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Holy Week – Rites and traditions – Midst faith and folklore at Easter

In Puglia, enchanted land of traditions and folklore, the Holy Week is one of the most deeply felt religious events. They dates back to Spanish domination. The ancient rites are characterized by typical and theatrical processions from the Middle Age.

The most renowned rites are in Taranto. They consist in two processions held on Holy Thursday and Good Friday. These two events of 14 hours each dates back to 1603. The two processions run through the narrow streets of the old town and the city center. The streets are lined with processions with participants dressed in traditional costumes walking barefoot at a slow pace rocking from side to side. They are full of symbols depicting episodes of the Passion of Jesus.

The main participants of the rites are the members of two religious brotherhoods, wearing long white dresses, a black rosary, two scapulars and a white cap with two eye- holes. Pairs of brothers (perdoni) strictly barefoot, conduct slow pace to the rhythm of solemn funeral marches. Here you can experience moments of extraordinary beauty in a breathless atmosphere between the sacred and the profane and when available you can appreciate the procession from a privileged location in natives’ home and taste our typical Easter food.

Day 1

Arrive at Bari airport. According to your flight schedule, a private bus  will take you to your hotel. There, we arrange for you a welcome drink for greeting and relax.

Bari boasts a long seafront promenade which leads from Bari Vecchia to the more modern shopping district, built on an octagonal plan in the early 19th century by Joachim Murat, Napoleon’s brother-in-law. After a light lunch, our licensed guide will guide you in a tour in Bari’s old town. Here you will stroll through the charming narrow streets of this picturesque city center and visit the San Sabino Cathedral, the Swabian Castle, and the impressive Basilica of San Nicola, one of the main destination for Orthodox Christians as it houses St. Nicola’s relics. Here, you will visit what it’s called “La via delle Orecchiette”: a lively alleyways where Italian mamas make orecchiette fresh pasta in the street. The tour continues to the fishermen’s port where you will walk along the seafront and discover the Art Nouveau architecture of the Murattiano distrct. Here, you will taste the famous tasty ‘ focaccia barese’.

In the Murattiano district you will have free time for great shopping and we’ll have a dinner in a typcal restaurant. Return to your hotel.

Day 2- Holy Thursday

In the morning, after breakfast and check out, we head to Taranto.

Check in at the hotel and guided tour of the town. We’ll pass through Ponte Girevole, a lift bridge connecting the Old town with the city center, built in 1887. We can appreciate and visist the Castello Aragonese, built in 1400 on Greek, byzantine and Norman fortress ruins and the Colonne Doriche, Doric Columns, the last evidence of the majestic temple of Poseidon dating back to Magna Grecia, the earliest Doric temple in Italy. We’ll visit the Old town with its evocative charm . We’ll visit the beautiful  Cathedral, San Cataldo.

The Cathedral has magnificent interior in baroque style and the crypt dating from byzantine times. We reach also San Domenico church, one of the key point of the Holy Week rites, built on a Greek temple ruins in Romanic-gothic style. At Midnight on Holy Thursday, the statue of Our Lady of Sorrows will slowly climb down from its baroque stairs. During our tour in the old town a couple of stops will be made to taste our deli foods and wines. We close our walk in the Old town having lunch in a typical restaurant tasting our specialties and drinking our excellent wines, famous all over the world. Free time to have a rest or visit the city center. Before dinner, we’ll meet to visit what we called ‘Sepolcri’ and bump into the ‘Perdoni’; They walk in pair and barefoot  to visit the Sepolcri in the Churches and ask forgiveness of sins. The tradition of Sepolcri (Sepulchre) is typical of some regions of Southern Italy. On Holy Thursday, in the churches, beautiful flowers and wheat sprouts adorn the altar where the Eucharistic is kept during the Holy Week. After our guided stroll we’ll have a great dinner to taste our local specialties. At Midnight, you can freely reach San Domenico Church to be present at the beginning of the procession.

But if you are tired, don’t worry! Go to sleep! Tomorrow morning we can meet the Statue of Our Lady of Sorrows in city center or, if you prefer you can join the procession at dawn on Ponte Girevole. The landscape and atmosphere are very evocative and touching. Anyway all details and explanations wll be given during the day, to let you decide for the best options.

Day 3 – Good Friday

After breakfast, we will visit the National Archaeological Museum of Taranto (MARTA), recently renewed, where you can admire the Greek and Roman mosaics and the world -famous Gold Jewels of Taranto dating back to Magna Grecia (Great Greece) period.

In ’50s Bulgari and Cartier took inspiration for their designs from these wonderful jewels. We will end our morning tour with a traditional lunch of local deliciousness. After some relax or free time, we’ll meet around 4 p.m. to attend the beginning of the procession.

