Throughout the year in Puglia there are vibrant festivals marking everything from important religious events and Saints Days to celebrations of the seasons, food and music. The festivals are observed with great enthusiasm and take various forms but most involve parades, fireworks, music and lots of fun!
Please find below a calendar of some of the festivals and events which take place in and around Cisternino and Ostuni. We’ve also included a few of note which are slightly further a field. In Italy, Easter is the second most important religious period after Christmas and both are marked throughout Puglia. In addition, each town and city celebrates their own Patron Saint, so to list all the events here would be almost impossible! For those that enjoy food, Noci has a year long calendar of food themed events.
Falo Festival, Castellana Grotte - Visit Castellana Grotte in January for the Falo Festival in which over 50 bonfires light up the night sky. A spectacular celebration of the town having been spared from the plague by Madonna della Vetrana in 1691.
The Carnival at Putignano -The Putignano Carnival, with its famous parade of papier-mâché floats, is said to be the oldest in Italy, predating even the famous Venice Carnival. The carnival is also famed as the world's longest, based on the fact that it starts in December/January and ends on Shrove Tuesday. The Carnival period starts with The Propaggini - the transfer of St Stefan Protomartyre's Holy Relics from Monopoli to Putignano. The Propaggini originally involved local farmers dancing, singing and reciting rhymes during the procession, hence the beginning of the carnival! The parade now involves enormous floats, satirical masks and the colourful masked groups. The Carnival ends with the Funeral of the Carnival and the Campana dei Maccheroni (a pasta bell). The end of Carnival signals the beginning of Lent. There is also a summer parade which takes place on various dates in July.
For details please see the official website at www.carnevalediputignano.it
EASTER - APRIL
Easter (Pasqua) is a very important festival throughout the region with many towns hosting events from Maundy Thursday to Easter Sunday.
Le Feste di Pasqua in Taranto- thousands gather to watch processions on Holy Thursday and Good Friday. Various statues of Christ are carried by the penitente (the penitents) who walk barefoot wearing special head to toe robes.
The Processione dei Misteri –On Good Friday this event takes place in many towns including Fasano.
Festa di San Nicola – Bari’s biggest festival is held in honour of St Nicholas. The festival starts on 7th May with a re-enactment of the arrival of the saint’s relics. The next day a flotilla of boats carries a statue of San Nicola along the coast. The evening ends with an impressive firework display.
La Festa di San Cataldo in Taranto - The 8th of May marks the start of the celebration of San Cataldo, patron saint of Taranto. A silver statue of the saint (who was originally from Ireland) is taken from the Cathedral to a naval ship to begin an impressive sea procession amidst a flotilla of smaller boats. After docking in the old town the statue is then returned to the Cathedral. The festivities conclude on the evening of 10th May when the statue of the saint is paraded on a large wagon decorated with flowers.
Processione del Cavallo Parato, Brindisi (Corpus Christi Sunday) – a celebration recalling when, in the thirteenth century, St Louis survived shipwreck and was washed up in Brindisi with the Holy Sacrament. The procession involves the archbishop riding a white horse around the city whilst carrying a blessed sacrament.
Festival della Valle d’Itria, Martina Franca – an annual music event in which Martina Franca hosts international performances of opera, classical and jazz (for details see www.festivaldellavalleditria.it)
Festa di San Rocco – A large festival in which fairy lights and a big firework display light-up Locorotondo. A similar celebration is held in Ceglie Messapica with lovely lights illuminating PiazzaPiebiscito.
The Calvalcata of Saint Oronzo, Ostuni (26th August) - Patron saint of many towns and cities in southern Puglia, Saint Oronzo is remembered in Ostuni in a particularly unique procession. A silver statue of Saint Oronzo is accompanied by 30 horses with traditional costumed riders called the 'Cavalcata'. The Cavalcata dressed in red and white follow the statue from the cathedral through the small and winding streets of the city. Typically celebrated between 25-27 August. There are live bands, street decorations and markets with a large firework display to mark the end of the celebration.
Fiera del Levante – One of southern Italy’s biggest country trade fairs is held just north of Barion the 2nd Sunday in September.
Patron Saints Celebration Alberobello - A festival in honour of the patron saints Cosma e Damiano. Decorations and lighting throughout the streets, all day mass, a firework display, live brass bands, street performers and a funfair are just some of the features of this festival.
Christmas (Natale) – There are many processions and religious events in the run up to Christmas. All the towns are decorated with white fairy lights with many churches and homes displaying presepi – (Nativity Scenes). The presepi tend to be elaborate some with life size figurines, in fact nativity scenes using real people take place in many towns including Fasano.
Pettole nelle Gnostre e Cioccolato, Noci– a chocolate festival held in the streets of Noci.