Tuesday, 26 April 2016

Altamura, "Federicus" and Philippe Daverio

On 23rd, 24th and 25th April, Altamura hosts the 5th edition of "Federicus", a Medieval festival dedicated to Frederick II the Swabian.

So, Altamura pays tribute to the king who actually has rebuilt the town, as reported in the banner of the municipality (Federicus me reparavit).

In my opinion, the main goal scored through this festival is having the community more aware of her own roots.

Rediscovering our roots make us more aware of our identity. 

Identity is an awkward topic, in a globalized world, with millions of human beings leaving their own country to move either to Europe or America.

The leit motif of the ongoing festival is superstition.

Therefore, a panel of eminent guests were invited on 20th April to debate about it at the Mercadante theater: Rosanna Galantucci, Giacinto Forte, Francesca Ferrulli, Philippe Daverio, Alessandro Amapani and Fabrizio Vona.

Among them, there is Philippe Daverio (pictured), very popular in Italy thanks to his personal way to communicate art: smart and never pedantic. 

Additionally, he has presented for years passepartout, a successful television program broadcasted by RAI.

Once on stage, Philippe, surrounded by flags red and white, colours which symbolize the Municipality of Altamura, turn to the Mayor and ask him: "what do red and white mean? Do they represent the compromesso storico?"

Coming back to Frederick II, Philippe Daverio says "according to Le Goff, in the 13th century, beside the two powers represented by army and church, a third category called scriptorium (intellectuals) took place in France and quickly spread all around Europe".

"This represents a turning point which Frederick II acknowledges immediately, and applies it to his own kingdom". 

He continues "However, if the South of Italy has remained stuck to agriculture, instead of developing towards the rising capitalism, that's the Swabian's fault".

He says "I wish to mention a brilliant book, Uncommon sense. According to the author, in the past there were two figures, prophets and philosophers. Ancient Greece has given the birth to philosophers, whom thinking has forged the European culture".

"During the Middle Age, Arabics were forward-thinking. Indeed, among them superstition was forbidden, whereas science and philosophy were incentivated. Just to make an example, zero was introduced to Europe by the Arabics." Philippe adds.

He says "Finally, when Frederick II realizes that his ascendence may not be enough to rule over the Arabics of Sicily, then he persecute them, either killing or deporting them to Lucera, in Apulia".

The conference goes on for a couple of hours.

I quit the theater with so many causes for reflection.

The festival reaches its climax on the 24th, though.

The locals feels very much responsible for the positive outcome of the historical reenactment.

The atmosphere is sparkling: musicians, jugglers, walkers-on, twirlers. 

There is everything which tourists may look for.

Finally, I strongly recommend you to experience Federicus next year.

Click here, should you wish to view more pics

Thursday, 21 April 2016

Manfredonia, where contemporary art connects to romanico pugliese

Few days ago, I have come back to Manfredonia, my home town.

It was 7 pm and the sky was still bright

Before arriving in Manfredonia, coming from Zapponeta, I passed by the archaeological park of Siponto.

The park includes the basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore di Siponto (11th century) and the ruins of a basilica of the Early Middle Ages (4th century).

The first one is a magnificent example of Romanico Pugliese of which I am going to write about later.

Concerning the oldest basilica, we have inherited ruins and mosaics.

The archaeological park has just been renewed, thanks to the project called dove l'arte ricostruisce il tempo,

The project includes the permanent installation art of Edoardo Tresoldi, who has been commissioned to re-build the basilica through steel grids.

The project costed to the taxpayers 3.5 millions euro (POIn)

Talking about the Edoardo Tresoldi's installation art, Simone Pallotta says: "The Edoardo Tresoldi's project (Milan, 1987) is based upon the desire to portray the relationship between man and surrounding space".

"Tresoldi focuses on the idea of an architecture not as a solid mass but a structure which includes the landscape as an actual part of itself" he continues.

I have to confess that being within the installation is breathtaking.

According to the artist, this is the biggest installation art of steel ever made in the world. 

Since the inauguration held on the 11th of March, the installation is attracting so many tourists, Italian and foreigner.

However, some art critics argue that the installation should be removed.


Teodoro De Giorgio advises that there are no documents which prove that the original church has the shape forged by Edoardo Tresoldi.

In addition, the installation has been fixed on the ground, where fragile ruins and mosaics might have been damaged. 

"the installation is bulky" the art critic argues "therefore, the chance of reading the archaeological contest has been jeopardised".

The critic points the finger at Soprintendenza per i beni archeologici della Puglia, run by Luigi La Rocca, who has availed the project.

Finally, Teodoro De Giorgio remarks that it doesn't comply with the Italian Constitution (art. 9) which says "La Repubblica [...] tutela il paesaggio e il patrimonio storico e artistico della Nazione".

Therefore, the art critic hope for the removal of the installation.

Beside the Edoardo Tresoldi's work, there is the basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore di Siponto, which was consecrated on 1117.

I have always looked at this church superficially, never focusing on details.

This time, I slowly walk around the basilica and contemplate it.

According to Antonio De Tizio, its cubic shape symbolizes stability.

