Apulia is one of the twenty regions that make up Italy, and it is located on the very “heel” of the “boot”, as Italy is nicknamed. On the Northwest Apulia borders with Molise, on the West with Basilicata and Campania, while on the North and East it is bordered by the Adriatic Sea and on the South by the Ionian Sea. Apulia has 800 kilometers of coastline. Its administrative centre is the city of Bari.
Given its location close to the Balkans, the Near East and Greece, Apulia has often played the role of “bridge” between East and West, which made this region an ideal place to develop cultural and commercial ties with several countries. Ever since Antiquity, this renowned territory has often changed master. Ancient Greeks, Romans, Arabs, Normans, Swabians and many other peoples left their mark in its art, architecture and traditions. Recently Apulia has attracted the interest of many tourists from all over the world thanks to its pleasant climate, the crystal-clean water of its sea, its authentic Italian cuisine and rich cultural and historical heritage, most of which still remains beyond the grasp of foreign tourists.
There’s not only the Basilica of St. Nicholas in Bari, which has been a place of pilgrimage for almost a thousand years. There are also the ancient rustic houses named trulli, which appeared on the most fertile part of this region, the Itria Valley; there are also karstic caves full of stalactites and stalagmites. There are innumerable remnants of ancient Greek churches and Roman amphitheatres, medieval castles, churches and cathedrals where lots of Christian relics are kept. There are deep canyons and gorges, where in prehistoric times a cave civilization emerged, leaving the traces of ancient settlements; and there are many rock churches where from the VIII century onwards Greek monks used to hide away during the periodical waves of iconoclasm.
“The land that smiles”: that’s how Horace characterized Apulia. Its smile is everywhere: in the stones of the buildings, in the fruit of the labour of peasants, sailors and craftsmen, in the folklore and in the festivals held here every week. It’s in the religious festivals in honour of various patron saints, in the fascinating historical parades that re-enact some famous events, in the lively sagre – food festivals that take place even in the smallest town and are devoted to a particular kind of food, vegetable or fruit. Particularly popular are the Cherry Festival in Turi, the Sausage Festival in Sammichele and the Octopus Festival in the small sea town of Mola di Bari.
It’s not possible to describe all the beauties of Apulia. This region has to be visited, discovered, heard, tasted, felt: these are the only ways to get to its heart and understand a people whose culture and traditions are still kept alive in small and picturesque towns, and thus experience Southern Italy’s unforgettable spirit.