William Shakespeare, in his play “The Tempest” writes “we are such stuff as dreams are made on”, fleeing visions such as the night that keeps them company and ethereal like the sunrise that takes them away.

When the dreams are thoughts open towards the world, then they can turn into matter. Such as the fairytale-like Rocchetta Mattei, born from the visionary mind of the Count Cesare Mattei (1809-1896), “man who had decided to cure the world”, like the official website of the stronghold defines him.

The Rocchetta Mattei

Above: Picture by Rapallo80 shared via Wikipedia – licence CC BY-SA 4.0

In the Middle Ages, when in Bologna many towers were erected, in the area of Savignano Lungoreno, village nearby the city. On top of a hill there was a stronghold, placed in defence of the passage over the Reno river, lands of the powerful Greatcountess Matilde di Canossa. At the end of the 11th century, the building had lost its importance and was abandoned.

The Count Cesare Mattei

Above: picture by Sailko shared via Wikipedia – licence CC BY 3.0

Who knows if it was the medieval remains, the extraordinary view on the valleys, the perfect isolation made possible by the rocky elevation or the magic of the joining of two rivers (Limentra e Reno) to bewitch Mattei, looking for a location to build his own dream on.

Above: picture by Angelo nastri nacchio shared via Wikipedia – licence CC BY-SA 4.0

On the 5th of November 1850 the count put down the first stones of his castle, maybe thinking of going back to that Medieval style that fascinated him so much. Not only he drew inspiration from the antique architectural medieval style, but he also conducted a life as a castellan, surrounded by a court and entertained by a jester.

The Room of the nineties

Above: picture by Sailko shared via Wikipedia – licence CC BY 3.0

Mattei did not set any limit to his creativity: the Rocchetta has the materiality of a castle but the appearance of a dream. Here the Moorish and Modern style join together as well as the Medieval elements turn into Gothic in all its rooms, stairs, towers, yards and to even its drawbridge, leading to the count’s bedroom.

The Lions yard

Above: picture by Sailko shared via Wikipedia – licence CC BY 3.0

The count relocated to the castle in 1859 as soon as the property was inhabitable, yet the realisation of the dream employed the following two decades as well.

The hippogriff guarding the stronghold

Above: picture by Rapallo80 shared via Wikipedia – licence CC BY – SA 4.0

The stronghold was not the only obsession of Mattei though. The other cause, more noble, philanthropic and certainly more complex was curing diseases with a type of medicine called “Electromeopathy”, therapeutic method mixing homeopathy, phytotherapy as well as a fair amount of alchemy.

The Chapel

Above: picture by Sailko shared via Wikipedia – licence CC BY 3.0

The Count Mattei was a literatus who had dealt for many years with politics, following a discovered interest in medicine when he saw his mother dying of cancer and no doctor being able to cure or even just soothe the pain. Mattei studied a remedy which involved the use of “medicated granules” associated with liquids, which the count used to define “electrical fluids”. The therapy, suitable for many pathologies but especially for cancer, was meant to restore the balance of the electric charge of the patient’s body, bringing them back to its neutral state.

The original view of the Chapel

Above: picture by Angelo nastri nacchio shared via Wikimedia Commons – licence CC BY-SA 4.0

Even though the electromeopathy was short-lived once the count died (today there are some non-original remedies produced in India and Pakistan), between the 1860 and 1880  Mattei’s therapies saw a moderate success. All around the Rocchetta, the count built a series of dwellings in order to host his patients.

The Rocchetta Mattei in 1956

Above: picture by Paolo Monti shared via Wikipedia – licence CC BY-SA 4.0

The success was remarkable to the point that Dostoevskji mentioned the count in his book “The Karamazov Brothers” and  began the production on a large scale, ready to export all over the globe. Depots rose up in the US, China, Haiti and Europe.

 The entrance to the Rocchetta

Above: picture by Rapallo80 shared via Wikipedia – licence CC BY-SA 4.0

Although the heirs continued Mattei’s business, in 1959 the production stopped entirely and his Rocchetta went to rack and ruin.

Rocchetta Mattei – view from the West – before the 1914

Above: public domain image

The castle had paid its tribute to the war, heavily damaged by the German troops, so much that when its last owner tried to donate the abode to the Council of the city, they did not show any intention to accept the offer.

Cesare Mattei’s tomb, inside the Rocchetta’s Chapel

Above: picture by Rapallo 80 shared via Wikipedia – licence CC BY-SA 4.0

After a succession of ups and downs when the dream of Mattei seemed to be destined to fall into pieces (just like it had happened to the medieval fort) the saving bank “Fondazione della Cassa di Risparmio di Bologna”, where Mattei had been one of the founders, in 2006 purchased the Rocchetta and began the restoration work, finished in 2015

Above: public domain image

The Rocchetta Mattei, unexpected and breathtaking among the hills of Bologna, enchants whoever gets to enter its doors and go through its labyrinths between dreams and reality.

Below: a report from the News of the inside of the castle


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