I'm mainly struck by two themes: firstly, the stiloforo lion sculpted beside the main entry. Secondly, the recurring motif of lozenges.

The lions seem having middle-Eastern traits.

Their eyes, big and well-defined, seem those of the Egyptian pharaoh.   

Then, the lozenges, a motif which occur all around the church.

Lozenges symbolize female fertility.

According to the Dean Liprini's book, pathways of the sun (pp. 34), in Christian art lozenge symbolizes the Virgin Mary.

John North states in his book Stonehenge (pp. 504) "The lozenge is a symbol commonly found, from Ireland to Persia and beyond".

Actually, the oldest lozenge representation is the one discovered in South Africa at the Blomblos cave which dates back to 70.000 years ago

One of the lozenges on the exterior wall of the basilica contains a Templar cross.

Templars, Teutonic knights  and other crusade orders choose Apulia to settle down before departing for the holy land. 

Nevertheless, if you are interested in finding out more about the Teutonic Order, then, you definitely must visit the San Leonardo abbey, few miles from Siponto, located between Manfredonia and Foggia.

San Leonardo is another story, though.

And I'm just realising that I should soon write something about it, because it's just so worth to be narrated.


Thursday, 14 April 2016

Majolicas of Laterza

This morning I moved to Laterza, a small town located in the province of Taranto.

As the Lucia's mum had to buy a new dress there, I have driven both of them to the shop.

I am not really interested in fashion maters, therefore, I quit the shop after few minutes and head straight to the city center.

Italian city centers are like an open air museum, where it's possible to view their historical stratification.  

I have been told that Laterza has something unique: a place called taverna degli spagnoli as well as the recent MuMa, museum of majolicas.

Taverna degli spagnoli, which may be translated to "Spanish tavern".

The IAT (tourist office), located within the local castle, it's warm and cozy.

"Good morning, I have called yesterday because I'd like to visit taverna degli spagnoli" I say.

"Sure, no problem" Nicola replies.

"The ticket costs 5 euros. We can go there whenever you wish. Additionally, we have here the MuMa which hosts a permanent exhibition of majolicas made in Laterza, from 14th to 19th century. It's free entry" he states.

"Cool!" I think to myself. 

"I wish to see first the MuMa, then, the taverna" I tell him.

I have always heard about the beauty of majolicas made in Laterza. However, I would have never expected to see so outstanding artifacts.

The ones below are just a taste of what is displayed.

According to Wikipedia, majolicas have been invented by Egyptians.

The first artisans to produce majolica in Italy were in Palermo in the 10th century.

Arabs introduced it in Sicily. 

A couple of centuries later, Faenza became one of the worldwide center of majolica. 

According to Nicola, during the 18th century, there were in Laterza around 40 maiolicari (artisans who manufacture majolicas).

Today there are just 4 left.

At that time, the buyers were families in the upper class. So, this explains why the local majolicas were so sophisticated, so enchanting.

According to the book La Ceramica di Laterza nella collezione Tondolo (edited by Guido Donatone, published by Mario Congedo Editore) the items displayed at MuMa have been collected by Riccardo Tondolo.  

 Riccardo Tondolo (pictured on the left) has been seeking Laertian majolicas all around the world for decades.

The local community owes a lot to this man.

The oldest items shown at MuMa date back to the 14th century.

After having completed the tour at MuMa, I still feel inebriated.

"Ah, what a nice sensations art let you experience" I think to myself.

"Nicola, I am ready to view the taverna" I address him.

"Ok, let's go" the guide replies.

A blonde lady is with us, her name is Wanna. 

Like Nicola, she is from Laterza too (both of them pictured).  

Walking through the city center, we bump into some interesting places: 

a building owned by aristocrats  


The oldest public fountain

finally, an emblem which echoes the Borboni one 

We arrive at Taverna degli Spagnoli.

"This is supposed to be the ancient Byzantine church of St. Pietro" Nicola says.

"Then, this place turned to be a place of initiation of the Spanish dinasty Perez-Navarrete, which inherited Laterza in 1655".

Perez-Navarrete was a Spanish-Neapolitan family

Nicola adds "We suppose that the Spaniards used this place to recruit new soldiers".

Indeed, we see written on the top of the wall: chi vol haver il soldo, Hor qui s'accosti al capitano, which stands approximately for "Those who seek for money, come here close to the captain".

The taverna is plenty of frescos which our guide ascribe to local artists of the 17th century.

If you wish to find out more about this place, I suggest you this book La "cantina spagnola" di Laterza. I Perez Navarrete feudatari ed il Viceregno spagnolo, edited by Raffaella Beniamino, published by Congedo editore.

The below two pictures show:

a lady (centre) dancing with two men...

and Spanish soldiers

The tour is going to end up.

I have chance to exchange few words with Wanna. 

She is back in Laterza after having worked a couple of years abroad.

Our land strongly needs educated and experienced people.

Please, let me spend few words on how great people of tourist office areNicola and his colleagues, young and well trained, are great professionals who work with passion.

