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Castello Svevo
Photo: Berthold Werner

Castello Svevo

The Castello Svevo (Castello normanno-svevo) or Swabian Castle, is a 12th century castle in Baro, Apulia, southern Italy. Currently inhabited, the castle hosts a small museum, guided tours and special exhibitions. It has been destroyed and rebuilt several times.

Originally the site of a Roman stronghold, it lies on the west side of the medieval city of Bari. The castle is bordered on the north side by the Adriatic Sea, with moats lying on the other three sides. On the south side a bridge reaches the entrance gate.

The castle was originally built in 1132 by Norman King Roger II over the ruins of a Byzantine structure. It was then destroyed in 1156 by King William I of Sicily, who had destroyed most of the city, save for some churches.

However, in 1233 the Holy Roman Emperor Frank II decided to rebuild the castle to leave a lasting legacy in the area. It was subsequently rebuilt and reinforced, thereafter the Capetian House of Anjou and, later, the Aragonese, made several transformations of the castle.

The Aragonese modified and improved the Castello Svevo to such an impressive level, the modifications remain in place today. The castle’s bastions, ramparts, moats, drawbridge and squat towers all stem from the Aragon ownership. The walls were also reinforced to stand up against the latest cannons and fire weapons.

The Duke Ferdinand of Aragon then acquired the castle and handed over the reins to the newly-arrived Sforza family.

In the 16th century, a coup d’etat saw Milan’s House of Sforza family elbowed from power. After exile, they were granted Bari and Apulia in the south. It was at this point they received the castle from the departing Duke. The castle was then gifted to Queen of Poland, Bona Sforza, who lived there happily.

When Bona passed away, it was returned under the King of Naples, becoming a prison and military barracks.

Since December 2014, the Ministry for Cultural Heritage and Activities has been managing it through the Puglia museum complex, which in December 2019 became the Regional Museum Directorate.

Nowdays, you can visit the castle and view part of its rich history.

Some of the more interesting sights on the tour are the old ‘’Archers’ corridor’’, where castle defenders could ward off any approaching attack. Due to the castle’s history in the hands of so many rulers, over the years it’s accrued some unique cultural icons which you can view in the castle.

The interior is split into two distinct parts. The first part includes the tower withthe second part including viewing the bastions and towers added to the fortress of Queen Isabella of Aragon. Over on the western side of the castle, a gothic portal leads to the inner courtyard.

The Castello Svevo is currently open six days a week from 8.30am - 7pm. The closing days varies. Admission is 9 euros for adults and 4.5 euros for childeren and 65+.