Places of Interest and Attractions in Puglia

Places of Interest in Puglia

 

With so many places of interest in Italy we have split Italy into regions to make it easier to navigate. Here are a selection of places of Puglia. Apulia or Puglia  is a region in Southern Italy bordering the Adriatic Sea in the east, the Ionian Sea to the south-east, and the Strait of Òtranto and Gulf of Taranto in the south. Its most southern portion, known as Salento peninsula, forms a high heel on the “boot” of Italy. The region comprises 19,345 square kilometers (7,469 sq mi), and its population is about 4.1 million. It is bordered by the other Italian regions of Molise to the north, Campania to the west, and Basilicata to the south-west. It neighbours Greece and Albania, across the Ionian and Adriatic Seas, respectively. The region extends as far north as Monte Gargano, and was the scene of the last stages in the Second Punic War.

 

Sub-Regions          

  • Capitanata
  • Daunia
  • Gargano
  • Murge
  • Salento
  • Tavoliere

 

Provinces

  • Bari
  • Barletta-Andria-Trani
  • Brindisi
  • Foggia
  • Lecce
  • Taranto

Cities

  • Bari
  • Brindisi
  • Lecce
  • Taranto

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Bari

Bari is the capital of the Apulia region of Italy. It’s the mezzogiorno’s (Italy’s south) largest city after Naples, and a bustling commercial center and port.

Bari is the largest and most important city of Apulia (much larger than Lecce) and stands on the Adriatic coast. It’s mainly famous for being one of the exit doors of Italy, where travellers leave on ferries for neighboring countries. The city authorities, however, have been trying to raise its tourism profile and awareness of Bari’s old town, which has retained its ancient Medieval plan and contains many historic buildings and sites. The old town was the heart of pre-Roman and Roman Bari and it is now possible to find several hip bars and restaurants open “from dusk til dawn” in this once dark and unsafe zone.

Bari is made up of four different urban sections. To the north is the closely built old town on the peninsula between two modern harbours, with the splendid Basilica of Saint Nicholas, the Cathedral of San Sabino (1035–1171) and the Swabian Castle built for Frederick II, which is now also a major nightlife district. To the south is the Murat quarter (erected by Joachim Murat), the modern heart of the city, which is laid out on a rectangular grid-plan with a promenade on the sea and the major shopping district (the via Sparano and via Argiro).

Modern residential zones surround the centre of Bari, the result of chaotic development during the 1960s and 1970s replacing the old suburbs that had developed along roads splaying outwards from gates in the city walls. In addition, the outer suburbs have developed rapidly during the 1990s. The city has a redeveloped airport named after Pope John Paul II, Karol Wojtyła Airport, with connections to several European cities.

Getting there -

By plane

There are approximately 40 various cheap flights into Bari (BRI) from various European airports. Taxi to downtown costs 25-30 euros, but there are buses connecting the airport to central Bari, including the train station.

By train

Check www.trenitalia.com for time tables and prices. Bari has two train train stations located next to each other. The commuter trains station serves points north, the main station long distance trains and local trains going south to Ostuni, Brindisi, and Lecce.

By car

You can get to Bari by A14 highway, which runs from Bologna to Taranto following the Adriatic coast.

Main Sights -

Basilica of Saint Nicholas

The Basilica di San Nicola (Saint Nicholas) was founded in 1087 to receive the relics of this saint, which were brought from Myra in Lycia, and now lie beneath the altar in the crypt, where are buried the Topins, which are a legacy of old thieves converted to good faith. The church is one of the four Palatine churches of Apulia (the others being the cathedrals of Acquaviva delle Fonti and Altamura, and the church of Monte Sant’Angelo sul Gargano).

Bari Cathedral

Bari Cathedral, dedicated to Saint Sabinus of Canosa (San Sabino), was begun in Byzantine style in 1034, but was destroyed in the sack of the city of 1156. A new building was thus built between 1170–1178, partially inspired by that of San Nicola. Of the original edifice, only traces of the pavement are today visible in the transept.

An important example of Apulian Romanesque architecture, the church has a simple Romanesque façade with three portals; in the upper part is a rose window decorated with monstruous and fantasy figures. The interior has a nave and two aisles, divided by sixteen columns with arcades. The crypt houses the relics of Saint Sabinus and the icon of the Madonna Odigitria.

The interior and the façade were redecorated in Baroque style during the 18th century, but these additions were removed in a 1950s restoration.

Petruzzelli Theatre

The Petruzzelli Theatre is one of the grandest opera houses in Italy after La Scala in Milan and the San Carlo Theatre in Naples. Host to many famous opera and ballet greats throughout the 20th century, before the big arson of 27 October 1991, which destroyed it nearly all. The last 4 October 2009, after 18 years, the theatre was reopened.

Swabian Castle

The Norman-Hohenstaufen Castle, widely known as the Castello Svevo (Swabian Castle), was built by Roger II of Sicily around 1131. Destroyed in 1156, it was rebuilt by Frederick II of Hohenstaufen. The castle now serves as a gallery for a variety of temporary exhibitions in the city.

Pinacoteca Provinciale di Bari

The Pinacoteca Provinciale di Bari (Provincial Pinacotheca in Bari) is the most important paintings museum in Puglia. It was established in 1928 and there are kept many important paintings from the 15th century to the contemporary art.

The Russian Church

The Russian Church, in the Carrassi district of Bari, was built in the early 20th century to welcome Russian pilgrims who came to the city to visit the church of Saint Nicholas in the old city where the relics of the saint remain.

Built on a large area of council-owned land, the city council and Italian national government were recently involved in a trade-off with the Putin government in Moscow, exchanging the piece of land on which the church stands, for, albeit indirectly, a military barracks near Bari’s central railway station. The hand over was seen as building bridges between the Catholic and Russian Orthodox churches.

