Located deep in Italy’s heel, Puglia, with its hundreds of miles of golden beaches and alluring azure-hued waters is perhaps the least-exploited tourist destination in Italy. A relatively quiet part of the country, Puglia provides a glimpse into the authentic side of Italy, a side characterised by almost-all-year-round sunshine, endless olive groves and cheap, simple, fresh, tasty cuisine. Like in most regions of Italy, food, and eating is big in Puglia. In this region, there is no such thing as “industrialised food”; everything is fresh and local. Puglia is responsible for producing most of Europe’s pasta, pressing most of Italy’s olive oil and catching most of the country’s fish. It is the sixth largest wine-making region in the world and the semolina bread it produces is widely considered to be in a class of its own.
It comes as no surprise then, that alongside this region’s many celebratory Christian festivals exists a variety of food festivals - each celebrating the profound Puglian love for food. Each month, you can feast to your heart’s content in Puglia as the region’s mouth-watering local cuisine is celebrated from January to December.
Very special ricotta-forte or pickle filled sandwiches - indigenous to the region- are the focus of January’s Puccia Dell’Ampa festival in Lecce. The Festa della Pignata, in Foggia - held on February 23nd each year - is a celebration of how delicious octopus can be. Easter is incredibly sacred and special in Puglia as Puglian people are deeply religious, carrying traditional Christian beliefs. However, Easter is also celebrated throughout the region through taste as well as worship; the Santa Cesarea festival in Lecce celebrates cuddrura, ring-shaped, deep-fried sweets, similar to donuts.
April is a full-on foodie frenzy seeing not one, but two festivals being held; San Giorgio, in Vieste, pays tribute to the frittato - the omelette. Later in the month, Bari’s Sagra dei Tarrallucci rejoices in the cute culinary couple, biscuits and wine. What better month of the year than May to celebrate the bountiful beauty of cherries? Blooming blossoms and cherry-baked products galore characterise Festa delle Ciliegie, held both in Bari and Lecce. As thoughts turn towards a long, hot, lazy summer - one undoubtedly punctuated with fabulous foods - June’s Zollino festival- a celebration of foccacia - works towards ushering in sun-soaked thoughts.
The Puglian sun beats down and things gradually slow down in response to the glorious summer haze. The sizzling month of July sees fresh, ripe anguria (watermelons) widely celebrated throughout Puglia. July must be a hungry month in Puglia as bread, liver, snails and ice-cream are also heralded as part of Puglia’s most eclectic festival - Crispiano. Holiday fever descends upon Puglia during August and the Sagra della Polpetta festival in Lecce makes merry the magnificence of meatballs. The Sannicandro di Bari festival on the 15th of the month exalts orecchiette - a pasta local to the region. As the first breezes of autumn are felt at the start of September, the peoples of Bari celebrate the changing of the seasons by feasting on zampina salsiccie- a delicious meal consisting of spiral-shaped sausage cooked with mozzarella and enjoyed with wine.
The end of the year may be in sight, but the Puglian appetite for fine food and wine is nowhere near waning. Roast pork is the flavour of the month during October, and November is the month to indulge your love of wine. Throughout Puglia, red wine is widely considered to be superior to white, except in the province of Bari where each November the Locorotondo festival educates those on the overlooked beauty of the little-regarded white grape. New wines are also celebrated in Bari in the same month at the aptly-named Sagra del Vino Novello. December is, without a doubt, the month for eating and no one understands this better than a Puglian! Rutigliano - again, in the province of Bari - is perhaps the most festive of all Puglia’s December festivals. It glorifies the pettola, a wheat and cinnamon fritter, sprinkled with either salt or sugar and dipped in mulled wine and unashamedly enjoyed.
Fancy giving your taste buds a treat and sampling some of the local foodie fayre Puglia has to offer? Think Puglia offers a range of exquisite and desirable Puglia villas, with fabulous beachfront villas, luxury restored masserie and rustic-chic trulli in the hills.