Apulia is rich in amazing places to visit – beaches, karstic caves, trulli, and many more – and precious gastronomic traditions, but it is also famous for being the Italian region with the largest number of Carnival celebrations. A special one is that celebrated in Putignano, a village of the Valle d’Itria in the province of Bari.
Putignano Carnival is the longest-lasting Italian carnival; it begins on December 26th, St. Stephen’s Day, and ends on the day before Ash Wednesday with the evening parade and the Carnival’s funeral. The origins of this long celebration date back to 1394, making it one of the oldest carnivals in Europe. In that year, the Knights of Malta transferred St. Stephen’s relics from the St. Stephen Abbey in Monopoli to Putignano in order to protect them from the Saracens.
Upon the arrival of the relics, the peasants left the fields to follow the procession and, after the religious ceremony, they began celebrating with festive dances, songs, and improvised verses in the local dialect. This is how the traditional ‘Propaggini‘ came to be: for several hours in a row, dozens of poets alternate on the stage of the town square to reciting rhymed satirical verses in dialect. Of course, as for all carnivals, even in Putignano masks and original imaginative paper-maché carriages are the protagonists of magnificent parades that cross the village streets.