Barivecchia

Barivecchia, or Old Bari, is a sprawl of streets and passageways making up the section of the city to the north of the modern Murat area. Barivecchia was until fairly recently considered a no-go area by many of Bari’s residents due to the high levels of petty crime. A large-scale redevelopment plan beginning with a new sewerage system and followed by the development of the two main squares, Piazza Mercantile and Piazza Ferrarese has seen the opening of many pubs and other venues. This has been welcomed by many who claim that the social life of the city, and in particular the experience for tourists in Bari, has been improved and that jobs and revenue have been created. Others point out the effects of late-night noise in the enclosed squares and criticise development based mainly on pubs and other such premises.

Se Parigi avesse il mare, sarebbe una piccola Bari’ (if Paris had the sea, it would be a little Bari). This popular saying tells you more about the local sense of humour than it does about the city, but Bari has a surprising amount of charm, particularly Barivecchia, its increasingly chic medieval old town.

There is a small town – 20 minutes outside of Bari named Adelfia. The patron saint of one of its quarters, Montrone is Saint Trifone. Nov 9 is the start of a three day celebration. On Nov 9 is the early evening a giant beautiful balloon is release which signifies the start of the festival. On the 10th, the statue of San Trifone is brought out of the church and paraded around the town. Bands from all over Italy come and perform on the outdoor stage. Fireworks are displayed throughout the evening into the early morning. The different men’s club compete on which club can have the biggest, loudest and spectacular display. Vendors surround the town with goods, food and gifts. Often there are over 200 parked buses from all over southern Italy. It really is a popular celebration.

The Saint of the city is Saint Nicholas. He is celebrated by the Catholic Church on December 6. In Bari, several messes take place early in the morning (as soon as 4am) of December 6. A huge crowd and lots of fast food stands fill the old town through the night. The city’s main celebration of Saint Nicholas, however, takes place in May 6-8 with historical reconstructions, popular music and a two-day fireworks contest. For this event many pilgrims come from all over the world.

Other


  • Teatro Petruzzelli.
  • Teatro Margherita.
  • Teatro Piccinni.
  • Orto Botanico dell’Università di Bari, a botanical garden.
  • Santa Chiara, once church of the Teutonic Knights (as Santa maria degli Alemanni) and now closed. It was restored in 1539.
  • The build of Acquedotto Pugliese
  • The medieval church of San Marco dei Veneziani, with a notable rose window in the façade.
  • San Giorgio degli Armeni.
  • Santa Teresa dei Maschi, the main Baroque church in the city (1690–1696).
  • Pane e Pomodoro Beach is the main beach within reach of the city. Its reputation has for several years suffered from the apparent presence of asbestos from nearby industrial plants.
  • The eastern seafront skyline of Bari had, until spring 2006, been dominated by the monsterous apartment complex known as Punta Perotti – a creation of the Matarrese construction empire. Clearly in violation of several fundamental Italian building regulations, Punta Perotti became the focus of a political and environmental movement calling for its demolition. After years of legal wrangling between the Matarrese firm, Bari Council and environmental groups such as Save the Earth, the court ruled in favour of its demolition and thousands gathered on the Bari seafront in April 2006 to see the event.
  • The grid-shaped Murat city Centre of Bari is said to be the largest shopping centre in all of Italy and contains a large number of high street stores and smaller shops with particular attention to high fashion and tailoring. Bari has recently seen a proliferation of out of town hypermarkets with all manner of shops and superstores attached to them.
  • Bari features two sea harbours: the Old Port as well as the New Port. The latter was constructed in 1850 and can accommodate any kind of ship—including large cargo laden vessels. It can also handle any type of traffic
Fiera del Levante

The Fiera del Levante is said to be the largest trade fair in the Adriatic and involves exhibitions from many sectors and industries. Held in September in the Fiera site on the west side of Bari city center, the Fiera attracts many exhibitors from Italy, around the Mediterranean, its trade corridors to the east and beyond. Mainly focused on agriculture and industry, there are also stalls, exhibitions and presentations by a wide variety of companies and organizations in many fields. There is also a “Fair of Nations” which displays handcrafted and locally produced goods from all over the world.

This year’s Fiera also saw an “Expo Fishing” which brought together fishing methods, tackle and know-how from across the Mediterranean.

Cuisine

Bari’s cuisine, one of Italy’s most traditional and noteworthy, is based on three typical agricultural products found within the surrounding Puglia region, namely wheat, olive oil and wine. Bari cuisine is also enriched by the wide variety of fruit and vegetables produced locally. Local flour is used in homemade bread and pasta production including, most notably, the famous orecchiette hat-shaped pasta, recchietelle orstrascinatechiancarelle (orecchiette of different sizes) and cavatelli.Homemade dough is also used for baked calzoni stuffed with onions, anchovies, capers and olives; fried panzerotti with mozzarella, simple focaccia alla barese with tomatoes, little savoury taralli, friselle andsgagliozze, fried slices of polenta all make up the Bari culinary reportoire.Olive oil and garlic arewidely in use. Vegetable minestrone, chick peas, broad beans, chickory, celery and fennel are also often served as first courses or side dishes.Meat dishes and the local Barese ragù often include lamb, pork and often horse meat, considered something of a local delicacy.Pasta al forno, a baked pasta dish, is very popular in Bari and was historically a Sunday dish, or a dish used at the start of Lent when all the rich ingredients such as eggs and pork had to be used for religious reasons. The recipe commonly consists of penne or similar tubular pasta shapes, a tomato sauce, small beef and pork meatballs and halved hard boiled eggs; but different families have variations. The pasta is then topped with mozzarella or similar cheese and then baked in the oven to make the dish have its trademark crispy texture.Bari, being the capital of an important fishing area, offers a range of fresh fish and seafood, often eaten raw. Octopus, sea urchins and mussels feature heavily. Indeed, perhaps Bari’s most famous dish is the oven-baked Riso, patate e cozze (rice, with potatoes and mussels).Bari and its province, not to mention the Puglia region, have a range of notable wines including Primitivo, Castel del Monte and Moscato di Trani.

