Rocchetta Mattei – Riola, Italy - Atlas Obscura

Rocchetta Mattei

Sitting on an Italian hilltop is this surreal fortress built by the mad inventor of electrohomeopathy. 


Even from the outside, the looming fortress known as Rocchetta Mattei looks like a cobbled together hodge podge of architectural influences, and the interior is even crazier thanks to the castle’s more-than-a-little eccentric creator Cesare Mattei who is best known as the father of “electrohomeopathy,” a medical practice said to cure cancer.

Since almost 1200, there has been a fortress sitting on the scenic hilltop in the Northern Apennines where the Rocchetta Mattei now stands. Construction of the current castle began in 1850 at the behest of Count Cesare Mattei, a slightly unhinged, self-taught medicine man and politician who had developed his own system of healing that he said harnessed the life energy (electricity) of plants to heal all of Man’s ills, including cancer. Envisioning his castle as the home of his medical revolution, Mattei constructed the “Rocchetta,” as he called it, with the enthusiasm and focus of a child.

Mixing medieval, Middle-Eastern, and gothic styles just to name a few, Mattei simply seemed to create the rooms as the whims came to him. The layout of the castle is no better, seemingly like a veritable labyrinth of arbitrarily interconnected rooms. Many of the features were also built from faked or disguised materials such as painted “stained glass.” The rooms each seemed to serve their own strange purpose as well most notably the “Nineties Room” which Mattei specifically built to host a banquet that would occur on the occasion of his 90th birthday, celebrating he and his nonagenarian compatriots.

Unfortunately Mattei would never get to host such a party, passing away at the age of 87. After his death the castle changed hands a number of times, and was even once donated to the City of Bologna who declined the bizarre gift. By the 1980s the castle was completely abandoned and falling into disrepair. However an independent conservation group took control of the site in the 2000s and began repairing the site, opening some of it to the public. 

Mattei’s electrohomeopathy is still practiced in some corners of the world such as India and Pakistan, but the true testament to Mattei’s genius/madness may be his beloved Rocchetta.  

Know Before You Go

It is only possible to visit the castle on Saturday and Sunday. Online reservations are obligatory, as the number of visitors is limited.

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