Celebrating carnival in Apulia

Celebrating carnival in Apulia

2 minutes to read

The carnival is one of the most celebrated holidays in the southern Italian region of Apulia. The festivities in Putignano, a city in the province of Bari, are said to be the longest in Italy and the oldest in Europe. According to the tradition, which is more than 620 years old, the beginning of Carnival is initiated on the 26th of December. History claims that farmers used to leave their job in order to join the procession of Santo Stefano, the saint of the city, while singing and dancing together. In 2019, the Easter Sunday is on the 21st of April. Therefore, the actual carnival celebration starts on the "Fat Thursday"-as called in Italian- on the 28th of February

Picture © Credits to iStock/  vololibero
Picture © Credits to iStock/ vololibero

You will see everybody dressed up in different and extravagant masks and light-hearted festive mood. On the 17th & 24th of February and on the 3rd & 5th of March, there are impressive and amusing floats across the main streets of the cities. All the floats are made in papier-mâché, they have a common theme and depict the world of politics, culture and the society. At the end the most original, creative and funny float wins a price. There are numerous cities which have celebrations, but the 3 most spectacular ones are the ones taking place in Putignano, Massafra and Gallipoli.

The carnival of Putignano
The carnival of Putignano
70017 Putignano, Metropolitan City of Bari, Italy

In Putignano the 17th of January is the beginning of the "Thursdays" of Carnival. Traditionally each Thursday has a main topic. The floats and costumes are always inspired by a different social class with a mix of satire, entertainment and fun. 

In Massafra the Carnival started thanks to four actors, who organised a "joke" in the city. They staged a bullfight with bulls made out of papier-mâché and fake weapons. Since then, the carnival in Massafra is time for fun and games with big floats representing each district. In 2018 the best float won 15.000 Euro and the best masked group 3.000 Euro.

The Carnival of Massafra
The Carnival of Massafra
74016 Massafra, Province of Taranto, Italien
Picture © Credits to iStock/  vololibero
Picture © Credits to iStock/ vololibero

The most bizarre carnival tradition can probably be found in the picturesque city of Gallipoli. The protagonist of Gallipoli's carnival is "lu Titoru". According to the legend, Titoru was a young soldier who came back to the city on the last day of carnival, “martedi grasso”, which means Fat Tuesday. He immediately took part in the celebrations eating a lot of meatballs, till he gorged himself to death. In the city of Gallipoli, Titoru masks walk through the streets in a coffin and with a meatball in the mouth. Along wiith him parade the "cummari chiangimorti", men dressed up as women, who moan his death.

The Carnival of Gallipoli
The Carnival of Gallipoli
73014 Gallipoli, Province of Lecce, Italien

Don’t miss the carnival spectacles in Apulia and get inspired for other great destinations in the region on itinari. 

Cover picture credits to iStock/ © vololibero

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The author

Sandra Marx

Sandra Marx

My name is Sandra and I grew up in Austria. I started a Bed and Breakfast in Puglia, Italy, with my partner. I will tell you about all my favorite places and I hope that this wonderful region will fascinate you.

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