Patron Saint   St.Nicolas

Saint Day         May 8th

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Brindisi

Brindisi  is a city in the Apulia region of Italy, the capital of the province of Brindisi, off the coast of the Adriatic Sea. Historically, the city has played an important role in commerce and culture, due to its position on the Italian peninsula and its natural port on the Adriatic Sea. The city is a major port for trade and towards Greece and the Middle East. Brindisi has an active industry in agriculture, chemical and energy production.

Brindisi is situated on a natural harbor, that penetrates deeply into the Adriatic coast of Puglia. Within the arms of the outer harbor islands are Pedagne, a tiny archipelago, currently not open and in use for military purposes (United Nations Group Schools used during the intervention in Bosnia). The entire municipality is part of the Brindisi Plain, characterized by high agricultural uses of its land. It is located in the northeastern part of the Salento plains, about 40 km (24.85 mi) from the Itria Valley, and the low Murge. Not far from the city is the Natural Marine Reserve of the World Wide Fund for Nature of Torre Guaceto. The Ionian Sea is located about 45 km (27.96 mi) away

Main sights

  • The Castello Svevo or Castello Grande (“Hohenstaufen Castle” or “Large Castle”), built by emperor Frederick II. It has a trapezoid plan with massive square towers. The Aragonese added four towers to the original 13th century structure. After centuries of being abandon, in 1813 Joachim Murat turned it into a penitentiary; after 1909 it is used by the Italian Navy. During World War II, it was briefly the residence of King Victor Emmanuel III.
  • The Aragonese Castle, best known as Forte a Mare (“Sea Fort”). It was built by King Ferdinand I of Naples in 1491 on the S. Andrea island facing the port. It is divided into two section: the “Red Castle” (from the color of its bricks) and the more recent Fort.
  • Two ancient Roman columns, symbols of Brindisi. They were once thought to be mark the ending points of the Appian Way, instead they were used as a port reference for the antique mariners. Only one of the two, standing at 18.74 m, is now visible. The other crumbled in 1582, and the ruins was given to Lecce to hold the statue of Saint Oronzo (Lecce’s patron), because Saint Oronzo was reputed to have cured the plague in Brindisi.
  • the Duomo (Cathedral), built in Romanesque style in the 11th-12th centuries. What is visible today is the 18th century reconstruction, after the original was desotryed by an earthquake on February 20, 1743. Parts of the original mosaic pavement can be seen in the interior.
  • Church of Santa Maria del Casale (c. 1300), in Gothic-Romanesque style. The notable façade has a geometrical pattern of gray and yellow stones, with an entrance cusp-covered portico. The interior has notable early-14th century frescoes.
  • Portico of the Templars (13th century). Despite the name, it was in reality the loggia of the bishop’s palace. It is now the entrance to the Museo Ribezzo.
  • the Fontana Grande (Grand Fountain), built by the Romans on the Appian Way. It was restored in 1192 by Tancred of Lecce.
  • Piazza della Vittoria (Victory Square). It has a 17th-century fountain.
  • Church of Santa Maria degli Angeli (1609).
  • Church of the Holy Heart.
  • Church of San Giovanni al Sepolcro, with circular plan, dating from the 12th century.
  • Church of the Santissima Trinità (or Santa Lucia, 14th century). It has a late 12th century crypt.
  • the Monument to Italian Sailors

Natural Areas

Within the territory of the town of Brindisi environmental protected areas are located, some newly established:

  • The Regional Natural Park of Punta della Contessa Salt: wetland, 214 acres (86.60 ha) wide, that develops between Capo di Torre Cavallo and Punta della Contessa
  • The Regional Nature Reserve Forest Cerano: a protected natural area that falls within the territory of Brindisi and San Pietro Vernotico;
  • The Regional Nature Reserve Bosco of Santa Teresa and Lucci: it is a protected natural area composed of two forests whose name it bears. With the EU Directive 92/43 EEC, was included in the list of Sites of Community Importance (SCI) ;
  • The Marine Nature Reserve Guaceto Tower: falling mostly in the municipality of Carovigno, are managed by a consortium which includes the municipalities of Brindisi, Carovigno and the WWF.

Traditions and folklore

Significant in Brindisi is the cult of Tarantismo that combines pagan and Christian tradition. In the past it was believed that women who showed forms of hysteria were infected by the bite of a Lycosa tarantula. The only known remedy was to dance continuously for days, so that the poison did not cause greater effect. Through music and dance was created a real exorcism in musical character. Each time a tarantato exhibited symptoms associated with Taranto, the tambourine, fiddle, mandolin, guitar and accordion players went in the house of the tarantato and began to do to play the pinch music with frenetic rhythms. The Brindisi pinch, as opposed to Lecce, is devoid of Christian references  and a therapeutic repertoire and musical detail.

