The honor of the quirkiest attraction outside Bologna goes to ROCCHETTA MATTEI, a captivating hilltop castle in Grizzana Morandi, 50km southwest of the city, that looks straight out of Lawrence of Arabia.
Unconventional Italian homeopath Count Cesare Mattei lived here in extravagant eccentricity, building a medieval marriage of Gothic and Moorish architecture that feels equal parts Arabesque fantasyland, M.C. Escher woodcut and Italian castle indulgence.
Mattei made his fortune from a quack medical procedure called ‘electro-homoeopathy’ that supposedly cured cancer; it didn’t, but that didn’t stop legions of hopefuls from flocking to this labyrinthine castle in the Apennines, replete with winding staircases, mismatched rooms, striking courtyards and a spellbinding black-and-white-striped chapel – and giving it a shot.
Moorish arches and turrets, onion-shaped domes and minarets and a courtyard that recalls Spain’s Alhambra of Granada also contribute to the out-of-place atmosphere. You can tour the castle on weekends (reservations are mandatory).
To reach the castle on public transport from Bologna, take a train from Bologna Centrale to Riola and walk the remaining 1.1km.