The region of Puglia can be neatly split into three zones; the flat north plain and Gargano, the heel known as Salento, and the iconic central zones of Bari and Brindisi.
The Presepe Vivente or Living Presepe of Tricase in the province of Lecce, south Puglia, takes place every year on the hilltop of Sant'Eufemia. More precisely in the locality of Monte Orco. After 30 years of activity this nativity scene with real actors has reached such a level of importance for Tricase to nicknamed the 'Bethlehem of Italy' and is one of the oldest eight estalbished presepi in south Italy.
A first hand guide of the main Castles of central Puglia
CASTEL DEL MONTE
Frederick II had Castel del Monte built around 1240 and it is the most famous of the numerous Swabian castles in the region, both for the recurrent use of the number eight (external perimeter of the courtyard, shape and number of towers) which is full of symbolic meaning and because of its uncertain function.
UNESCO included it in the World Heritage in 1996. The sixteen trapezoidal rooms are characterised by refined sculptural adornments in which ancient (motifs belonging to the classical repertoire) and modern (elements clearly inspired by gothic European) are blended along with elements from the Arab world. www.castellodelmonte.it
The approach to the cuisine of the province of Foggia in north Puglia can be summed up by the local term: 'a chi è convinto che a tavola non si invecchi'.
In other words if you know how to eat well you'll never grow old. Read on for what they're talking about.
For olive oil, fennel and sausage try Lucera. The town also produces its own DOC the 'Cacc'èmmitte' made from Troia grapes. Also look out for the vegetable paté.
The troia grape is ready for picking at the start of October and the wine is some of the most alcoholic available. It also ages extremely well.
It's so good that the coastal hills of Bari also host the vines. Look out for the 'Rosso di Cerignola', 'Orta Nova', 'Rosso Canosa' and 'Rosso Barletta' all made from the grape.
There are over 350 bread types in Italy, of which 250 are readily available. We have listed around 100 below from Lombardia to Sicily. Many will disappear within a generation to be replaced by products which seem authentic, but will not be made with traditional local ingredients.
Some may actually seem to be the real thing, but the give away is the prefix 'tipo' meaning 'like' and is a reference to the shape and preparation. The flavor is another matter. So which regions in Italy are worth visiting just for their bread? Sardinia and Puglia for sure, Umbria and Lazio a close second, but all the regions have their unique bread heritage. Do note that many types of bread overlap into neighboring regions and can also said to be 'native'.
Orecchiette alla Pugliese pasta 'ears' traditional recipe from Puglia. Easy and delicious! The video above is of the local women of old Bari, or Bari Vecchia, making their own orecchiette in a setting which must have seen much of the same for centuries.
500g of orecchiette (ear shaped) pasta ideally fresh, 2 green peppers, 200g of tomato pulp, bunch of fresh basil, olive oil, grated pecorino cheese, salt, pepper, dried hot pepper to taste.
Founded by the Greeks in the ninth century BC, the fortifications and fortress walls we see today can trace their foundations to medieval times when they were built to resist marauders and pirates. Today, they welcome tourists drawn to the extraordinary charm of the old port village, grottoes and the Gargano National Park. Do visit the Cathedral which is a splendid example of Pugliese architecture from the 10th century AD.
Vieste, has exemplary soil and plenty of sunshine and this combination makes for prolific conditions for producing fresh local produce such as artichokes, arrugula, fava beans, cauliflower, fennel, eggplant and tomatoes. They all appear in the classic Puglia regional cuisine as does orecchiette pasta, often called Recchie or Recchietelle in the town preapred with broccoli rabe, one of the most famous dishes in the region.
The town is also a good place to view the tradiitional trabucco or ancient fishing platforms made of pinewood along the coast from Peschici, Vieste and Pugnochiuso. The large net is actually the trabocchetto which uses the currents of the water to trap the fish.
The archipelago of the Tremiti Islands is a marine reserve in the Apulian Adriatic Sea off the coast of Gargano, province of Foggia. The islands of San Domino, San Nicola and Caprara can each be described in turn as 'green', 'rough' and 'wild'.
June in central Puglia means bright colours and rich cherry harvests, especially in the cities of Bisceglie and Turi in the province of Bari. Turi is in the heart of Primitivo DOC wine country, but also knows a thing or two about cherries, not least the 'Ciliegia Ferrovia' or 'Railway Cherry', a strange name for the most cultivated cherry type in Italy.
Certainly large, the name actually originates from around 1935 when the strain was developed from the nut or seed of a tree growing near the railway lines heading south east towards Sammichele di Bari. Hence the name 'Ferrovìa' given by the local people. Carefully looked after the fruit of the original tree became popular with both consumers and cultivators and spread its roots first towards Conversano and Turi.
Turi still remains one of the most important zones for cherry production in Italy, mainly due to the fact that the 'Ferrovia' keeps its freshness for at least a week and is easily exported. The 'Sagra della Ciliegia Ferrovia' in June is held in its honour.
Pane di Altamura Dop is a traditional Apulian bread product from the zone of the Murgia Altamura in the province of Bari. To get an idea as to how long and how much this bread has been part of the Puglia local food culture, the Latin poet Orazio in the 37 BC was hailing it the best bread he had ever eaten.
In an area of Italy more often associated with fish and the sea for the casual visitor, the cultivation of olives is one of Puglia's greatest resources and economic certainties. To the extent that it can claim to be an emblem for the area and indeed most of Italy's mass consumed olive oil originates from the region.
It all started in the 18th century when a young Charles Bourbon proposed a reduction in taxes to the larger landowners in return for their help in cultivating olives. Today, 50 million olive trees exist from those initial saplings. There are around 240,000 farms operating in the sector.