Museums

The “F. Ribezzo”Provincial Archaeological Museum is located in Piazza Duomo and has many large rooms, providing visitors with six sections: epigraphy, sculpture, the antiquarium, prehistoric, coins, medieval, modern and bronzes of Punta del Serrone. The Giovanni Tarantini Diocesan Museum is newly established and is housed in the Palazzo del Seminario. It has a collection of paintings, statues, ornaments and vestments from the churches of the diocese. Particularly important is the silver embossed Ark that has the remains of San Teodoro and a seventh century pitcher, in which one can recognize the wedding at Cana. The Ethnic Salento Agrilandia Museum of Civilization offers tourists the chance to see many statues in wood and stone. It also features agriculture and interesting tools with the rural culture

Music and theatre

Music and theater in Brindisi have never featured significantly in the cultural life of the city. Having never hosted theatrical and musical training institutes, the city supports amateur companies. Over the past decade the city has developed and consolidated non-amateur theater companies, some dealing with theater for research and actor training. These companies have developed several socio-cultural projects for the promotion of the theater for people with disabilities. The same group of companies has produced six shows. The most important musician from Brindisi is Stefano Miceli, an Italian classical pianist and conductor, worldly known for his concerts at Carnegie Hall in New York City, the Gewandhaus in Leipzig and at the Great Hall in Melbourne. He has been a visiting and distinguished professor at Boston University, the University of New Mexico and at many other academic schools of music around the world.Brindisi’s cuisine is a simple with ingredients used, starting with flour or unrefined barley, which is less expensive than wheat. Vegetables, snails, and bluefish figure prominently into its cuisine. Among the recipes are worth mentioning in particular “Pettole”(fried yeast dough, sweet or savory to taste stuffed maybe with cod or anchovy, with cauliflower or broccoli), “Patani tajedda rice and mussels” (rice, potatoes and mussels), soup, fish, mashed potatoes with fava beans, broad beans and mussels, and “Racana mussels”.

Events

  • The day of Corpus Christi.
  • The Procession to the beach of San Lorenzo and San Teodoro, on the first Saturday of September .
  • The Feast of San Teodoro: Feast with candles, food stands, music, fireworks, in the first week of September.

Railways

Rail transport is catered for by Brindisi railway station, an important Apulian railway junction, and a meeting point between the Adriatic Railway and the Taranto–Brindisi railway. The station is managed by Centostazioni, and links Brindisi with all the destinations served by the Adriatic and Ionian coasts.

Seaport

The port of Brindisi always been at the center of trade with Greece. It is one of the most important commercial and industrial marinas on the Adriatic Sea. The commerce is mostly coal, fuel oil, natural gas, and chemicals. The port consists of three parts:

  • The Outer Harbour: the limits of which are in the southern mainland, east of the Pedagne islands and west of the island from the pier in Costa
  • The port is formed by the average area of sea that is before the channel Pigott, access to the inner harbor, the basin to the north as the Strait of Puglia.
  • The inner harbor is formed by two long wings that touch the heart of Brindisi both the north and east, they are the “bosom of the west” and “within the east.”

Roads

The main roads are represented by

  • Bari-Lecce expressway, connecting with Brindisi, Lecce, with Bari and the A14 .
  • Adriatica SS 16 is the Brindisi bypass connecting the city to San Vito dei Normanni and Lecce * Brindisi-Taranto Brindisi with Taranto.
International Airport
Brindisi is home to the Papola-Casale Airport, located 6 km outside the city’s center. The airport of Brindisi has daily connections with major Italian and European cities. The airport, located 6 km (3.73 mi) from the city center, serves the entire province of Brindisi to Lecce and partly that of Taranto.
Patron Saint    St.Theodore of Amasea and St. Lawrence of Brindisi
Saint Day          First Sunday in September

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Lecce

Lecce  is a historic city of 95,200 inhabitants in southern Italy, thecapital of the province of Lecce, the second province in the region by population, as well as the one of the most important cities of Apulia. It is the main city of theSalentine Peninsula, a sub-peninsula at the heel of the Italian Peninsula and is over 2,000 years old. Because of the rich Baroque architectural monuments found in the city, Lecce is commonly nicknamed ”The Florence of the South”. The city also has a long traditional affinity with Greek culture going back to its foundation; the Messapii who founded the city are said to have been Cretans in Greek records.To this day, in the Grecìa Salentina, a group of towns not far from Lecce, the griko language is still spoken. In terms of industry the “Lecce stone” is the city’s main export, because it is very soft and malleable, thus suitable for sculptures. Lecce stone is a kind of limestone.Lecce is also an important agricultural centre, chiefly for its olive oil and wine production, as well as an industrial centre specialising in ceramic production.

According to legend, a city called Sybar existed at the time of the Trojan War, founded by the Messapii Italic tribe. Later it was occupied by the Iapyges and conquered by the Romans in the 3rd century BCE, receiving the new name of Lupiae.Under the emperor Hadrian (2nd century AD) the city was moved 3 km to NE, taking the name of Licea or Litium. Lecce had a theater and an amphitheater and was connected to the Hadrian Port (the currentSan Cataldo). Orontius of Lecce, locally called Sant’Oronzo, is considered to have served as the city’s first Christian bishop and is Lecce’s patron saint.After the fall of the Western Roman Empire, Lecce was sacked by the Ostrogoth king Totila in the Gothic Wars. It was conquered by the Byzantines in 549, and remained part of the Eastern Empire for five centuries, with brief conquests by Saracens, Lombards, Hungarians and Slavs.After the Norman conquest in the 11th century, Lecce regained commercial importance, flourishing in the subsequent Hohenstaufen and Angevine rule. The County of Lecce was one of the largest and most importants fiefs in the Kingdom of Sicily from 1053 to1463, when it was annexed directly to the crown. From the 15th century, Lecce was one of the most important cities of southern Italy, and, starting in 1630, it was enriched with precious Baroque monuments. To avert invasion by the Ottomans, a new line of walls and a castle were built by Charles V, (who was also Holy Roman Emperor), in the first part of the 16th century.In 1656, a plague broke out in the city, killing a thousand inhabitants.In 1943, fighter aircraft were based in Lecce helped support isolated Italian garrisons in the Aegean Sea fighting Germans during World War 2. Because they were delayed by the Allies, they couldn’t prevent a defeat. In 1944 and 1945, B-24 long-range bombers of the 98th Heavy Bomb Group attached to the 15th U.S. Army Air Force were based in Lecce, from where the crews flew missions over Italy, the Balkans Austria, Germany and France.

