This is Torremaggiore, a borgo built on the gentle hill of Torre Vecchia dating around the year 1000.
This is the where the first shepherds of the transhumance and farmers settled, developped later by Basilio Boiannes head of the Byzantines.
Battles and conquests through history bring us to the rise of the present Torremaggiore. It was since the XIV c that Torremaggiore was considered a fief of the ‘di Sangro’ Princes of San Severo and Dukes of Torremaggiore until 1806. We remember especially Raimondo Maria di Sangro (1710-1771) who was the eighth Duke of Torremaggiore and the seventh Prince of San Severo. He was born in the castle of the borgo on 30th January 1710, he was a man with a disturbed personality, curious but dark at times. He was called ‘Prince of Misteries’. Raimondo was a forerunner of the surrealist movement. He was an illuminist, an alchemist, a bit of a philosopher. Raimondo is the one who invented the ‘gunpowder’ effect that sparkles up the green color in fireworks. And not just that, he loved chemistry so he created a way of reducing the copper’s density, created lapis lazuli and other artificial semi-precious stones used to color any kind of marble stone. He was also interested in medical studies. Extremely impressive are the ‘Macchine Anatomiche’ kept in the vaults of the Cappella della Pieta’ in Naples, they represent the skeletons of a man and a pregnant woman of whom it is possible to clearly recognize the full circulatory system. He was also interested in military skills, physics and mechanics so, when visiting the castle, originally a defense stronghold during the Normans times, it is easy to feel how this is actually part of a greater inventive master plan. The Castello Ducale in fact, prior to becoming fief of the ‘de Sangro’ family, went through various transformations depending on the fiefdom until reaching the present aspect during Renaissance times.
It is an irregular quadrilateral shape castle with six towers of which four crenellated ones in the corners and two quadrangular ones located respectively one, in the centre courtyard and the other one, on the southern side. In the main throne room and in the Palatine chapel it is beautiful to admire the valuable frescos of the Neapolitan school. Worth mentioning also the detail of the small but very elegant lodge in the centre courtyard together with the remains of the Aragon mullioned window on the south side, and also in-built prison cell of the north-west tower. It is now that you have to allow your imagination to just melt away. The surroundings are as dense as mist. This is a place were to let go, come back to. It is a place where it feels right to give in to history and make it come alive. It is in this contemplative trail that you will deeply appreciate the Tavoliere, its rural value showing on the faces of the people who live and work here. Ruins of old settlements, farmlands, olive groves, small rivers, fruit trees, abandoned farmhouses are the frame to the tale of a land that tries to shade itself behind this imaginary mist and historical events from a suggestive far distant past. This is the same scenario you encounter when heading towards Molise up to Castello di Dragonara overlooking the surrounding forest and the walls protecting the ‘sleepy’ plain below. This castle was erected between the year 1018 and 1024, Dragonara is one of the ‘citta’ di frontiera’ (borderline city) built by the will of the Byzantine emperors in the XI c to consolidate their possessions in the south of Italy following the threats from the Longobardi from the north and the Saracens in the south. It is for this reason that the Byzantine governors started erecting more and more castles in the Daunia area. As a consequence as well as Dragonara, also Civitate, Troia, Montecorvino, Tertiveri and Devia rose. It was on the 26th October 1255 that, the soldiers of Pope Alexander IV who were fighting against Manfredi the son of Federico II at the times, attacked Dragonara and destroyed it. This is something that happened also with the town of Fiorentino and other small urban settlements in the Capitanata (northern Puglia, Foggia area). destroyed with some sort of extortion purpose because of the support these towns had given to the emperor Federico II di Svevia. As a consequence the inhabitants of Dragonara and Fiorentino moved to Torremaggiore.
Today the Castello di Dragonara (Dragonara Castle) still keeps its city walls as intact. It is possible to admire on one of the external sides precious Middle Age reliefs. The castle comprehends four main towers plus another cylindrical detached from the rest of the structure that doesn’t present a separate entrance door. Tales tell that entrance to the castle was possible only via some sort of mobile staircase giving access also to some other underground viaducts connecting it with all the other local urban settlements. It is here that your mind will drift away thinking of Federico II practicing the art of hunting. At the feet of the Castello is the Bosco di Dragonara, a centenary plain forest typical of the river Fortore surroundings. A precious ecological corridor for the wildlife, a bit of a deep green spot which allows the view of numerous birds species like the royal and the dark kites, kestrels and buzzards. Continuing this journey and following with this feeling of letting your imagination run loose it is worth pushing yourself beyond Colle D’Armi, between the provincial road of Casalnuovo Monterotaro and the Lucera-Scuolgola. Heading south, walking along ruins of old mansions and herds of sheep randomly encountered on this trail it is interesting wounding up towards the ruins of Castel Fiorentino and drift away into the worlds of Federico II. It is here, in this very animated spot, were the wind never stops blowing that history and Arts get closer. It is here that the “Puer Apuliae” Federico II left his terrain life marked by the plaque at the entrance of the castle engraved with his date of birth, Jesi 29/XII/1194 and the date of his death, Fiorentino 13/XII1250. It reads: “On this day Federico II the biggest most astonishing wonderful innovator prince in the world died. “ Wondering amongst the ruins of this location particularly vibrant between XI and XIII c it appears quite evident how urban settlements (church, cathedral, homes) have prevailed over the land and seems easy to imagine the busy life of Castel Fiorentino as it dominates the Tavoliere. Looking at the Tavoliere from above is like looking at painter’s palette with all the colors in line: green, yellow, brown and blue, the blue of the sky, the backdrop to the remarkably lasting history and vivid poetical vein of these surroundings. This is the place that has witnessed the life of its protagonists as it happened: Fiorentino became rampart of the Byzantine in the XII c, it was a Norman county in the XII c later owned by the House of Svevia in the XIII to then become fief of the Angevins too. The position of this small town on the hill of Sterpatone allows, still up to nowadays to overlook and dominate the whole plain, which proved to be useful especially during the Longobardi invasions first and later of the Normans.