Posted by: Debra Kolkka | July 17, 2020

Exotic Rocchetta Mattei

Rocchetta Mattei is a fortress in the delightfully named municipality of Grizzana Morandi not far from Bologna. It was begun in 1850 and took several years to build. It became the home of Cesare Mattei, a Count who chose to lead the life of a medieval castellan with a court and a resident buffoon…the things people with lots of money play at!

The Rocchetta is on the site of a medieval complex, the ruins of an ancient fortress, that belonged to the emperors Frederick I and Otto  IV and was the domain of Matilda of Tuscany. Its high position, 407 metres above sea level, meant it was an excellent strategic defence post. It is built directly into the huge rock it sits on.

The building is an odd mix of medieval, Moorish and modern Italian architecture. It seems the owner liked a bit of everything. It certainly makes for a fascinating place to visit. After WWII the last heir sold the Rochetta and it was turned into a hotel, hunting pavilion and restaurant, but when the owner died it fell into disrepair and was closed to the public.

A committee was created in 1997 to preserve the castle, which otherwise would have faced total abandonment. In 2000 a museum was established about Count Cesare Mattei, who was famous for electro homeopathy, in nearby Riola di Vergato, and in 2006 the Cassa di Risparmio in Bologna acquired the Rocchetta, restored it and opened it to the public in 2015.

After collecting our tickets at the booth in front of the Rocchetta we gathered at the entrance waiting for our guide. Only small groups led by a guide are allowed in at any one time. Masks are compulsory and are not to be taken off until the end of the tour.

Once through the entrance the eclectic style of the building soon reveals itself.


We passed through an impressive entrance dug into the rock. It has an interesting ceiling and a couple of odd wall decorations.


We came to the first courtyard.

It is easy to see that the building is wrapped around the rock it is built on.

Two caryatids support the jamb of the huge doorway on the inside of the courtyard.


At the top of some stairs we came to the incredible hall of music in the church, which is a small reproduction of the mosque in Córdoba.

Outside once again we walked over a stretch of uncovered rock to admire the view over the courtyard, the roofline and further on, up a ramp, the surrounding countryside.


Up some stairs is the Courtyard of the Lions, a copy of the courtyard of the Alhambra in Granada.

We were led down some stairs. I would love to have discovered where this stairway we saw along the way would take us.

We could not see all of the rooms because of the health concerns around Covid 19. (A good excuse to return) We were taken to an odd room with a rose window with the image of the Count where we saw a short video of the unavailable rooms.

From here we were led out to the garden and more views of the Rocchetta…how lovely it must have been in its prime.

Thank you Paola for taking me to this wonderful place, she always finds fun things to do. I had not heard of it. Rocchetta Mattei definitely needs another visit. I would like to see the other rooms and take in all the other treasures again.

On the road out we stopped for a great view of Rocchetta Mattei.



  1. Absolutely marvelous my friend the place and the architecture….Breathtaking 💯❤

    • It is stunning! It was certainly a surprise.

  2. A stunning complex, Deb!

    • You never know what you will find in these mountains!

  3. What a feast what a find, so very Moorish too

    • There are so many amazing things to find here.

  4. What a great find!

    • I had never heard of this place! I’m pleased it has been saved and restored.

  5. Fascinating. What a great find,

  6. What a wondrous place! Brava Paola, and thanks for the photos Deb!

    • It was a fun day. There was so much to see.

  7. The Cesare Mattei, definitely has built a amazing complex, the architecture is so beautiful and I can see the influence of the Arabic culture back than. What a treasure for you to find and share with us. Thank you Debra, your posts make me travel in my mind.

    • It is an incredible place. It must have cost a fortune at the time.

  8. Fabulous photos, Debra. Thanks for sharing this. The virtual tour has brightened up my rainy morning. 😍

    • I am happy you enjoyed the tour, I know I did!

  9. What an amazing experience!

    • It was a surprise to find something like this in a remote place.

  10. Wow the patterns and architecture are just amazing! 😮

    • It would be fun to live there.

  11. Wonderful Debra. Myself and my friends are all enjoying every edition of your blog. Thank you for helping us to dream of when we can again travel again to Europe. Your photography skills are fabulous!!

    • Thank you! I am pleased that I came to Italy when I did. A few weeks later and I would have had to wait at home for a long time. My lockdown at Casa Debbio allowed me to watch my garden grow in spring and now that it is OK to travel here I am getting out and about.
      I hope we continue to avoid outbreaks of the virus.

  12. Rocchetta Matei certainly is Exotic! So interesting to read the history & your photographic journey of interesting & unbelievable architecture was so enjoyable.It will be on a list of “Must See” places. Many thanks for this.

  13. What an amazing place! Thanks for sharing it with us, Debra. 🙂

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