Facts, History & Images of Puglia (Apulia)

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Puglia (Apulia) is a southern Italian region with the capital Bari, which extends along the Adriatic ridge and in a long peninsula. 

Inhabitants: 3 926 931 
Surface area: 19 540,9 km² 
Main cities: Bari, Foggia, Barletta-Andia-Trani, Taranto, Brindisi, Lecce
Official tourism website: Viaggiareinpuglia

Related articles: What to see in Puglia


Territory of Puglia

Along the coast of Apulia, sandy coasts alternate with rocky stretches. The interior of the region is mainly flat and hilly. Apulia is the least mountainous region in Italy. The Tavoliere delle Puglie is the largest plain in Italy after the Po Valley. The Murge, a plateau of calcareous nature located south of the Tavoliere that extends to the Serre Salentine. The Apulian hilly territory is divided between the Murge and the Serre Salentine. The Murgia (or the Murge), is a very large sub-region of Puglia, corresponding to a rectangular karst plateau included for the most part in the province of Bari and Barletta-Andria-Trani.  

The Tremiti archipelago, the Cheradi islands and the island of Sant’Andrea belong to Apulia. 

From the geological point of view, Apulia is constituted for almost 80% by calcareous and dolomitic rocks. The karstic nature of most of the Apulian territory and the scarcity of rainfall makes the region particularly poor in surface watercourses. Rivers in Apulia are mostly characterized by short and torrential courses, such as Candelaro, Cervaro, and Carapelle. The region’s natural lakes are mainly coastal lakes separated from the Adriatic Sea by narrow sandbars. The largest are those of Lesina and Varano on the northern coast of the Gargano.  

View from the top of Capraia island (Tremiti Islands, author: Wasabi1990)

Climate of Apulia

The climate of Apulia is the Mediterranean. The coastal and flat areas have hot, windy, and dry summers and mild winters, snowfalls are not uncommon in the plains. Precipitation, concentrated during late autumn and winter, is scarce and mostly rainy in the plains.

Origin name of Apulia

The name Apulia (from the greek Ἰαπυγία, Japigia) derives from the ancient population of Apuli (gr. Japigi) that in pre-Roman times inhabited the central-northern part of the region. According to a widespread pseudo-etymology, instead, Apulia would derive from Apluvia, which means land without rains.

Alberobello, Puglia. trulli (author: Palickap)

History of Apulia

Human settlement in Apulia dates back at least 250,000 years ago, as evidenced by the fossil remains of Altamura man, an archaic form of Homo neanderthalensis. Numerous are the finds of the prehistoric age, among which several menhirs and dolmens. Around the first millennium B.C., the Dauni, Peucezi, and Messapi peoples, probably of Illyrian origin, settled in the territory, and later, in the Hellenic period, there were numerous Magna Graecia colonies, especially in the southern part of the region, including the Spartan city of Taras (Taranto). During the second Sannitic war (326-304 a.C.), the Roman army, in the attempt to lend aid to Luceria, besieged from the Sanniti, suffered a serious defeat in the Battle of the Forche Caudine (321 a.C.). Very soon Rome understood the strategic importance of Apulia, but the occupation of the region, in the III century B.C., was not easy especially for the resistance of Tarentum and Brundisium. In 216 a.C. at Canne (Barletta) the Roman army was defeated by the Carthaginians led by Hannibal.

Along the Appian Way and the Via Traiana lies many cities such as Aecae (Troy), Herdonia (Ordona), Silvium (Gravina in Puglia), Canusium (Canosa di Puglia), Rubi (Ruvo di Puglia) and Botontum (Bitonto). The region occupied positions of primacy in the production of wheat and oil, becoming the largest exporter of olive oil in the East.

Roman amphitheater in Lecce (author: AndreaRollo)

At the fall of the Western Roman Empire, Puglia also went through a long period of suffering. Many peoples (Heruli and Ostrogoths) alternated in the territory, but eventually became a domain of the Byzantine Empire (VI-XI century). Bari became the capital of a territory extended up to today’s Basilicata and subject to the authority of a Byzantine governor ( captain, catapano from where the term derives Capitanata). With the advent of the Normans (XI century), Taranto became the capital of the homonymous principality, extended over the entire Terra d’Otranto. In 1043 the Normans founded the county of Apulia (including the Capitanata, some areas of the Land of Bari, the Vulture, and part of Irpinia) which in 1059 merged into the vast duchy of Apulia and Calabria, whose boundaries gradually extended to Salerno (this city was chosen as the capital of the duchy from 1077). From 1130 it was part of the kingdom of Sicily.

Castel del Monte

Both with the Normans and with the Swabians led by Hohenstaufen, Apulia achieved great material and civil progress, which reached its peak with Frederick II, who was responsible for the construction of a series of secular and religious buildings, some high artistic value, including Castel del Monte near Andria. During the Swabian period, Foggia became one of his residences. Between 1282 and 1442 Apulia was under the domination of the Angevins, within the Kingdom of Naples, which were replaced first by the Aragonese and then the Spanish. Between 1806 and 1815, the French domination contributed to the modernization of Apulia with the abolition of feudalism and judicial reforms until the return of the Bourbons and the birth of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies. 

Featured image (Ostuni, author: Dronkitmaster)

Last Updated on 2021/06/07


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