Cultural highlights of ApuliaCulture is undoubtedly the main of various themes which could be referred to for a two or three-week coach tour targeted at middle-aged or elderly people who love visiting monuments. Thepresent proposal could obviously be shortened to last only a few days or extended to include somespecial events.This cultural tour will give visitors the opportunity of visiting, among other attractions,Romanesque Cathedrals - an architectural style often contaminated with oriental influxes -Norman and Swabian castles, Baroque churches and archaeological sites.N.B. Any facility has been mentioned only as a piece of advice and without any advertising purpose.Let’s start the from the Daunian Subapennines, where you can stop at Troia to admire the nicestrose-window of Romanesque churches in Apulia. Monte S. Angelo - The outside and the inside of St. Michael the Archangel’s churchYou can have a two or a thee day stay and go to Lucera, where there is a castle built by Frederick IIand a Roman amphitheatre, and then head towards the Gargano, to visit its National Park, or toMonte Sant’Angelo to visit the famous cave-church of Saint-Michael with its Romanesque façade.This shrine has been recently included in the Unesco World heritage for being one of the mostremarkable examples of the Lombard-style architecture. If you decide to visit the Tremiti Islands,don’t miss the Church of St Maria a Mare, located on the Island of S. Nicola; otherwise if you gosouthward you might visit other example of Romanesque churches such as the Cathedral of St.Maria Assunta, at Bovino, the Church of St. Leonardo and the Church of St. Maria Maggiore, atSiponto, near Manfredonia, where there is a castle started by Manfredi, Frederick II’s andcompleted by the Angevins. The archaeological park of Ascoli Satriano would also give an insightof the Daunian civilisation.We would suggest to move to the Higher Murge where you could stay for three or four days inone of the wonderful farmhouses of this area (if you are not a big group we would suggest to stay atCefalicchio Country House where you can taste genuine organic food). Visit the archaeologicalsites of Canne della Battaglia, where Hannibal defeated with his elephants the Romans, or theHypogea Lagrasta of Canosa, a Daunian necropolis or the Archaeological Park of Trinitapolithere are two hypogea: the Bronze hypogeum and the Ivory hypogeum. A must is the UnescoWorld Heritage site of Castel del Monte, the mysterious castle based on the number eight: eightsides make up its shape, eight are its octagonal towers and its interior courtyard is octagonal. Asit has neither a moat nor a drawbridge he might have intended by Frederick II as a hunting placesor as a place for astronomical observation.
Castel del MonteYou might choose to spend one day or two days to visit Altamura and Gravina. In Altamura,whose bread is among the most renowned in Italy, you can visit the Park of Dinosaurs and see inits archaeological museums the unique remains of a whole human skeleton of the Palaeolithic Age.Gravina takes its name from a ravine and Basilian monks, who fled from the East during theByzantine age to avoid iconoclast persecutions, dug in its caves some of the most representativeApulian rock churches, depicted with splendid frescoes. Do not lose the chance of extending yourtrip to Matera, in the bordering region of Basilicata, which is famous for its houses built in therocks and which was the setting of The Passion of the Christ by Mel Gibson in 2004. A rock church covered with frescos painted by Basilian monksWe would suggest to stay in another farmhouse of the hinterland (or if you travel on your own in aB&B) to visit Barletta, Trani, Bisceglie, Molfetta and Giovinazzo, the middle-sided towns whichlead to Bari and which were in the past the coastal outlets of the hinterland agriculture centres:Canosa, Andria, famous for its dairy products, Corato, Ruvo di Puglia, Terlizzi, famous for itsflowers and its ceramics, and Bitonto, famous for its high-quality olive-oil obtained from the treethat, according to the legend was given by the goddess Minerva to this town. From the above portspeople sailed for the Holy Land during the Crusades, and the amazing Medieval and Renaissancestone buildings of their historic centres witness their glorious past.
