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Castel del Monte PDO wines come from vineyards cultivated at the foot of the splendid manor house from which the PDO takes its name, and includes the territories north of Bari and the areas closest to Frederick’s fortress between Minervino Murge, Andria and Trani.
Minervino Murge, selected as one of the Borghi autentici d’Italia,the Authentic Villages of Italy network , is called the ‘Balcony of Apulia’ and looking out from the highest part of the town it is immediately possible to understand why: the view sweeps over a panorama that includes the Vulture and the Gargano. Its oldest part is the Scesciola, the medieval village in which the stone houses are connected by arches across the façades. These include the Baronial Palace, of Lombard origin, transformed by the Normans with a splendid neoclassical façade, and the Castle, now the Town Hall. The village is also known for its gastronomy, which focuses on lamb, homemade pasta and cardoncelli mushrooms, which are very abundant in the area.
Andria, while boasting a historical centre of considerable interest, characterized by an evocative and dense maze of streets and narrow alleyways amidst monuments of great value such as the cathedral where the relics of San Riccardo, the Holy Thorn of Jesus and the wives of Frederick II, Jolanda of Brienne and Isabella of England are kept, is always associated with the manor that most recalls the Swabian: Castel del Monte, the Italian for “Castle of the Mountain”.
The same castle that gives its name to the wine, which ranges from white to red to rosé, and which appears from afar high and solemn, standing out on a solitary cone of rock in the Murge landscape. Documents show that it was built between 1240 and 1246 and it seems that the emperor, who died in 1250, never lived there. The plan is octagonal, as are the towers, the rooms on each of the two floors and the sides of the inner courtyard. A visit is a must to discover not only the portal in coral breccia, the cross vaults and the spiral staircase, but also a real rarity for the time: the almost perfect sanitary facilities.
The most famous of Apulia’s cathedrals is that of Trani, shining on the coast has a bell tower that rises like a spear. The cathedral is made up of three overlapping churches, the church of Santa Maria, the hypogeum of San Leucio and the San Nicola Pellegrino Basilica and stands out against the sea together with the Swabian Castle, Old Town and, at the other end, the Sant’Antonio Fortino.
Trani should be experienced a little at a time, walking along the cobbled streets of the old town centre, with the church of Ognissanti, built in Romanesque style by the Order of the Templars, and the synagogues Scola Nova and Sant’Anna, two of the surviving buildings of the old Jewish quarter. Then head for the Public Gardens, surrounded on three sides by the sea and encircled by a medieval wall. And finish off with dinner in one of the many places along the port toasting with Castel del Monte PDO wine, maybe in the sparkling version permitted by the regulations, as well as novello and riserva, that is nouveau and reserve.