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The Puglia Carnival a Fun-Filled Parade

Putignano carnival in the province of Bari.

The Puglia Carnival a Fun-Filled Parade


To counteract the severity of this very cold winter, the right recipe would seem to be the colourful kaleidoscope of Carnival, especially if the dazzling light of Puglia lends a hand.
In fact, the Murgia area of Puglia is where one of Europe's oldest carnivals began, the Putignano carnival, in the province of Bari.

According to tradition, the Carnival of Putignano dates back to 1394, when the Knights of Malta transferred the relics of St. Stephen Martyr to the town and were welcomed by the farming folk, who covered their faces in flour and teased the knights in good fun by reciting verses in the vernacular. This event gave rise to the famous "propaggini": satirical verses performed in public, which are still one of the highlights of the Carnival of Putignano. The festival actually begins on December 26 with the ceremony of the "candle exchange", during which the population donates a candle to the church and in return asks forgiveness for any sins committed during Carnival. Not to be missed is the parade of wonderful floats made by local craftsmen, which ends on Shrove Tuesday with the funeral of the Carnival, when a masked procession passes through the streets in a blaze of gaiety.

Less than 40 km from Putignano is the picturesque town of Massafra in the province of Taranto. Here Carnival means one thing: participation. Citizens and tourists are not mere passive spectators, but become an integral part of the festive parades which pass in complete freedom, with no crush barriers, through the centre of Massafra: a swirl of sounds, floats, children's shows, food and wine tasting, and courses on working with papier-mâché.

From the province of Taranto we move on to Salento to take part in the famous Gallipoli Carnival, since 1954 an unmissable event for this splendid town in the province of Lecce. Every year, among masks, floats and confetti, they relive the story of "Lu Tidoru" a soldier from the town who came home for the Carnival celebrations and prepared for Lent by eating so much he choked and died. The event is commemorated by a funeral procession that only Carnival can turn into a performance of fake tears and real laughter.

Foggia, another of Puglia's provinces, holds another kind of Carnival: the Dauno of Manfredonia. This festival has always been linked to art, thanks to a contest that invites everyone, adults and children alike, to express their creativity through the arts. The program is rich and varied, with theatre sketches, farces, verse, dances, entertainments, tailoring workshops, majorettes, theme workshops, carnival songs, photo exhibitions and acrobats, all organised to satisfy children's desire for fun and adults' desire for escapism.

The province of Foggia also hosts the evocative Carnival at Poggio Imperiale. Floats made by the entire community poke fun at well-known figures from the world of politics and current events, parading through the streets of the town before the traditional dances in the square.

So, all you need to do is put on a happy mask and let yourself go in the festival atmosphere that each town creates in its own particular style, but whose common theme remains the same: having fun.

Did you know that…?
The imagination of the inhabitants of Gallipoli not only goes to work during Carnival: it flourishes all year round, bringing to life popular beliefs, customs and particularly striking folklore pageants. One of these takes place before Easter, arousing considerable curiosity. In the forty days of Lent leading up to Easter, a cut-out of a female figure called Caremma is dressed in mourning and hung in the windows. At the feet of each Caremma is an orange stuck with seven capon feathers. Each Sunday a feather is removed until Easter itself, when the Caremma is blown up with gunpowder to symbolise resurrection and rebirth after a period of suffering.



Michela Bilotta


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