I like variety—so I love travelling, exploring and writing fiction and non-fiction on a daily basis.
The up-and-coming Puglia region of Italy offers more than stunning landscapes, beautiful towns and friendly locals. Land of the amazing Trulli (traditional, dry stone houses with conical roofs) and some truly scrumptious food (like all of Italy)—Puglia loves festivals.
This region, also known as Apulia, offers a whole raft of festivals taking place every single year for the inquisitive traveller to discover. If you visit at the right time, you can join one of the dozens of local celebrations that the region is famous for. This article gives you the low-down on some of the main festivals in Puglia (and my personal favourites) by month and location.
The majority of the following festivals are outdoor events that take place in the summer months, and they often focus on the Italian passions of religion and food.
Note: Dates and locations are approximate, so always confirm dates and timings with the local tourist office before you make your plans.
Lecce's Puccia dell’Ampa Festival: In mid-January, the beautiful town of Lecce takes an entire weekend and celebrates ‘Puccia dell’Ampa’, which is wood-baked bread, often stuffed with aged ricotta or pickles. Excellent for the foodies out there.
Il Carnivale di Putignano: Said to be one of the oldest carnivals in the world, this annual event is spectacular, featuring processions of elaborate, allegorical floats featuring an array of characters such as priests, nuns, widows, madmen and cuckolds. The festival officially starts on the 26th of December (but really gets into gear from January 17th, with the feast of Sant'Antonio Abate, and finishes on Shove Tuesday.
Celenza Valfortore's Festa della Pignata: Puglia has a well-deserved reputation for the best in seafood. This particular festival is dedicated to the eight-limbed mollusc commonly known as the octopus.
San Marco's 'Fracchie' Procession
March and April
Easter is a massive celebration throughout the whole of Italy, and this is equally true for the Puglia region.
San Marco's 'Fracchie' Procession: Taking place on Good Friday, the town of San Marco in the north of Puglia plays host to the ‘Fracchie’ procession, where the townsfolk split cone-shaped tree trunks in two and stuff them with splinters and dry branches, turning them into enormous, fiery torches for procession through the town and to illuminate the path of the Madonna.
There too many festivals celebrating Easter in the Puglia region to mention here, so if you do find yourself in this part of the world over the Easter period, be sure to check in with the local tourist office to see what festivals are happening locally.
In addition to the religious Easter celebrations, there are many other festivals in the region over this period, including the ones below.
Vieste's Festival of San Giorgio: This festival celebrates the humble ‘frittato’, an omelette a little similar to the Spanish tortilla.
Alberobello's Sagra dei Tarallucci e Vino: This festival, usually taking place in late April, celebrates the traditional ‘taralli’ ring-shaped biscuits in either sweet or savoury variants and taken with wine.
Bari's Festa di San Nicola: This festival honours Bari’s patron (who also happens to be the patron saint of sailors). This popular event draws visitors from around the world with flotillas of boats, parades and of course, fireworks.
Ortranto's Truffle Festival: Another food festival, this time the focus is on that pungent and expensive delicacy, the truffle. No sniffer dogs (or pigs) required, as the streets will have plenty of stalls dedicated to this delicacy.
Sagra della Ciliegia Ferrovia Festivals: Taking place in many towns (Leverano, Conversano, Turi and many more) throughout Puglia in May and into June, the region celebrates the wonders of the unassuming cherry. The town of Turi is the epicentre of this cherry-fest, as it is home to the most cultivated cherry in Italy, known as the ‘Railway Cherry’ due to it being originally found growing close to the railway tracks heading south east towards Sammichele di Bari.
Brindisi's Negroamaro Wine Festival: Usually taking place in the first half of June (but it does vary), this festival celebrates with streets lined with wine tasting stations, street food and live music and dancing.
Otranto's Festa San Pietro e Paolo: Featuring series of events based around folklore and food, this festival combines fun and culture with great local food, and usually takes place towards the end of June.
Crispiano's Carnevale del Brigantino: The Carnival of the Brigantino usually takes place at the end of July (check locally). This festival features a masked procession that winds through the streets of the town, along with wine (of course), music, art and local delicacies such as liver, sausage, snails and bread.
Notte della Taranta
Felline's Sagra della Polpetta: This festival focuses on one of my Italian food favourites—meatballs!
Sannicandro di Bari's Orecchiette: This small town pays tribute to the local Orecchiette pasta (literally ‘little ears’ because that’s what look like).
Melpignano's Notte della Taranta: Involving around 15 towns of the Lecce province this month long festival of dance culminates with a grand finale in the town of Melpignano, it features late night dancing in the streets and piazzas until into the early hours celebrating the region's unique folk music and dance known as the "tarantella" or "pizzica", whose origins are centuries old, and believed to date from pagan times.
September and October
Bari's Sammichele: The port town of Bari celebrates its local sausage speciality in this festival, culminating in a great feast with mozzarella and plenty of vino rosso.
Muro Leccese and Ortelle's Maiale Celebrations: Both these towns celebrate roast pork (maiale), a traditional dish for many generations that is now used to create speciality dishes in many Puglian restaurants.
Whenever and whichever celebrations take your fancy when you visit Puglia, always check dates and times with the local tourist boards when making your plans.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2021 Jerry Cornelius