Main Sights

Churches and religious buildings

  • The most important is the Church of the Holy Cross (Chiesa di Santa Croce). It was begun in 1353, but work was halted until 1549, to be completed only in 1695. The church has a richly decorated façade with animals, grotesque figures and vegetables, and a large rose window. Next to the church is the Government Palace, a former convent.
  • The Duomo (cathedral) is also one of the most significant in Italy. It was originally built in 1144, and rebuilt in 1230. It was totally restored in the years 1659-70 by Giuseppe Zimbalo, who also built the 70 m-high bell tower. The latter has five floors and an octagonal loggia.
  • The church of San Niccolò and Cataldo is an example of Italo-Norman architecture. It was founded by Tancred of Sicily in 1180. In 1716 the façade was rebuilt, with the addition of numerous statues, but maintaining the fine original portal. The interior has a nave and two aisles, with ogival arcades and a dome in the centre of the nave. The frescoes on the walls are from the 15th-17th centuries.
  • The Celestines’ Convent (1549–1695), with Baroque decorations by Giuseppe Zimbalo. The courtyard was designed by Gabriele Riccardi.
  • The church of the Theatines (St. Irene, built from 1591 by Francesco Grimaldi). It has a large façade showing different styles in the upper and lower parts. The portal is surmounted by a statue of St. Irene by Mauro Manieri (1717). The interior is on the Latin cross plan and is rather sober. It has an altar of St. Michael Archangel with a copy of the eponymous painting by Guido Reni. The high altar has aTransport of the Holy Ark by Oronzo Tiso. In the right transept is one of the largest altars in Lecce, dedicated to S. Cajetan (1651). Nearby is the roccoco altar of St. Andrew Avellino. Also from the mid-17th century is the altar of St. Oronzo by Francesco Antonio Zimbalo, followed by the altar of St. Irene with a canvas by Giuseppe Verrio (1639), nine busts of saints housing relics and a large statue of the Saint. The altar of St. Stephen has Lapidation of St. Stephen by Verrio.
  • Church of San Matteo, built in 1667. It has a typical central Italy Baroque style. It has tqo columns on the façade, only one of which is decorated, though only partially. According to a local legend, the jealous devil killed the sculptor before he could finish the work.
  • Church Of Santa Maria degli Angeli
  • Church of Santa Chiara (1429–1438), rebuilt in 1687
  • Church of San Francesco della Scarpa, known as the “church without façade” as the latter has been demolished in the 19th century restorations. The most ancient section dates likely to the 13th-14th centuries; the interior is on the Greek Cross plan. Notable are several Baroque altars and a large statue of St. Joseph.

 

Other buildings

  • The Roman Amphitheatre, built in the 2nd century and situated near Sant’Oronzo Square, was able to seat more than 25,000 people. It is now half-buried because other monuments were built above it over the centuries.
  • The column holding the statue of Saint Oronzo (Lecce’s patron) was given to Lecce by the city of Brindisi, because Saint Oronzo was reputed to have cured the plague in Brindisi. The column was one of a pair that marked the end of the Appian Way, the main road between Rome and southern Italy.
  • Torre del Parco (“Park Tower”) is one of the medieval symbols of Lecce. It was erected in 1419 by the then-18 years old Giovanni Antonio del Balzo Orsini, prince of Lecce. The tower, standing at more than 23 meters, is surrounded by a ditch in which bears (the heraldic symbol of the Orsini del Balzo) were reared. The whole complex was the seat of Orsini’s tribunal and of a mint, and after Giovanni Antonio’s death, it became a residence for the Spanish viceroys.
  • The Sedile Palace was built in 1592 and was used by the local council until 1852.
  • The Castle of Charles V was built in 1539-49 by Gian Giacomo dell’Acaja. It has a trapezoidal plan with angular bastions. It is attached to the Politeama Greco Opera House, inaugurated on November 15, 1884.
  • The Triumphal Arch (Arco di Trionfo, commonly called Porta Napoli, “Neapolitan Gate”), erected in 1548 in honor of Charles V. It replaced an older gate, Porta S. Giusto, which, according the tradition, lay over the tomb of the namesake saint. Also built over pre-existing medieval gates are the current Porta San Biagio (“St. Blaise Gate”) and the Porta Rudiae. Both are in Baroque style, the latter having the statue of St. Oronzo on the top and mythological figures on the sides.
  • Palazzo dei Celestini, now seat of the Province of Lecce. It was built in 1659-1695 and designed by Giuseppe Zimbalo.
  • The city’s obelisk, erected in 1822 in honour of Ferdinand I of the Two Sicilies.
  • The archaeological museum ‘Faggiano’. www.museofaggiano.it

 Patron Saint   Orontius

 

