CASTEL DEL MONTE: AN ITINERARY THROUGH THE PDO TERRITORY OF BARI

There are seven PDO Castel del Monte municipalities in the Bari area: Corato, Ruvo di Puglia, Terlizzi, Bitonto, Palo del Colle, Toritto and Binetto.

The PDO Castel del Monte is linked since its name to the octagonal manor built by Emperor Frederick II. The vineyards from which this wine – one of the best known and most appreciated in Apulia – is made, surround the manor like a crown and extend from the sixth province called BAT (Barletta Andria Trani, which includes a total of 10 municipalities), located north of Bari.

This is the area of the itinerary that touches the seven PDO municipalities between BAT and the province of Bari, starting from Corato, the northernmost of the towns on the PDO Castel del Monte wine tour. The ancient Quadratum presents faint traces of its medieval past, while there are several palaces witnessing the importance of the village in later centuries. One of these is De Mattis Palace, known as the ‘Palazzo dalle pietre pizzute’, the Palace of the spiky stones, due to its diamond-pointed cladding typical of Renaissance architecture. Nearby, the San Magno necropolis, dating back to the 7th century BC, and the Paladini Dolmen, which, according to legend, was built by giants, are of interest.

Nearby is Ruvo di Puglia, famous for its beautiful Apulian Romanesque cathedral, with a gabled façade, three portals and a rose window at the top, a patibulated cross plan and east-facing apses. The countryside is cultivated with almond groves and white and black ‘prunesta’ table grapes, while in the town a must is to stop for a taste of the Mandorlaccio, a sweet rediscovered years ago by a local confectioner.

Terlizzi is the city of flowers and ceramics, while its architectural symbol is the Torre Maggiore, Great Tower, the last remaining vestige of the ancient Norman castle. Terlizzi’s historic centre is small and cosy, and has kept intact the characteristics of the medieval citadel, which over time has been enriched by the presence of monumental buildings such as the 19th century De Napoli family Palace, now home to the art gallery by the same name.

The jewel of Bitonto is its cathedral, one of the most beautiful in Apulia, in the centre of a large square in the medieval quarter. Built between the 12th and 13th centuries, it is majestic with a façade adorned by a rose window, beautiful mullioned windows with two lights and three portals, while the side has a loggia with rich capitals. Inside, there is a baptismal font from 1200, beautiful capitals on the columns between the naves, fine inlays on the ambo and an 11th century mosaic depicting a griffin.

Reaching Palo del Colle, Toritto and Binetto, the last fringes of the PDO Castel del Monte wine territory, you are now on the outskirts of Bari. The beautiful and irregular Santa Croce Square in the centre of Palo is also overlooked by the cathedral, in Romanesque style but altered in the 16th century and flanked by a slender bell tower.

In Toritto, the almond is the queen, with prized local cultivars bearing the names of ancient inhabitants: “Antonio De Vito“, “Genco“, “Filippo Cea“. Just outside the town is the karst sinkhole known as Pulicchio. In Binetto, now a small agricultural centre producing almonds and oil, the D’Amelj Melodia Palace, was built on the ancient castle of the Altavilla family. This abandoned structure now stands imposingly in the town’s main square.