Puglia Grand Tour: Part 6 The Castel del Monte and Trani

Published on:  | Last updated: 27 March 2017

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Distances
Matera - Gravina in Puglia 25 kms
Gravina in Puglia - Castel del Monte 48 kms
Castel del Monte - Trani 33 kms

Gravina in Puglia is overshadowed by its more famous near-neighbour but well worth a visit. It's on of a number of cities in Italy built on the tufo volcanic rock, with an under­ground city beneath it. Gravina Sotteranea is an example of the movement volunteer enthu­siasts who have devoted their time and energy to exploring and opening up the lost cities beneath them (sometimes in the face of the oppos­ition of the local author­ities). This report from the regional television will give you a bit of a flavour of what there is to see:

The other star sight is the cripta di San Vito Vecchio possibly the most complete example of a chiesa rupestra at the Fondazione Santomasi (scroll down to the bottom of the article for the small slideshow. The frescoes have been rescued and the crypt recreated in the museum.

If that isn't enough for you, the cathedral also has a the (claimed) arm of Thomas à Beckett in the cathedral.

Castel del Monte - Puglia

Castel del Monte - Puglia

The tour continues from Gravina in Puglia across the Alta Murgia national park to Trani on the coast. On the way it visits another UNESCO World Heritage site - the Castel del Monte built for Federico II. The unique design of the castle makes it something of an enigma. it never had a moat, and it doesn’t seem to have been designed to be a defensive structure. The castle is an octagon with 8 octagonal towers and each floor has eight rooms around an octagonal courtyard. The repeated recur­rence of the number 8 in the construction and decor­ation has lead to specu­lation that it had some sort of religious or other numer­o­lo­gical signi­ficance.

Castel del Monte plan view

Castel del Monte plan view - click to enlarge

From Castel del Monte we descend to Trani one of the most elegant cities on this stretch of the Adriatic coast.

More information

Places to stay

Hotels and B&Bs

Find and book places to stay with Booking.com

Booking.com pages for places on this section of the route:

 About these links

If you use these links to book accom­mod­ation Booking.com will pay me a small part of their commission. This helps support the costs of producing this site.

I use Booking.com to find and book places to stay when there are no campsites in the area. The large majority of hotels and many hostels are now on ‘Booking’. I like it because it means that I can get almost-instant confirm­ation. The rating system is also a reliable guide to the quality of the accom­mod­ation.

I’ve never had a problem finding places to keep my bike —even if it’s a cupboard or store room. I always use the ‘special requests’ field on the booking form to tell the hotel that I’m travelling with a bike, which gives them the oppor­tunity to let me know if there’s a problem.

Many properties offer free cancel­lation but it’s a good idea to check the condi­tions as these vary from property to property.

In Trani I stayed at the B&B Trani a charming and excep­tional place (I think it was an old convent). You have breakfast around a communal table in a courtyard garden on the first floor with orange trees. The rooms were a bit small and spartan, but if it were modernised I suspect the owners could charge double what they charge now. It’s run by a charming couple who are now pretty elderly and not in the best of health, and their son was helping out. So I don’t know what it’s future will be. Update: it's still there and the website has been overhauled. Looking at the pictures, the rooms have been upgraded, but it still has the old atmosphere and charm. And the prices are still very reasonable. It’s probably a good idea to reserve.

Campsites

  Map of campsites along the route:  PGT-campsites-map-show map in overlay    |    PGT-campsites-map-show map in new window   

Trani fishing boat

Fishing boat returns to Trani, with the cathedral in the background

Articles in this series

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