Apulia, a region for any seasonFolk traditions are held throughout the year and as in Apulia sunny days start in March and endin November, you can come here in almost any time of the year!!They most often concern patron saints’ festivals but there are other religious traditions which takeplace in towns, villages or in country churches. Easter processions involve crowds of peoplethroughout the region but there are minor processions, penitential or propitiatory rites whichalso allow participants to go into the deepest facets of the region. Most traditions are connectedwith devotion to saints or have their roots in rural life and in pagan rites (such as folk dances andmusic) or in the historical events which took place in the region. During folk festivals orexhibitions, Patron Saints’ festivals or historical parades, which always attract crowds oftourists or people from surrounding towns, beautiful costumes of the past can be admired. Thecalendar of special events includes also a lot of food festivals (the so-called sagre) and, many ofthem are held in summer, when most tourists visit the region. So if really want to have an insightinto this region you had better include some of the following special events in your itinerary orcome here expressly to take part in some of them such as the Holy Week.Patron saints’ festivals are celebrated with processions, live brass bands, fun fairs and stalls sellingcakes, grilled meat and other food, fireworks, artistic illuminations - the most spectacular Italianilluminations can be seen at the festival held in honour of Saint Domenica at Scorrano ( Lecce). The spectacular illuminations of Scorrano – Costumes of the past can be admired in historical paradesOne of the most heartfelt religious festival is held on the third Sunday of October at Bitonto, whenbarefooted men holding two-metre long candles follow in procession the statues of its protectors,the Saints Doctors Cosmas and Damian (who are also Patron Saints of Alberobello and aresolemnly celebrated in this town from 25th till 28th September).On the 8th May in Bari a festival is held in honour of St. Nicholas, the world-known patronsaint who takes gifts to children with the name of Saint Klaus. One day before the start of thisfestival a pageant re-enacts the recovery of the remains of body of the saint, taken from Myra in1087. The day after his statue is taken to sea, followed and surrounded by boats of all sizes.Much alike the statues of Saint Theodore of Amasea and Saint Lawrence, Patron Saints ofBrindisi and the statue of the Patron Saint of Taranto, Saint Catald, are taken out to sea duringtheir local festivals.
The Madonna of the Martyrs, Patron Saint of sailors and fishermen at Molfetta, is also taken onboard of boats to be celebrated. On the 8th September in the early hours of the afternoon bare-footed fishermen wearing T-shirts with the face of the Madonna and colored laces tied at theankles and arms, knock insistently at the door of the sanctuary and take her statue to a pier. Then,among the crowd of citizens and of emigrants who have come back to their native town to takepart in this event, the statue is embarked onto the main boat chosen by lot and transportedaround the port area for about four hours. Molfetta: sea procession held in honour of Our Lady of the MartyrsOther patron saints’ feast are celebrated with bonfires, especially St. Anthony the Abbot, theAbbot who defied Hell’s fire to save sinners. The bonfires which are lit on 16th January at Novoliare so spectacular (they reach the height of 20 metres) that reports have been made by the NationalGeographic and by the Japanese press about them.
The big bonfire of NovoliSt. Conrad of Bavaria, co-Patron Saint of Molfetta, is also celebrated with bonfires on 9thFebruary. Beans, chick peas and pumpkin seeds are toasted bonfires and offered to participants. Inthe past centuries people used to take the ashes of the sacred fire to their house (so as to spread itswarmth inside them) and farmers used to scatter them around their trees. Molfetta: a bonfire held in honour of Saint ConradOther bonfires are related with religious beliefs: at Orsara on 1st November a festival whichreminds Halloween is celebrated. In fact candles are lit inside carved pumpkins but with adifferent meaning from Halloween. In fact in this festival the stress in on light rather than ondarkness as candles aim at purifying souls. On the evening of 11th January of each year atCastellana Grotte bonfires are lit instead to thank Our Lady of Vetrana for having saved thetown from a plague.St. Orontius is also venerated for having saved the scenic town of Ostuni from a plague in 1657.From 1793 the patron statue is followed on a Cavalcata (horse ride) by 30 men who, in a uniformresembling the Napoleonic style, ride 30 richly barded horse along the small and climbing streets ofthe town. Another important procession is held on Corpus Christi to commemorate the King of
France’s miraculous landing near Brindisi. In fact Saint Luis was coming back from the Holy Landwith the Eucharist, that Saladin had given him back for his respect of a deal, when he wasovertaken by a wild storm. He prayed and he survived the bad weather and the old archbishop rodetowards him with a white horse to save the Eucharist. The Cavalcata of Ostuni and the Procession of the Cavallo Parato held at BrindisiDuring the Holy Week processions reminding the Passion and Death of Christ are held throughoutthe region: bare-footed and hooded processions are held in towns such as Taranto andNoicattaro. Moving commemorative processions take place in many other towns of the region,accompanied, sometimes in the middle of the night, by suggestive funeral marches. Theprocessions of the Five Mysteries and of the Passion of Molfetta, which work their way throughthe streets of the town on Holy Friday and on Holy Saturday, are among the most famous of them. Molfetta - The Pietà group of the Holy Saturday processionThe Challenge of Barletta, the battle which took place on 13th February 1503 when 13 ItalianKnights fought against 13 French Knights (and which is re-enacted each year in summer), is one ofthe events related to pageants.