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Taranto

Taranto  is a coastal city in Apulia, Southern Italy. It is the capital of the Province of Taranto and is an important commercial port as well as the main Italian naval base. It is the third-largest continental city of Southern Italy: according to 2010 estimates, it has a population of about 190,000. Taranto is an important commercial and military port. It has well-developed steel and iron foundries, oil refineries, chemical works, some shipyards for building warships, and food-processing factories. Taranto’s pre-history dates back to 706 BC  when it was founded as a Greek colony but there are many pieces that move long before the founding of the city, dating from the Bronze Age. The ancient city was situated on a peninsula, protected by a helm; the modern city has been built over the ancient Greek necropolis. The islets of S. Pietro and S. Paolo (St. Peter and St. Paul) protect the bay, called Mar Grande (Big Sea), where the commercial port is located. Another bay, called Mar Piccolo (Little Sea), is formed by the old city, and there fishing is flourishing; Mar Piccolo is a military port with a strategic importance. At the end of the 19th century, a channel was excavated to allow the military ships to enter Mar Piccolo harbour, and the ancient Greek city become an island. In addition, the islets and the coast are strongly fortified. Because of the presence of these two bays, Taranto is also called “the city of the two seas”. The Greek colonists from Sparta called the city Taras (Τάρας), after the mythical hero Taras, while the Romans, who connected the city to Rome with an extension of the Appian way, called it Tarentum. The natural harbour at Taranto made it a logical home port for the Italian naval fleet before and during the First World War. During World War II, Taranto became famous as a consequence of the November 1940 British air attack on the Regia Marina naval base stationed here, which is today called the Battle of Taranto. Taranto is also the origin of the common name of the Tarantula spider family, Theraphosidae, even though strictly speaking there are no members of Theraphosidae in the area. In ancient times, residents of the town of Taranto, upon being bitten by the large local Wolf Spider, Lycosa tarentula, would promptly do a long vigorous dance like a Jig. This was done in order to sweat the venom out of their pores, even though the spider’s venom was not fatal to humans. The frenetic dance became known as the Tarantella.

Main sights 

Taranto has a number of sites of historic value. Sitting along the Little Sea, The Aragonese Castle was built in the 15th century with the intention to protect the town from the Turks’ frequent raids. The castle replaced a pre-existing fort which was deemed unfit for 15th century warfare.

The old town, including Piazza Fontana, the church of San Domenico, the Madonna della Salute Sanctuary, and a number of old palazzi, is standing exactly as it did a thousand years ago, when the Byzantines rebuilt what the Saracens had razed to the ground in 927 AC. The picturesque alleyways, arches and stairwells, along with the old crafts workshops, contribute to its unique atmosphere.

Taranto features several Greek temple ruins – some stretching as far back as the 6th century BC – such as the remains of a Doric Temple still visible on Piazza Castello.

A number of 18th-century palazzi adorn the town centre. For years, they served as the main residence of local aristocratic families and these include Palazzo Carducci-Artenisio (1650), Palazzo Galeota (1728) and Palazzo Latagliata.

The Ponte Girevole (swing bridge), built in 1887, runs across the navigable ship canal that joins Mar Piccolo (Little Sea) with Mar Grande (Big Sea) and stretches along 89.9 meters or 294.95 ft. When the bridge is open, the two ends of the city are literally left without connection.

A really important institution of Taranto is the “Galileo Ferraris” high school, founded in 1848, located in via Mascherpa 10. This school is famous for its highly-developed level of instruction, due to the high quality of its teachers and students. Others schools are: IIS Archita, IIS Quinto Ennio, IIS Aristosseno, and ITIS Pacinotti.

The Promenade (lungomare), named after former Italian king Victor Emmanuel III, overlooks the Mar Grande, with the imposing views of its natural harbour and commercial port.

 Patron Saint   Saint Catald of Taranto

Saint Day          May 10th

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Gallipoli

 

Gallipoli , meaning “Beautiful City” is a town of 21,200 inhabitants in the province of Lecce, in Apulia, southern Italy. It is located by the Ionian Sea, on the west coast of the Salentina Peninsula. The town of Gallipoli is divided in two parts, the modern and the old city. The new town includes all the newest buildings including a skyscraper. The old town, instead, is located on a limestone island, linked to the mainland by a bridge built in the 16th century.

Main sights

  • Angevine-Aragonese Castle, built in the 13th century by the Byzantines. It was largely remade under the Angevines and the Aragonese, who added a polygonal wall fortified with round towers. The main additions were carried on by Francesco di Giorgio Martini, who worked for King Alfonso II of Naples. In 1522 it was added the eastern wall, known as Rivellino, defended by waters on three sides.
  • 14th century walls (renewed by the Spaniards in the 16th century). Originally it had 12 towers or bastions.
  • Baroque cathedral of Sant’Agata (17th century). It has a richly decorated façade in carparo, a local limestone rock, with niches featuring statues of saints. The interior is on the Latin cross plan, with Baroque altars, including a polychrome one by Cosimo Fanzago (high altar).
  • Church of St. Francis of Paola (1621)
  • Church of St. Francis of Assisi, built in the 13th century but renovated several times later. It is home to a stone nativity scene by Stefano da Putignano (late 16th century)
  • Church of San Domenico al Rosario (late 17th century), annexed to a Dominican convent.
  • Church of the Holy Crucifix (1750)
  • Church of Santa Maria della Purità (1661). The richly stucco decorated interior houses, at the marble high altar, a canvas by Luca Giordano depicting the Madonna della Purità between st. Joseph and St. Francis of Assisi
  • Greek Fountain (16th century), once believed to date to the 3rd century BC. It has bas-reliefs with mythological figures and, on the other façade, the insigna of Charles III of Spain.
  • Palazzo Pirelli (16th century), with mythological-theme decorations in the interior.
  • Church of San Pietro dei Samari, outside the city. It was built in late Byzantine times.
  • Spiaggia la Puritate beach.

Nearest airports are Brindisi (88 km) and Bari (200 km). Gallipoli can be reached from both of them via a modern freeway, the state road 101.

By train, it is connected to Lecce by the Ferrovie Sud-Est.

In past times the economy of Gallipoli was based on the international wine and oil commerce. Nowadays its most important activities are based on fishing and tourism.

Tourism is enjoyable throughout the year, due to the mild climate. Numerous are also the celebrations (civil and religious). These include the Carnival, Easter and all the parades, Sant’Agata, and the Santa Cristina celebrations in July.

Gallipoli also boasts a very recently built harbour for private boats, located just steps from the bottom of the main Corso Roma.

The summer season starts in May and ends in October, when the weather is almost invariably hot and clear.

