Castellaneta, Italy ~ Rudolph Valentino’s Home Town
By Wayne Hatford
A trip to Italy, especially for “gli appassionati di Valentino”(Valentino Fans) ought to include a visit to his place of birth, Castellaneta and, of course, the new and improved “Museo Valentino.” However, whether or not you are interested in exploring Valentino’s roots, travelers to Italy might well want to seriously consider visiting this charming town that is a bit “off the beaten track” of the typical “Grand Tour.” In Castellaneta, one can feel the heartbeat of Puglia without having to deal with the same degree of tourist industry overlay found in other areas of the country. Castellaneta and Puglia are the “real” Italy and, in a word, delightful!
In researching Castellaneta hotels, I found “Hotel Rudy” online (Via Basilicata, 15, phone: 011-39-099-849-2415.) I thought, why not?? It is a small three star hotel with approximately 25 rooms and fairly recent, probably built in the 1980’s. All of the hallways are decorated with framed photos of Valentino ~ nice touch! The rooms are comfortable with marble floors and large bathrooms. They do not have an internet address so you have to call for a reservation (use this word: “prenotazione.”) The owner’s Grandmother knew Valentino personally (according to him, and I have no reason to doubt it.)
There is a nice park area in front of Hotel Rudy and a small primitive 13th century church to the left as you exit the Hotel. Behind the church is an excellent view of the Castellaneta ravine, a very interesting geographical anomaly of that region. In fact, the geography and some of the architecture of the whole area can easily conjure up mental images of Medieval times.
Once I settled in at the hotel, I took a walk down Via Roma, the main street of Castellaneta. First I passed the local monument dedicated to Valentino, erected in 1961 (just beyond the Agip service station.) This monument is only in fair condition (there is some damage) and the sculptor who created it was only “fair” too. It’s a life size figure of Valentino, dressed as The Sheik (a.k.a. “Lo Sceicco”) and a very 60’s style allegorical plaque with Hollywood film industry style symbols on it.
Continuing on down Via Roma, you soon come to #116, which is where Rudolph Valentino Guglielmi was born. The Guglielmi apartment was on the second floor and appears to consist of approximately 4 rooms. Small commercial businesses are still found on the first floor, as they apparently were in 1895, the year of Valentino’s birth. The apartment is a private residence today and is therefore not open to the public. The building itself is mid 19th century, designed in a Gothic/Venetian style.
That section of Via Roma has a commanding view of the distance ~ treetops and a panorama of the green fields outside of town because the adjacent section of the city is at a lower level. As a child, Valentino would have seen these beautiful views on a daily basis from the little balconies of the front windows of his home. It’s interesting to note that views might have been an important consideration for him later in life when he lived in Los Angeles, first when he purchased his Whitley Heights home and later when he bought Falcon Lair, both of which had panoramic views.
Immediately to your right as you face Via Roma, 116, there is a small street at a lower level (a staircase leads down to it.) The first building houses “Osteria Rodolfo Valentino,” a really great restaurant. The name Osteria implies that seafood is the specialty. It is, of course, although the menu offers pretty much any type of food you might want. Vito, the owner, makes sure that both the service and food are impeccable.The quality of everything is truly excellent. As a result, I chose to eat there more than once during my stay! Osteria Rodolfo Valentino is very moderately priced at 17 – 20 Euros for a complete three course lunch with a glass of local wine (delicious) and mineral water. The décor is also great ~ concave ceilings and nice colors. And, there are extra large framed photos of Rudy in some of his most famous roles on the walls of the main dining room.
As a sidenote, there are also many other businesses in Castellaneta that have adopted the name “Valentino.” For example, I noted a Valentino cleaners, cafeteria, bar and movie theatre, and that’s probably only a start. I went to see a film at Valentino Cinema which also doubles as a theatre for the occasional play. The movie was called “Manuale d’Amore” (Love Manual) ~ sort of appropriate for Valentino’s home town!
Castellaneta is a picturesque small city with many buildings dating from the 13th to the 19th centuries plus a few newer neighborhoods. It is situated on a vast plain (the sea is not visible although the port of Taranto is only a half an hour away by train.) As a place, it is rather geographically unique because there is that previously-mentioned deep ravine that forms a natural barrier around a large part of the “old town” (a.k.a. “Centro Storico”) which is situated at a slightly higher elevation as compared to the rest of the city. It’s lots of fun to explore the sights and sounds of the mostly “walking” streets of this truly old part of Castellaneta ~ lots of twists and turns, dead ends, the occasional staircase from one level to another, all with gems of architecture just waiting to be discovered.
Now, on to the Valentino Museum. Once inside the doorway, you immediately realize that you have just walked into a 17th century building. This rather dramatic museum space is in a former convent with high, concave style plaster ceilings and white walls. Each room is dedicated to one of Valentino’s major films. There are vintage photos galore, some of which have to be fairly rare while others would probably be familiar to most fans, also lots of print material displayed, mostly in Italian and “of the period.”
The museum has a piece of the actual tent border that was used in Valentino’s final film, “Son of The Sheik.” It is multi-colored and encrusted with faux jewels. Amazing to think that such elaborate and colorful fabric would have been made in order to be used in the background of a black and white film!
It is my understanding that some of the exhibits from the former Museum space have not yet been displayed in the new one.They are still in the process of being catalogued and will be added to the new Museum as soon as possible.
I’d like to encourage you to consider adding Castellaneta to your itinerary the next time you plan to visit Italy. The Museum is great, the town is charming and most importantly, if you make the effort to go there, you will definitely leave Castellaneta with a better understanding of “la mia terra di Sole” ~ “my land of Sun,” as Valentino used to call it.
About the author: Wayne Hatford is a teacher, writer, editor and author dedicated to bridging the gap between the physical and non-physical worlds. Born in the Midwest, he has lived on both coasts of the US while also traveling extensively, spending significant amounts of time in Chile, France, Spain and Italy. It is Italy, however, the birthplace of Rudolph Valentino, where he feels a special rapport and, in scholarly pursuits, has visited multiple sites associated with the “Great Lover.”
Wayne speaks French, Spanish, Italian and English, the languages in which Valentino himself was conversant. As a result, he was able to provide Valentino with the perfect palette, allowing him to share his thoughts with the same texture and vibrancy he employed during his last incarnation.
A life-long student of metaphysics and transformation whose previous book, Letters from Janice: Correspondence with the Astral Plane is available via several major online book sellers and valentinospeaks.com, Wayne holds an M.A. in international administration and has both taught in public school and been a personal property appraiser. Wayne Hatford now resides in Palm Springs, California where he and the essence of Rudolph Valentino are currently collaborating on another writing project. For more, visit www.valentinospeaks.com.
About the book: One of the greatest lovers the world has ever known returns to the spotlight as gifted teacher and metaphysician. Rudolph Valentino shares his wisdom from beyond.
Valentino Speaks addresses 180 topics in a series of gem-like vignettes organized alphabetically by subject matter. They are all brief and very much to the point, ranging from the mundane to the esoteric to the spiritual and are presented with sparkling clarity.
As to the purpose of this work, Valentino, himself, says…“we are always in need of a little fine-tuning. That is what this book promotes, if one wishes to avail oneself of it. A sharpening of the senses, an uptick in awareness, an even better understanding of the beauty of soul, those are the attributes of Valentino Speaks.”
This book provides both a fascinating read and an enjoyable journey in consciousness. Start at A and proceed through to Z, or use it as a meditation, picking a page or topic at random each day. Whatever your method, you are about to embark on a remarkable voyage, exploring this world… and the next…in stellar company. Welcome aboard and buon viaggio!