Molfetta – The Hospice of CrusadersBarletta is famous for the Disfida (the Challenge), a battle between French and Italian Knightswhich is re-enacted every year in the Norman-Swabian castle that faces the sea. In this town thereis also a museum dedicated to G. De Nittis, the most important of the Italian Impressionist artists. InTrani you will admire an outstanding example of Apulian Romanesque cathedral, dedicated to St.Nicola Pellegrino. The church rises on a square which overlooks the sea and has an imposingfaçade, two crypts and a magnificent bronze portal which was engraved by Baresano da Trani, theartist who also sculpted the main-door of the Cathedral of Monreale in Sicily, famous for itsgolden mosaics. The historical importance of this town is proven by the presence of a Swabiancastle, of a church built by the Templar Knights (the church of Ognissanti), and of a Synagogue. Trani: the Romanesque Cathedral and the Swabian CastleThe town of Bisceglie is famous for its dolmens, the most important being the Dolmen dellaChianca. Molfetta, an important fishing port of the Adriatic sea, also bears important traces of itspast splendour with the presence of a Romanesque cathedral with three domes aligned on axis, acharacteristic fish-bone patterned old town, the Hospice of the Crusaders and a neolithic dolina,the Pulo. Other masterpieces of the Romanesque style can be seen in Ruvo di Puglia, Bitonto,Giovinazzo, Bari.
The façade of the Duomo of Molfetta, a small street of its fishbone patterned old town and the Cathedral of BitontoBari, the second largest town in southern Italy after Naples, has always been important for itstrade relationships with the East. It was the seat of the Catapano, the Byzantine ruler. It boaststwo twins Romanesque churches, the Basilica of St. Nicholas and the Cathedral St. Sabinus. TheBasilica of St. Nicholas, built at the end of the 11th century to keep the body of the Saint takenfrom Mira (an ancient town set in present Turkey) plays nowadays an important role in thereligious dialogue as both the Orthodox faithful can pray in an area chapel reserved to them. Itscastle, built by the Normans, was renovated by the Frederick after it suffered from seriousdamages when the town was destroyed in 1156. Bari has a picturesque old town, with narrowwinding streets, an important seafront built during the Fascist age, an orthodox church and theelegant Murat quarter, a regularly planned neighbourhood which adjoins the old town. St. Nicholas’ Cathedral crypt, the Swabian castle and the seafront of BariWe would suggest to move to another accommodation facility before heading south of Bari, whereyou can visit Mola di Bari, with its impregnable castles built by the Angevins, Polignano andMonopoli. Do not miss the Valle D’Itria, with its trulli – which have made Alberobello aUnesco World Heritage site - and with another highlight such as the Grottoes of Castellana. Afew kilometres far from these towns there is Gioia del Colle, with it well kept Norman-Swebiancastle – where according to a legend Frederick II secluded to death his unfaithful wife Bianca - andthe archaeological area of Monte Sannace. In the province of Brindisi we would advise to visit theexcavations of Egnazia - which at the Roman age was an important town - Ostuni, the so-calledWhite Town, Martina Franca, with its elegant Baroque buildings, Grottaglie, included in theItalian Route of Ceramics, Brindisi, the town from which the via Appia started. Ostuni, the White Town Marina Franca, the Basilica of Saint Martin The Castle of Taranto
Here you can also see a castle which was built during the Aragonese rule, an age whenfortifications were strengthened especially in the Salento. Oria, with the southernmost Swebiancastle, which was built 1225 and 1233, also deserves a visit.If you want to see important traces of the Greek civilization in Apulia you can visit the Nationalarchaeological Museum of Taranto (where there is also an Aragonese castle), but in this area youcan also head for the rock churches of Castellaneta, in an area where there are other abruptravines), otherwise you can move to the Salento area for the last part of your cultural tour.Lecce, called the Florence of the South or the Athens of Puglia, is the capital city of theBaroque style best represented by Basilica of Santa Croce and the adjacent Palazzo Celestini, theChurch of Santa Chiara and the Duomo. Lecce: Basilica of Santa Croce, the Duomo and the Roman amphitheatreIf you visit this town you should also pay a visit to its Roman amphitheatre, near Piazza Oronzo,and to its castle, rebuilt by the Spanish King Charles V. The surroundings are also famous for thepresence of many menhirs and the so-called specchie, Neolithic stone heaps which were probablyused as watch-out towers. Last halt, Otranto, "the Town of Martyrs" because of the 800 inhabitantsthat were beheaded by the Turks in 1480 and whose skulls can be seen in its splendid RomanesqueCathedral paved with the biggest mosaic floor in Europe. The Aragonese castle from which HoraceWarpole drew inspiration to write the first Gothic novel in 1764 is also worth a visit.