Patron Saint   St.Sebastian. St.Agatha

Saint Day         January 20th

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Castel del Monte

 Castel del Monte  is a 13th-century castle situated in Andria in the Apulia region of southeast Italy. It was built by the Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II some time between 1240 and 1250; it has been despoiled of its interior marbles and furnishings in subsequent centuries. It has neither a moat nor a drawbridge and might in fact never have been intended as a defensive fortress. Described by the Enciclopedia Italiana as “the most fascinating castle built by Frederick II”, the site is protected as a World Heritage Site.

Castel del Monte is situated on a small hill close to the monastery of Santa Maria del Monte, at an altitude of 540 m. When the castle was built, the region was famously fertile with a plentiful supply of water and lush vegetation. It lies in the comune of Andria, occupying the site of an earlier fortress of which no structural remains exist. The castle’s construction is mentioned in only one contemporary source, a document dating to 1240, in which Frederick ordered the governor of Capitanata to finish some works in itIt was never finished and there are no proofs that the emperor used it as a hunting lodge as commonly stated. It was later turned into a prison, used as a refuge during a plague, and finally fell into disrepair. It originally had marble walls and columns, but all were stripped by vandals or re-used in constructions nearby. Frederick was responsible for the construction of many castles in Apulia, but Castel del Monte’s geometric design was unique.The fortress is an octagonal prism with an octagonal tower at each corner. The towers were originally some 5 m higher than now, and they should perhaps include a third floor. Both floors have eight rooms and an eight-sided courtyard occupies the castle’s centre. Each of the main rooms have vaulted ceilings. Three of the corner towers contain staircases. The castle has two entrances, an unobtrusive service entrance and an ornate main entrance. Frederick’s main entrance featured elements from classical design, and may have been influenced by Frederick’s interest in Greco-Roman architecture. The octagonal plan is unusual in castle design. Historians have debated the purpose of the building and it has been suggested that it was intended as a hunting lodge. Another theory is that the octagon is an intermediate symbol between a square (representing the earth) and a circle (representing the sky). Frederick II may have been inspired to build to this shape by either the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem, which he had seen while during theFifth Crusade, or by the Palace Chapel of Aachen Cathedral. Occasionally used in this way under Manfred of Sicily, the castle become a state prison under the latter’s victor, Charles I of Anjou: here Manfred’s sons Henry, Azzo and Enzo were kept as prisoner after 1266, as well as other Hohenstaufen supporters. The main wall is 25 m high and the eight bastions each 26 m. The sides of the main octagon are 16.5 m long and those of the octagonal towers each 3.1 m. The castle has a diameter of 56 m. Its main entrance faces east. In the 18th century, the castle’s marbles and other ornamentation was looted. Members of the House of Bourbon took the marble columns and window frames and reused them at their palace in Caserta. What remains now include fragments of a knight and a re-used Roman relief, while in the Provincial Gallery of Bari are a head fragment and a cloaked, headless bust, sometimes interpreted as Frederick II. After having been abandoned for a considerable length of time, the castle was purchased in 1876 for the sum of 25,000 lire by the Italian government, which began the process of restoration in 1928. Central to the plot of Umberto Eco’s novel The Name of the Rose is an old fortress known as the ‘Aedificium’. This was almost certainly inspired by Castel del Monte. Castel del Monte was named a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1996, who described it as “a unique masterpiece of medieval military architecture”. Castel del Monte is depicted on the reverse of the Italian-issue 1 Euro cent coin.

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Martina Franca

 

Martina Franca is a town and comune in the province of Taranto, Apulia (Puglia), Italy. It is the second most populated city of the province after Taranto. Since 1975, the town has hosted the annual summeropera festival, the Festival della Valle d’Itria.

The town has a particularly beautiful “old city” surrounded by stone walls with prominent Baroque gates leading to piazzas and narrow, winding streets. Piazza di Roma is the largest open space in the old city, with a greenspace in the center of a largely triangular grass pattern, facing the 17th century Palazzo Ducale.

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Ostuni

Ostuni  is a city and comune in the province of Brindisi (Puglia, Italy), with a population of about 32,000 located about 8 km from the coast. Its main economic activities include tourism, attracted by its nearby pristine beaches, as well as a vibrant olive and grape agribusiness.

The so-called “Old Town” is Ostuni’s citadel built on top of a hill and still fortified by the ancient walls. Ostuni is regarded as an architectural jewel, and is commonly referred to as “the White Town” (“La Città Bianca”, in Italian) for its white walls and its typically white-painted architecture. A monument on its own, the town’s largest buildings are the Cathedral and the Bishop’s Palace, together with a number of palazzi of local aristocratic families: Aurisicchio, Ayroldi, Bisantizzi, Falghieri, Ghionda, Giovine, Jurleo, Marseglia, Moro, Palmieri, Petrarolo, Siccoda, Urselli, Zaccaria.

In the surrounding countryside there are typical Pugliese “masserie”, fortified large estate-farms, one of which, San Domenico, was once held by the Knights of Malta.

In the summertime Ostuni is a popular destination for tourists from all over the world. The population rises from about 30,000 inhabitants in wintertime to about 100,000.

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Alberobello

Alberobello  is a town in the province of Bari (BA) in the Italian region of Apulia (Puglia), Italy. Alberobello is famous for its fairytale like 14. century Trulli huts.

Alberobello is known as the Capital of the Trulli. The trullo is a fascinating architectural feature of this area of Puglia, a building with conical roof made without mortar. Alberobello has special status internationally – designated a UNESCO world heritage site – because its collection of some 1,500 trulli in an urban environment is unique.

Some of the trulli are now used for stores, restaurants, and lodging. But many are still inhabited by locals, who are very friendly to visitors. As a world heritage site, Alberobello is a tourist attraction, but as it is less accessible from the tourist-heavy west coast, it is not overrun by tourists, and most tourists of Alberobello are Italians.

