Barletta, City of Challenges.
Barletta developed long before the Roman era.
In the Middle Ages it became an important staging post for Crusaders, Teutonic Knights, Templars and Knights of St.John.
Chased from Holy Land by the Muslims, the Archbishops of Nazareth took refuge there.
When Cannae was sacked by Normans, its population migrate to Barletta. The city then lived its periods of greatest splendour under Emperor Frederick II and then subsequently the Angevin kings of Naples.
In 1528 it was sacked by French troops under Odet de Foix.
The city sided with the French under Joachim Murat during the Napoleonic War.
During and after the Unification, many inhabitants of Barletta died of health issues as the city was as poor as was most of the South of Italy.
During World War II, the city garrison opposed the German troops. It was the first Italian conflict against Germany and they earn the Gold Medal of Military Valour and of Civilian Merit.
What to see
Like many towns in Puglia, the old centre of Barletta has many buildings in baroque architecture. It makes monuments beautiful but floors really slippy. That is the first challenge: do not fall.
This palace is by far the most beautiful building in Barletta with its typical Barocco leccese ornamentation and its frescoes.
It houses the Pinacoteca Giuseppe De Nittis.
Did you know that Barletta houses the biggest statue that survives from the late Roman Empire (i.e. after Constantine)?
According to a local folk story, Eraclio saved the city from a Saracen attack. When Saraceens boarded, Eraclio started to cry. Asked why he was sad, he replied that everybody in Barletta were mocking him because he was the smallest of them. Fearing to face giants, the Saracens left.
There are several churches worth a look but their opening schedules are erratic. Second challenge: find a open church.
The Duomo is usually open every day with a long break early afternoon.
Frederick II included Barletta Castle as one of the castles of the Land of Bari (Land of Bari). Constructed by the Normans in the second half of the 12th century, the Angevins transformed it into a fortress. The Aragonese Emperor Charles V consolidated its defensive role. Frederick II included it as one of the castles of the Land of Bari.
Now the castle houses the Civic Museum and events.
Cellar of the Challenge
That is the real Challenge.
In 1503, a joust saw 13 Italian knights commanded by Ettore Fieramosca challenging and defeating an equal number of French knights then prisoners of war.
La Cantina della Disfida, where it took place, showcases some artefacts as well as the costumes worn during the reenactment of the joust.
It looks sad and grey but it is not.