Tucked deep in the Apennine Mountains between Tuscany and Emilia Romagna, this fanciful 19th-century castle is a mash-up of architectural styles, from Moorish to Gothic. Explore the labyrinthine interiors of dozens of rooms connected by passages, spiral staircases, and towers designed and decorated by the eccentric Count Cesare Mattei.
Part storybook castle and part fun house, this eclectic rocchetta, or small castle, was built by Count Mattei as the headquarters of his newly developed electro-homoeopathy practice, a therapy using natural herbs said to cure all disease. Though the aristocrat didn’t discover a panacea, he did leave behind a delightfully whimsical castle to visit. With a guide, tour the secret passageways, courtyards, and grand halls to learn about the history of this unique structure. And hear about the castle’s creator and his illustrious guests, who visited for treatments so famous, they’re mentioned in Dostoevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov.
Some travelers stop by the castle on a day trip from Bologna or an e-bike excursion through the Apennines.
Things to Know Before You Go
Expect to walk a lot at the castle.
With quirky architecture, painted vaults, and pretty views over the surrounding hills, the castle is a photographer’s joy.
The castle is accessible to wheelchairs.
How to Get There
As there’s no public transit to the castle, drive (take highway SS64 to Riola) or join a guided tour that includes transportation.
When to Get There
The castle can only be visited as part of a guided tour on Saturday or Sunday, so reserve your ticket in advance. For fewer crowds, avoid going on the first Sunday of the month, when tours are free.
Highlights of the Rocchetta Mattei
The castle is a treasure trove of symbolism and architectural styles. Don’t miss the Sala dei Novanta (Hall of Nineties), where the count apparently wanted to celebrate his 90th birthday with 90 nonagenarian guests (he died at age 87); the Chapel, a reproduction of Cordoba’s Mezquita; and the Lions’ Courtyard, modeled after the courtyard of the Alhambra in Granada.
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- Marconi Museum (Museo Marconi)
- Barozzi Palace (Palazzo Barozzi)
- National Gallery of Bologna (Pinacoteca Nazionale di Bologna)
- Sanctuary of the Madonna of San Luca (Santuario della Madonna di San Luca)
- Ducati Museum (Museo Ducati)
- Albergati Palace (Palazzo Albergati)
- Basilica of San Domenico (Basilica di San Domenico)
- Anatomical Theatre of the Archiginnasio (Teatro Anatomico dell'Archiginnasio)
- Ferrari Museum (Museo Ferrari)
- Bologna Piazza Maggiore
- San Petronio Basilica (Basilica di San Petronio)
- Fountain of Neptune (Fontana del Nettuno)
- Basilica of Santo Stefano (Basilica di Santo Stefano)
- Two Towers (Due Torri)
- Prendiparte Tower (Torre Prendiparte)