The region of Puglia is famous worldwide for its fresh produce and local dishes, with numerous small fairs held throughout the year celebrating and showcasing the local produce. The region is renowned as one of the best agricultural areas in Europe — responsible for producing vast quantities of Italy’s wine, olive oil, fruit and vegetables. Here’s our guide to some of the best food festivals the region offers every year.
In mid-January, Lecce celebrates Puccia dell’Ampa, a wood-baked bread filled with pickles or aged ricotta cheese. We’ve not tried it, but it must be a seriously good sandwich to dedicate a whole weekend to it.
Towards the end of February, the town of Celenza Valfortore hosts the Festa della Pignata (Octopus festival). Considering how fantastic Puglia’s reputation is for seafood, this is a festival not to be missed.
During Easter, Santa Cesàrea Terme in Lecce sells the ‘cuddrura’ — a ring-shaped, deep-fried sweet bread on sale in bakeries throughout the Easter season.
Alongside the religious commemorations, fireworks, parade, and horse racing, the Festival of San Giorgio in Vieste celebrates the ‘frittato’ — an omelette not too dissimilar to the Spanish tortilla.
Later in the month, the Sagra dei Tarallucci e Vino event in Alberobello celebrates biscuits and wine with ‘taralli’ — traditional ring-shaped biscuits which can be either sweet or savoury.
Usually held towards the end of May, the town of Ortranto has a festival dedicated to truffles, with numerous food stands lining the historical centre of the town.
Throughout May and June, the region celebrates the humble cherry — with the Sagra della Ciliegia Ferrovia festival held in numerous towns including Leverano, Conversano and Turi. Turi is home to the most cultivated cherry type in Italy — known as the ‘railway cherry’ due to its humble origins from trees growing near the railway lines heading south east to Sammichele di Bari.
Although the dates vary year-on-year, during the first half of June the city of Brindisi hosts the Negroamaro Wine Festival — dedicated to the Puglian Negroamaro vine, with over a hundred and fifty stands showcasing the vine’s products.
At the end of June, the town of Otranto celebrates San Pietro e Paolo — a combination of delicious food and Salento folklore.
Many towns host celebrations in honour of the ‘frisella’ — a dried, bagel-shaped bread which gets topped with tomatoes, oil, oregano and salt before eating. If your visit falls outside of July/August (when the street markets sell these), we have good news — frisella is available to buy year-round from the local delicatessens.
July also boasts one of the strangest combinations of foodstuffs celebrated within a single festival; the town of Crispiano combines liver, snails, bread and ice cream as part of its annual festivities (although not necessarily at the same time; we suppose it depends how adventurous you feel).
During early August, the small town of Zollino celebrates ‘sceblasti’ — a Greek focaccia dotted with tomatoes, cooked in wood-fired ovens. According to local tradition, this was meant to be the first bread baked of the day, and is intended to demonstrate good wishes towards the local farming community.
Puglia also celebrates an Italian classic in two separate festivals; the Sagra della Polpetta in Felline (meatballs) and the Sannicandro di Bari which pays tribute to the local pasta, orecchiette.
Although they’re sold all-year round in the town, Bari celebrates its sausage speciality in a festival called the ‘Sammichele’. Culminating in a feast served with mozzarella and plenty of red wine, it’s a delicacy not to be missed if you’re in the area.
Towards the end of October, the towns of Muro Leccese and Ortelle celebrate roast ‘maiale’ — pork. Traditionally, the even helped feed the local farm workers but nowadays you’ll find plenty of specially created dishes in restaurants and market stalls instead.