The Challenge of Barletta and the Scamiciata of FasanoHistorical rides reminding the period of Frederick’s II rule (with costume parades, medievaltournaments and flag flyers shows) are held in many towns, in particular at Oria and atTorremaggiore, the countryside district where the emperor died. One of the most famous historicalpageant, called the Scamiciata, is held on the third week of June at Fasano. It is the re-enactmentof the definitive victory of the inhabitants of this town over the Turks after years of raids.Another deep-rooted festival is Carnival, when artistic papier-mâché floats parade along the mainstreets of many towns of the region. Putignano boasts one of the most important Carnival festivalsin Italy. It starts on 26th December and for this reason it is one of the longest Carnivals in the world.In fact in 1394, on that day, the corpse of Saint Stephen was brought to this town from Monopoli.Farinella, a jester whose names comes from a peasant soup made of chickpea and barley flour(farina) is the symbol of this Carnival, which is also held in a summer edition.Other important Carnival festivals are held at Manfredonia, Gallipoli (where it starts, on 17thJanuary, with a bonfire lit to venerate St. Anthony the Abbot) and at Massafra, where there are nocrowd control barriers and people are directly involved in entertainment and fun.Other traditions are further evidence of the special bonds between religion and countryside life:the Feast of The Triumphal Cart, which reminds a contest in which a cart carrying the painting ofa Madonna was put half-way between the towns of Terlizzi and Bitonto and was won by the ox inthe direction of Terlizzi; the rite of the propitiatory Cross which is held every year in Molfetta.
This cross is covered with fresh fruit and land products and is taken in procession from theCathedral to the entranceway of the old town, where it is hung. Or the habit of eating plain moon-shaped fritters filled with onions, or mozzarella or other ingredients on 11th November, S.Martin’sday. This habit was started by the owner of a vast olive grove who, in order celebrate a big crop ofolives, had a big party where he offers fritters to all his farm workers. Another special event isthe banquet of St. Joseph, which is held on 18th and 19th of March in San Marzano (Taranto):during this festival everyone can pick up food from the big tables which are laid in the square andin the streets of the town.A unique festival, during which flower floats parade, is held in Terlizzi, called the Town ofFlowers.
