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On the Adriatic coast in southern Italy, the large town of Barletta has several interesting historic monuments including the largest known bronze statue from Ancient Roman times.
Explore Barletta: tourism and travel guide
As well as the historical highlights in Barletta mentioned below there are also many sandy beaches within easy reach of the town. This includes two that are either side of the town centre, but Barletta is not really a 'resort' town because the beaches are rather separate from the town.
If you are searching for a beach holiday we would suggest you stay on the coast elsewhere in the region, perhaps one of the popular resorts on the Gargano peninsula to the north, and visit Barletta as a day trip.
Your visit to Barletta historic centre can perhaps start from outside the town walls in Piazza Castello where the castle is found.
Barletta Castle, one of the largest medieval castles in Italy, 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.
It was here that in 1228 the Emperor Frederick II launched 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.
Most of the original moat that originally surrounded the castle is now transformed into gardens. The castle entrance is to the south of the Piazza Castello 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 a square courtyard.
Barletta Museum and Art Gallery
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, a native to Barletta and one of the leading exponents of Italian painting in the late 19th century.
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. Among the works you can see “The Breakfast in the Garden” (1883), “The races at Longchamps” (1883) and “The train passes” (1869).
Colossus of Barletta
The most famous monument in Barletta, if perhaps not the most impressive, is the large bronze statue called the Colossus of Barletta. Cast in Turkey, it is believed that the statue represents the Emperor Marcian.
Just over four metres high this is the tallest statue known from the late Roman period and also the largest Roman bronze statue in the world, and can be seen on Corso Vittorio Emanuele next to the basilica.
Other historical monuments in Barletta
Entering the historical centre of Barletta you quickly reach Barletta Cathedral, which was started around 1140 then further expanded during the 12th century, when the Bell Tower was also added.
In the cathedral crypt there 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 the two major roads (the Corso V. Emanuele and the Corso Garibaldi) is the Basilica of the Holy Sepulchre, an important Church that was in the romanesque style when it was first built in the 12th century, then later transformed into the 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. Just as important is the original sculptural work, which today exists only on the capitals of the pillars of the nave and the narthex.
Tradition and festivals in Barletta
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. The original fight started in the 'Cantina della Disfida' (Tavern of the challenge) which is now a museum decorated as it was 500 years ago at the time of the challenge.
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 covered with honey.
See also history of Barletta
Where is Barletta?
Barletta is situated on the Adriatic coast, in the Puglia (Apulia) region of south-western Italy.
You can find more local travel ideas in the Puglia guide.