The town is the centre of an annual pilgrimage to the Basilica dedicated to the martyr saints Cosma and Damiano.

The easiest way to reach Alberobello is by train. At Bari Centrale station, which is served by Trenitalia, look for signs to the Ferrovie Sud-Est, located within the same station. The trip takes 1h30min and tickets are sold in the ticket office next to the platform for €4 each way. There are 15 daily connections (some direct, some via Putignano) from Monday-Saturday and much fewer trains on Sunday. Be sure to stamp your ticket in the machines before boarding. Note that the regional train to Alberobello is not run by Trenitalia, and thus, railpasses are not accepted.

Alberobello can also be reached by car with under an hour’s drive from either Bari or Brindisi airport. There are also a few train connections to Taranto a day.

From the station, walk to the town centre and follow signs to the Zona Monumentale Trulli (or, use any online satellite map service to locate the dense Trulli region on a map). The walk takes about 15 minutes.

Alberobello’s attractions are all within walking distance.

Nearby you will find within easy reach by car a number of equally fascinating towns – for example the white towns of Locorotondo, Cisternino and Ostuni, the 18th century baroque elegance of Martina Franca, the Norman romanesque centre of Conversano. The caves of Castellana Grotte are spectacular.

In summer Alberobello plays host to a number of festivals. These include a significant international folk festival, music festivals including classical, jazz and popular music, dance, theatre, street theatre and childrens events. There are also religious festivals with music performances and firework displays. Most of the performances are free and open-air.

The town has a vibrant passeggiata with summer strolls continuing beyond midnight.

 

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Locorotondo

 

Locorotondo is a comune (municipality) in the Province of Bari, Italy, with a population of c. 14,000. The city is known for its wines and for its round historical center, from which derives its name, meaning “Round place”. It is located in south-east Murgia, deep in the Itria Valley, dotted with white trulli.

Locorotondo is listed as one of most beautiful hamlets in Italy.

Locorotondo’s heritage includes the Mother Church of “St. George the Martyr”, built between 1769 and 1821 and including 14th century basreliefs; the church of “San Rocco”, the Romanesque church of “Our Lady of Greece”. The beauty of the historic centre is also represented by a labyrinth of white alleys, jealously guarded by their inhabitants. The houses end with the unusual pitched roofs called “cummerse”, a feature typical of the historical centre of Locorotondo.

The Locorotondo countryside is an example of an area of dispersed settlements (jazzelere) and has an abundance of trulli dwellings which were built around a communal area called “jazzile”. This settlement pattern is due in large part to emphyteutic leases, particularly in the 19th century for the development of vineyards.

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Cisternino

Cisternino is a comune in the province of Brindisi in Puglia, on the south-east Italy coast approximately 50 kilometers north-west of the city of Brindisi. Its main economic activities are tourism, the growing of olives and grapes and dairy farm products.

Cisternino sits in a historic zone of Itria Valley (in Italian: Valle d’Itria), known for its prehistoric conical, dry stone buildings, trulli (that are preserved under UNESCO legislation due to cultural significance), dry stone walls (muretti a secco) and its fertile soil making it home to the Salento wine region.

The architecture is typical of the region with an old Centro Storico (Historical Centre) containing white washed, stone buildings with cool, shaded, cave-like interiors, narrow streets and churches. The town also features several community squares, each of which are build on the edge of the hill allowing for some spectacular landscapes.

In Cisternino and the surrounding area there have been several Bronze Age finds, including different types of hand tools. Evidence would suggest that the region was also a seasonal home to ancient hunter gatherer humans.

Broad bean purée with wild chicory (fave e cicorie selvatiche), orecchiette con braciole e polpette (a particular shape of pasta with tomato sauce, meatball and beef chop) and “bombette” (a type of roasted pork meatball) are three typical dishes of Cisternino cuisine.

Public transport in Cisternino is minimal, with a large proportion of the inhabitants relying on their own means of transport. However, there are buses to nearby Fasano which also houses the nearest major train station.

The nearest airports are in the cities of Bari and Brindisi which are both less than one hour’s drive from Cisternino.

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Ceglie Messapica

Ceglie Messapica is a town and comune located in the province of Brindisi in the Puglia region, southern Italy, in the Murge traditional area.

The area of Ceglie Messapica is located between the Murge and the Upper Salento: its typical elements include trulli, farms, lamie (typical southern single room square dwellings), rupestrian churches, carsic caves, dolinas, specchie and paretoni (remains of city walls), dry-stone walls, olive groves, vineyards, maquis shrub, ancient oak trees, cattle pastures and arable land.

According to legend, it was founded by the Pelasgi, to whom belonged the megalithic structures known as specchie. After the arrival of Greek colonists around 700 BC, it received the name of ‘Kailìa’ (Καιλία). Nearby the village were extraurban sanctuaries dedicated to the God Apollo (near the modern church of San Rocco) and Venus (on the Montevicoli hill).

The city was the military capital of the Messapi (the civil capital being located in the nearby Oria), a fought against the Greek Taranto in the latter’s attempt to gain a passage to the Adriatic Sea. The Messapic Ceglie had some 40,000 inhabitants. In Roman times it was already decaying, and in the Middle Ages was a small village known as Celie de Galdo, with a little castle. After several minor families, in 1584 its fief was given to the Sanseverino family, who enlarged the castle and founded two convents for the Capuchines (now disappeared) and for the Dominicans.

Numerous archaeological remains of the ancient Messapi civilization were found in Ceglie’s area. It had four lines of walls, the inner one having a perimeter of 5 km. The external one had high fortifications known as specchie, which could be up to 20 m and 60 m in diameter.

The old town is well worth a visit, try out one of the first-class restaurants dotted around in the tiny streets, and the shops are scattered around too but well worth seeking out as prices are much lower than the busier tourist resorts. The market is on a Saturday and this is a must.

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