Some cultural festivals have also become famous in the last few decades, in particular the operaFestival della Valle D’Itria - which is held in Martina Franca in the months of July and August –and the Castel dei Mondi Festival, a theatre festival held in August and September in the famouscastle and in the surrounding town of Andria.Most land and sea products are the theme of hundreds of food festivals which give the chance tomake people taste genuine locally grown or locally made products. They give also the chance tospend leisure time with entertainment and fun. In fact many sagre are the occasion to listen to livemusic or take part in concerts where pop stars are invited. In spite of the fact that food festivals areoften organised in summer some of them can be obviously organised only in the period a product iscropped or produced.Food festivals dedicated to orecchiette are organised at Martina Franca (on 12th July) Bisceglieand Deliceto (both at the beginning of August). Other wheat products are also the theme of manyfood festivals: festivals of focacce (thick pizzas topped with tomatoes) are organised at Cassanodelle Murge on 16th and 17th August and at Valenzano (on the 1st week of August); a festival ofcalzone (a thick pizza stuffed with red onions and other ingredients) is organised on 16th and 17thOctober at Acquaviva delle Fonti where a red onion festival is also held in the same period. AtBari a festival dedicated to baked wheat products is held in the last week of October; atGiovinazzo a festival dedicated to bread rolls filled with oil preserved food (the so-calledgranny’s roll) is among the summer events calendar. In Salento there are several sagre of friselle(dried bread which is dampened with water and topped with tomatoes, olive oil, oregano and salt).Fruit festivals are also held in many towns: a cherry variety called ferrovia (which meansrailway, because these cherries are exported all over Europe) is produced at Conversano and Turiwhere they are celebrated in June; delicious peaches from Canosa are honoured in this town from31st July to 1st August; watermelons refresh people at Melpignano on 21 July; grapes, which inthe past were picked up while people danced and sang, can be tasted from August till September inthe squares of Adelfia, Rutigliano, Noicattaro and Grottaglie. At Rutigliano, a town which alsodedicates a festival to its earthenware whistles on St. Anthony the Abbot’s day, a prize isawarded to the biggest bunch of grapes.A wine-tasting national festival called Calici di Stelle is also held in many towns, a good to tastedelicious Apulia winesAmong the festivals which best characterize Apulian summers are those dedicated to sea products:urchins are eaten at Porto Badisco on 4th in August, octopuses can be eaten raw o grilled at
Torre Canne - a hamlet of Fasano - or at the end of July at the spectacular festival of Mola diBari. At Molfetta, one of the most famous fishing ports of the Adriatic Sea, a festival in wherepeople can taste blue fish is held in July.Some festivals are dedicated to vegetables: the asparagus festival, organized at Candela in Juneand the artichoke festivals of San Ferdinando di Puglia (from 23rd to 26th October) andTrinitapoli (from 27th November to 1st December).In autumn several food festivals are obviously dedicated to olive oil and, one of them, calledFrantoi aperti, concerns thirty oil mills of the following tows: Adelfia, Alberobello, Andria,Bisceglie, Bitonto, Bitritto, Castellana Grotte, Conversano, Monopoli, Molfetta, Palo delColle, Sannicandro, Toritto and Trani.Tasty cardoncelli mushrooms can be eaten on the itinerant and original festival which takes placein the astonishing landscape of Higher Murge but also at Noci (at the beginning of October) andPutignano (in October and November).Other autumn festivals concern the new wines which are produced in this period and which areoften matched with chestnuts. The most famous one is held in the courtyards of Noci (the so-calledgnostre) where in December another famous festival, called Pettole nelle Gnostre, gives visitorsthe chance of eating delicious fritters coated with chocolate.People who like food festivals should not miss the Sagra della zampina on 25 and 26th Septemberat Sammichele di Bari. This sagra is based on a sausage made of mixed minced meat and seasonedwith sheep cheese, parsley, hot pepper and fresh tomato; it is put into bowels, rolled up and roastedon traditional barbecues. Visitor can eat zampine at the outdoor tables laid out by butchers.A real treat!!And if you come in summer, do not lose at least one of the evenings dedicated to the pizzica andthe tarantella folk dances.The pizzica is danced in Salento and has its roots in the belief people had that women who werebitten by a spider while they were working in the fields, in order to free themselves from thisvenom, had to dance for long hours at the endless obsessive rhythm of tambourines which induceda natural trance.
A lot of evenings are dedicated in Salento to the pizzica folk dance, but the most spectacular one isthe so-called Notte della Taranta, which is held at Melpignano at the end of August. On thatoccasion young people jump and whirl all night long, entranced by the rhythm of this captivatingApulian music. The pizzica has been included in the immaterial heritage list of the Unesco andhas been defined as the Italian blues by the Wall Street Journal (because as the blues, it is deeply-rooted in peasant life and it is extremely popular among people from all walks of life)The Carpino Folk Festival is the most important showcase of the tarantella and is a furthertourist attraction for those who spend their summer in the Gargano promontory. The wordtarantella refers to all the other Southern Italian dances that have spread from the Modern Ageon. In the Gargano area tarantelle are mainly serenades dedicated to the beloved woman and weresung in the streets of the small villages of this area. Guitars, tambourines and castanets areessential instruments of this music.