and turn off to Ofena; then, turn to Castel del Monte and continue straight.
  • By bus from Rome:  Catch a bus from Rome, Tiburtina Station, to L'Aquila City; catch a bus from L'Aquila, Bus Station, to Barisciano (in the direction of Sulmona); in Barisciano, catch a bus to Castel del Monte.
  • By bus from Pescara: Catch a bus from Pescara Bus Station to Barisciano (in the direction of L'Aquila); in Barisciano, catch a bus to Castel del Monte.
  • By train: catch the train from Rome or from Pescara to Bussi sul Tirino. From Bussi sul Tirino, catch a bus to Barisciano; from Barisciano, catch a bus to Castel del Monte.



Map of Castel del Monte







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