Barletta is situated on the Adriatic coast, in the Puglia (Apulia) region of south-western Italy. In addition to the historical highlights of the town itself there are also many sandy beaches within easy reach of the town.
A visit to Barletta can start from outside the walls, in the Piazza Castello where the castle stands.
The castle entrance is to the south of the square and accessed via a stone bridge. The entrance door to the left leads to the ancient seat of the guard and the right door to the chapel where the Lords of the castle were buried. The hall itself leads to the square courtyard.
Barletta Castle was probably built in the Norman period, and appears for the first time in a document dated 1202. The castle was damaged in 1203 by the citizens who besieged the castle to expel a pro-papal Lord.
Then In 1228 Emperor Frederick II held here the famous Diet for the departure of the Sixth Crusade and between 1552 and 1559 further changes were made to the defensive walls.
The presence of Frederick II (1194-1250) is evident on the south side of the castle, with two windows that feature the Imperial eagle grasping a hare in its claws, a recurring motif of the Swabians who rebuilt the castle.
The Municipal Museum and Art Gallery is also situated here. These are devoted in particular to Giuseppe de Nittis (1846-1884), and hold some masterpieces by this painter, native to Barletta and one of the leading exponents of Italian painting in the late 19th century.
Among the works note “The Breakfast in the Garden” (1883), “The races at Longchamps” (1883) and “The train passes” (1869). Giuseppe De Nittis’s style reflects the painting style called “en plein air” ('in open air'), a poetic idea very close to that of the impressionists, who also were impressed by the works of G. Nittis when he moved to Paris.
Entering the historical centre of Barletta you quickly reach Barletta Cathedral, started around 1140 then further expanded during the 12th century, when the Bell Tower was also added.
In the cathedral crypt are the remains of two churches that pre-date the Cathedral, the oldest from the 6th century built by Bishop Sabino, and the second dated to the 10th-11th centuries.
In the heart of the city, at the junction of two major axes (the “Corso V. Emanuele” and the “Corso Garibaldi”) is the Basilica of the Holy Sepulchre, an important Church that was romanesque style when built in the 12th century, then later transformed into gothic style at the end of the 13th century.
The Church of the Holy Sepulchre dates from 1061 and in the 16th century was annexed to the Knights of Malta. Its architecture is of Apulian romanesque style, with Oriental influences.
The Basilica, as the name suggests, is linked to the Holy Land and in the Middle Ages was an important centre for pilgrims to Jerusalem.
It is divided into three aisles and holds some works of great historical value, such as a a glazed dove from the 12th century, gothic silverwork and a crystal ostensory, a Breviary of the 13th century, and a relic of the cross. Equally important is the original sculptural work, which today exists only on the capitals of the pillars of the nave and the narthex.
Barletta is a city deeply tied to its own history and almost every year in July the famous "Disfida di Barletta" (a festival linked to a fight between Italian and French knights) is commemorated, with costume parades and spectacular festivals.
For the occasion there is also a great feast of local products, and if you are lucky enough to be able to visit during the festival you can enjoy some traditional local dishes such as the “orecchiette” and the special “braciolette”.
At any time of year a vist to Barletta will enable you to sample the local products such as cheeses, sausages, and the excellent seasonal fruit.
Among the regional wines to enjoy we should mention in particular the “Rosso Barletta”, while among the sweets to taste are the so-called "cartellate", cakes of thin dough in the form of pink and covered with honey.
See also history of Barletta