Photographing the Rocchetta Mattei castle in Italy


Rocchetta Mattei is undoubtedly one of the most unique castles in Italy and a fascinating piece of local history concerning the Bologna area especially. The castle’s architecture is probably unlike what most people might imagine when thinking of a Southern European castle. Located somewhere outside the larger Bologna metro area, the castle owes its unique style to its Moorish influences, which seamlessly blend in with other influences, such as Medieval and byzantine architecture. The build owes its name to Cesare Mattei, a local count who was not only a politician but also a medical scholar who is widely regarded as the founder of electro homeopathy, a unique spin on homeopathy, which was previously popularized by German physician Samuel Hahnemann.

The castle was built in 1850, and the concept was to create a lavish environment for Mattei, who was seeking to embrace a lifestyle akin to a medieval court but with a more modern and exotic flair. Mattei was so determined to pursue that fabled lifestyle that he also made sure to staff his castle accordingly, including hiring a buffoon! In addition to being a luxurious home for Mattei, the premises were also vital to his work. The lavish castle was beginning to acquire some notoriety throughout Europe’s elite classes, so much so that many of the era’s most influential individuals sought to visit Rocchetta Mattei for treatment. The castle hosted anyone from Alexander II of Russia and Fyodor Dostoevsky to the Prince of Piedmont.

Courtyard with fountain

Up until roughly the early 30s, everything was in full swing, but Mattei’s success and legacy were deeply shaken by the political unrest that Europe was starting to experience, leading to the horrors, loss of life, and destruction of one of the most significant global conflicts in history. Over the past couple of decades, the castle didn’t manage to live up to its high status and was eventually damaged by German troops during WWII, to the point that the last heir wasn’t even able to offer it for free to the municipality of Bologna, who refused the donation to avoid taking responsibility of the building. Eventually, the castle was purchased by an investor in the late 50s, who turned parts of it into a hotel and a restaurant, hoping to eventually restore the castle for it to become a sought-after attraction for tourists and visitors. Sadly, things weren’t meant to be, and the castle continued to deteriorate. Throughout the 90s and early 2000s, many local groups fought to raise awareness of the state of this abandoned, decaying castle. Eventually, the structure became a museum and was purchased by a local banking institution, which was finally re-opened to the public in 2015.

Stunning architecture in the chapel
Main entrance

To this day, what makes this castle unlike any other “proper historical” castle throughout Italy is probably the fact that it was built to suit the eclectic taste of Cesare Mattei himself. This means that the exterior and interior areas aren’t coherent as you would come to expect from an ancient castle, which might have been affected by the passing of time throughout different eras. By contrast, this castle is a melange of styles, aesthetics, and influences which reflected the culture of the European elites at the end of the 19th century. The intellectuals of the time had developed a newfound appreciation for the medieval era and the East, so they were often looking to incorporate those influences into their home and workplaces. Mattei decidedly took it to the next level, dreaming up a castle that would incorporate all of the aforementioned influences while serving as an iconic symbol of his status as a world-class electro homeopathy specialist.

More photos of the Rocchetta Mattei castle can be seen below:

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