The history of Gioia del Colle is linked to the Swabian emperor Frederick II who, according to the legend, had his beloved Bianca Lancia, accused of adultery, locked up in the castle. But the village has very ancient origins, as evidenced by the finds from Monte Sannace and Santo Mola, preserved in the museum housed in the manor.
Not far away is Acquaviva delle Fonti, where red onions and black chickpeas are produced, and Cassano Murge, where you can recharge your batteries among the trees of the Mercadante Forest. The symbol of nearby Sammichele di Bari is the Caracciolo Castle, home to the Museum of Rural Life, but there is no shortage of delicacies such as zampina (stuffed sausage), focaccia a libro (the puff pastry is closed like a book) and, of course, wine. The majestic castle also characterizes Sannicandro di Bari, home of the sweet olives to which one of the tastiest festivals in Puglia is dedicated. Grumo Appula is interesting because of the naturalistic aspects of the WWF Oasis Il Rifugio Mellito, an example of the steppe-like environment of the Murgia, the highest point of which is Santeramo in Colle, the right stop to taste meat cooked on the traditional oven.
Altamura is the city of the only cathedral built in Apulia by Frederick II. A not to be missed experience, the tasting of the PDO bread and focaccia baked in wood-fired ovens, and excursions to Pulo, the largest karst sinkhole in the Alta Murgia, and to the Lamalunga Visitors’ Centre, where you will find the Altamura Man, one of the most extraordinary paleontological discoveries in Italy.
Immersed in a lush countryside is Turi, a town where Ferrovia cherries and Faldacchea sweets made of almond paste, reign supreme. Putignano is famous for the longest Carnival in the world, but the San Pietro Apostolo Cathedral, the Prince Romanazzi Carducci Palace-Museum, the Grotta del Trullo, the first karstic site to be opened in southern Italy, and the San Michele in Monte Lauret Sanctuary are all worth a visit.
Not to be missed are the Grotte di Castellana: three kilometres of caves of an extraordinary beauty, among stalactites and stalagmites in the bowels of Apulia. And, in Castellana Grotte, the excitement continues above ground with the Indiana Park, an adventure park set in an oak wood.
The centre of Noci is very characteristic, with its lime-painted houses with pignon roofs and the “gnostre”, the courtyards where village life developed and where today you can taste wine and delicious dairy products.
Not very distant is Adelfia, established in 1927 from the merger of the municipalities of Canneto and Montrone. For the festival of its patron saint, San Trifone, from 9 to 11 November, the town is transformed into the capital of the fireworks.
A few kilometres away is Rutigliano, famous for its production of terracotta and whistles that men used to donate to their girlfriends: an ancient tradition told in the Civic Museum of the terracotta whistle “Domenico Divella”. Rutigliano is also famous for its wheat and table grapes.
Conversano is of considerable historical and artistic interest, boasting a Norman castle transformed into a noble residence by the Counts Acquaviva d’Aragona in the 17th century, the Romanesque cathedral and the monastic complex of San Benedetto, and in the surrounding area the karst sinkholes of the Regional Nature Reserve of Conversano Lakes.
The tour of Puglia’s Primitivo Gioia del Colle PDO wine terminates in Casamassima, dubbed Italy’s Chefchaouen for its medieval town centre painted in blue.