Afterwards we’ll spend the afternoon in the house of a Tarantino DOC, where we will learn about the true history of Taranto rites and, most of all, follow the procession of the statues of the Mysteries from a privileged view, aeay fron the crowds in the streets. While the procession will be winding down along the streets, a local expert  will tell us anecdotes and traditions of these ancient rites. Furthermore, since it is customary on Good Friday, for many residents of the town, to open their homes to their friends and relatives, in order to enjoy together a close sight of the Mysteries, and share a light dinner together, a delicious buffet of local dishes will be offered. We ‘ll be back to the hotel late in the evening, but if you want to stand on, you can visit Saint Francesco Church, where between 1:00 and 2:00 a.m. the procession stops, to assist the entrance of the statues.

Even more impressive and moving it would be, at 7:00 of Saturday morning, going to the church of Mount Carmel to see the end of the penitential procession with the moving knocking of the “troccolante” on the heavy church door, searching for mercy. And of course, by then, you will have learnt everything about “troccola” and “troccolante”, as the tarantini DOC encountered in these two days will have competed to explain their meanings!

Day 4

After breakfast, we drive to Locorotondo for a guided stroll through the narrow streets of the beautiful hilltop town awarded as one of the Italian prettiest towns.

The tour goes on by visiting a vineyard in Locorotondo where you’ll taste their award-winning wines. You’ll discover the wine tradition of our country, the spirit of revival in search of the traces of our origins through a guided tour in the original farm of 1700, the cellar and picturesque vineyards of native grape variety such as Minutolo Verdeca, Bianco d’Alessano.

After the wine tasting, in few minutes we’ll reach Alberobello, the Unesco World Heritage Site, famous for its small white conical-shaped trulli dwellings, built from limestone with rooves stacked of stone tiles without mortar. A fairy tale village! Before a guided visit, you’ll have a lunch in one of the best Apulian restaurants.

After lunch, a guided stroll in the town of Trulli will show you the narrow pedestrianised streets, conical dwellings, little shops selling local produce and a few nice cafes. It will impress you! In the evening,we’ll reach the charming and baroque Martina Franca. During our guided walk we’ll discover its intricate, sandy-colored Baroque façades and narrow streets, extremely fine, especially when illuminated by the evening sun. Dinner in Martina Franca in a local restaurant.

Day 5- Easter Sunday 

After breakfast, check out and we’ll head to a Masseria. We’ll spend the morning in a beautiful Masseria (ancient fortified farmhouse) for a freetime in open air.

We’ll visit a unique and amazing garden vineyards, designed by one of the most important Spanish landscape gardener, and taste their organic wines. There, we’ll have a great Italian aperitivo and a typical Easter Lunch! Afterl lunch, will head to the beautiful Lecce.

Let yourself be enchanted by this elegant baroque town! Check in at your charming hotel. Time for relax and freshen up. Now you are ready to experience the wonders of the town, known as ‘Florence of the South’. We ‘ll have a passeggiata (stroll) to admire its charming city center: its richly decorated Baroque architecture flourished in the 17th century.

We will see Piazza Sant’Oronzo and the magnificent Roman Amphitheatre.  There, we will have a dinner with a great Italian pizza!

Day 6 – Easter Monday 

Today we we’ll spend all the day to discover this Apulian gem with our licensed guide.

Lecce was built in the local soft creamy limestone with dazzling architectural surprises , so it is a Baroque masterpiece.

Cafés, bars and restaurants flank the streets offering refreshments. You will be enchanted by Baroque architecture of the cathedral, Santa Croce Basilica and the beautiful piazza with Roman ruins.

We’ll visit a papier-maché artist who will show us how to create the beautiful statues, famous all over the world. We’ll have a lunch in a typical restaurant and a dinner in a gourmet restaurant.

Day 7 

After breakfast, you will attend an original cooking class with a professional local chef.

In the ancient heart of Lecce, the lesson begins with a pleasant walk among the main streets of the Baroque enjoying the slow pace of bygone days.

You will go into the small local market where you can learn and choose with the chef local products such as fruits, vegetables and seasonal vegetables and even local meats and cheeses to be transformed into excellent dishes. All strictly km0. Before coming back to school, a nice stop to enjoy together the “Lecce” coffee, ice coffee with almond milk, typical of the city.

At school, every guest will have ready his workstation; you will find everything you need to prepare together with the chef tasty traditional menu, from appetizer to dessert. You can collect directly from the school’s garden fresh herbs to flavor the food. Finally, you will taste together, around a convivial table, dishes prepared, paired with Apulian wines.

You will be alsoguided in a technical tasting of selected wines. The school’s apron will be your gift to take home with you, as a souvenir of this wonderful experience. After lunch, a pizzica dance lesson with local dancers will be held at the cookery school.

Now you ‘ll have free time for relax,  shopping, sipping an espresso or tasting an Italian gelato in the main piazza. In the evening we’ll have a farewell dinner in a typical restaurant.

Day 8

According to you flight schedule, private transfer to the airport for departure.