Additionally, I wish to highlight the efforts of Laterza administration in promoting its immense cultural and environmental heritage. Well done!  

Enjoy Laterza, then.


Click here, should you wish to view more pics

Monday, 11 April 2016

Pomarici Santomasi musuem

After six months I'm back writing a new post.


Because when you do things for passion, with Nonprofit purpose, it's your right to take a break, in order to ponder over an easy question such as "where am I going to"? 

Frankly, I have to say that even though I did not add any new posts for a while, people from all over the world has kept reading In Apulia.

So, I realised that people is eager to find out more about this Italian region, Apulia.

Below the figures of audience.

Today, I wish to share with you some discoveries made at the Pomarici Santomasi foundation, located in Gravina in Puglia, of which I have already written about.

The Pomarici Santomasi foundation hosts permanent exhibitions concerning archaeology, art gallery, library, numismatics, majolica and finally, Byzantine frescos.

The Foundation has been established after that Ettore Pomarici Santomasi, a rich baron of Gravina, left a bequest to the municipality of the above town.

As the generous donor did not have any male descendant, he thought better to leave his immense palace (almost 50 rooms!) to the community, in order to promote the culture among his fellow citizens.

There are four of us: Lucia, I and two friends of us, Emma and Marcello. 

We arrive at the museum at around 11:30.

We later realised that we should have come earlier, as there is so much to see and the closing time is just at 1 pm.

We pay the ticket, 3 euros each. A guide is going to lead us through the house museum. 

Our Beatrice is named Rosa Di Benedetto, a lady who does her job with great passion. 

When I tell Rosa that I write a cultural/travel blog, she seems very much enthusiastic about the idea of an article written in English which describes the beauty of the foundation which she works for.

"When are you going to write about us?" she enquiries. 

Her enthusiasm is contagious. 

The first room is dedicated to Pasquale Calderone Martini, deputy of the Italian Parliament, who has helped to set up this foundation.

He was a rich landowner. Indeed, we visualise a cupboard containing a full set of legumes gathered from his lands.

We move on.

"This is the state room" Rosa declares. 

She continues "Look at the roof, it's a flat caisson ceiling, from which descends a Murano chandelier. Talking about the floor, the architect has designed it inspired by Palladio ".

Rosa lead us to the next room, where is displayed an old fashion bed. 

However, the most interesting items are two tallboys enriched with ivory marquetry.

We are now entering the archaeological section.

From an historical point of view, Gravina in Puglia is one of the most important Peucetian site.

Peucetians, Daunians and Messapians belonged to the Iapyges, the pre-roman inhabitants of Apulia. 

"Please, do not take pictures of the archaeological exhibition, as prescribed by the Sovrintendenza of Apulia" the guide warns.

I am struck by the richness of this collections, which mixes up geometric motifs, typical of the Peucetian art, with figurative motifs, as result of the Hellenistic influence. 

These items have been discovered in Botromagno, the archaeological park of Gravina, where excavations have been carried out since 1960.

The Botromagno hill is a site inhabited since the Neolithic. 

I take the opportunity to mention a foreigner researcher, Alastair Small, who has dedicated years and years of hard work to dig out at Botromagno as well as at Vagnari, another archaeological site nearby Gravina.

Botromagno was the location of the pre-roman Sidion, then turned to Silvium during the roman influence.

Talking about the museum, I am struck by a fantastic krater, which dates back to 450 BC, produced by the Boreas painter.

The krater portrays the sacrifice of Agamennon's daughter Iphigenia, which is being accomplished by Diomedes.

"Now we are entering a room dedicated to Numismatics. You see displayed 1608 coins, covering a period of time which goes from Magna Graecia to the unification of Italy". Rosa says.

She continues "the most important pieces are three silver coins, which pertain to Sidion; and a golden Augustalis coined during the Frederick II time".

It's late so Rosa moves on quickly. 

We get in the gallery, which counts on two Francesco Guarini's paints.

Rosa points her finger to the next paint "That is the portray of Cardinal Orsini, who then became Pope Benedict XIII. Born in Gravina, he has given a huge contribute to modernise the Church by breaking off the corruption among Italian cardinals and priesthood". Rosa states.

I struggle to follow Rosa. She proceed quickly while I take pictures around and write down notes.

"I am proud to show you the library" Rosa declares.

"We have here 40.000 books, among which there are four incunabulum as well as 290 cinquecentine." She adds.

Another outstanding section of the museum is the crypt of San Vito, a rocky church with Byzantine frescos, removed from its original site and rebuilt here.

I have to admit that I have never seen a Pantocrator so giant, even though I have appreciated other Byzantine frescos in Massafra, Matera and Mottola.  

The frescos in this crypt are just marvellous.

"The sight of Pantocrator seems to me oblique?". I loudly remark. 

Rosa promptly replies "because He is looking at the Holy Virgin, which is painted on the right side of the crypt".

It is 1:15. 

Unfortunately, we do not have more time to view the majolica exposed there.

"Thank you Rosa" I say. 

We exchange our e-mails. 

Finally, I leave not before having promised her that I would have written the article at the soonest possible.

Click here, should you wish to view more pics