Apulia (from Greek Ἀπουλία, in Italian: Puglia, pronounced [ˈpuʎːa]) is a region in southeastern Italy bordering the Adriatic Sea in the east, the Ionian Sea to the southeast, and the Strait of Òtranto and Gulf of Taranto in the south. Its southern portion known as Salento, a peninsula, forms a high heel on the "boot" of Italy. The region comprises 19,345 km² (7,469 square miles), and its population is about 4 million. It is bordered by the other Italian regions of Molise to the north, Campania to the west, and Basilicata to the southwest. It neighbors Greece and Albania, across the Ionian and Adriatic Seas, respectively. The region extends as far north as Monte Gargano, and was the scene of the last stages in the Second Punic War.
Climate and Geography
Situated at the south-eastern tip of the Italian peninsula, Apulia covers over 19,357 km2 in succession of broad plains and low-lying hills. The only mountainous areas, the Gargano promontory and the Monti Dauni, do not exceed 1,150 m and are to be found in the north of Apulia, which is the least mountainous region in Italy.
Apulia is a very dry region. Its few rivers are torrential and are to be found on the Tavoliere delle Puglie, a tableland at the foot of the Gargano promontory that is one of the largest and agriculturally most productive plains in Italy. Elsewhere, rainwater permeates the limestone bedrock to form underground watercourses that resurface near the coast. Groundwater is therefore abundant, and there are many caves and potholes. The caves at Castellana Grotte are particularly spectacular
In ancient times only the northern part of the region was called Apulia; the southern peninsula was known as Calabria, a name later used to designate the "toe" of the Italian "boot."
One of the richest in Italy for archeological findings, the region was settled from the 1st millennium BC by several Illyric and Italic peoples. Later, the Greeks expanded until reaching the area of Taranto and the Salento. In the fifth and fourth centuries BC, the Greek settlement at Taras produced a distinctive style of pottery (Apulian vase painting).
Apulia was an important area for the ancient Romans, who conquered it during the course of wars against the Samnites and against Pyrrhus in the fourth and third centuries B.C.
in the 4th century BC but also suffered a crushing defeat here in the battle of Cannae against Hannibal. However, after the Carthaginians left the region, the Romans captured the ports of Brindisi and Taranto, and established dominion over the region. During the Imperial age Apulia was a flourishing area for production of grain and oil, becoming the most important exporter to the Eastern provinces.
After the fall of Rome, Apulia was held successively by the Goths, the Lombards and, from the 6th century onwards, the Byzantines. Bari became the capital of a province that extended to modern Basilicata, and was ruled by a catepano (governor), hence the name of Capitanata of the Barese neighbourhood. From 800 on, Saracen domination in the area was intermittent, but Apulia was mostly under Byzantine authority until the 11th century, when the Normans conquered it with relative ease.
Robert Guiscard set up the duchy of Apulia in 1059. After the Norman conquest of Sicily in the late 11th century, Palermo replaced Melfi (just west of present day Apulia) as the center of Norman power, and Apulia became a mere province, first of the Kingdom of Sicily, then of the Kingdom of Naples. From the late 12th to early 13th centuries, Apulia was a favorite residence of the Hohenstaufen emperors, notably Frederick II. After the fall of the latter's heir, Manfred, under the Angevine and Aragonese/Spanish dominations Apulia became largely dominated by a small number of powerful landowners (Baroni). In 1734 there were the battle of Bitonto, a Spanish victory over Austrian forces. The coast was occupied at times by the Turks and by the Venetians. The French also controlled the region in 1806-1815, resulting in the abolition of feudalism and the reformation of the justice system.
Liberation movements began to spread in the 1820s. In 1861, with the fall of Two Sicilies, the region joined Italy. Social and agrarian reforms that had proceeded slowly from the 19th century accelerated in the mid-20th century.
The characteristic Apulian architecture of the 11th–13th centuries reflects Greek, Arab, Norman, and Pisan influences. Universities are located in Bari, Lecce and Foggia, with branches in Taranto and Brindisi.
Apulia, the heel of the Italian boot, is a long, relatively level region with a prolific production of wine. In the past, the region often surpassed Sicily and Veneto in output, though Apulia's former title of "Europe's wine cellar" no longer carries much weight.
As traditional markets for strong blending wines have diminished, Apulia's producers have increasingly put the accent on premium quality. Some have come forth with good to excellent wines: dry, balanced reds, whites and ros˜s, as well as sweet wines from a great range of grape varieties, both native and foreign.
Apulia can be divided roughly into two viticultural sectors by a hypothetical line crossing the region between Brindisi and Taranto.
To the north, the terrain is rolling to hilly and the climate is temperate, even relatively cool at certain heights in the Murge plateau. Dry wines from there tend to have moderate strength, with impressive fruit, good acidity and ample bouquet. Red wines generally derive from the native Uva di Troia or Bombino Nero, as well as Montepulciano and Sangiovese. White wines are dominated by the Verdeca variety, though Bianco d’Alessano, Malvasia, Trebbiano and Bombino Bianco are also evident.
The leading DOC zone of northern Apulia is Castel del Monte, an appellation that enjoys an international reputation. It has a fine rosé and a full-bodied red that often gains stature with age. In much of the north the emphasis is on red wines under such DOCs as Rosso Canosa, Rosso Barletta and Rosso di Cerignola.
Just north of the Brindisi-Taranto line white wines dominate, in particular those of the Itria valley – Locorotondo and Martina Franca – home of the conical roofed stone houses known as trulli. Throughout the region experimentation is under way with international varieties: Chardonnay, Pinot Bianco and Sauvignon among the whites; Cabernet, Merlot, Malbec, Pinot Nero and Syrah among the reds.
South of the Brindisi-Taranto line lies Salento, a peninsula of low, rolling hills that extends between the Adriatic and Ionian seas to the easternmost point of Italy. Though hot, Salento is not quite torrid, thanks to the play of sea currents and breezes that waft across the Adriatic from the Balkans.
Salento’s traditional wines were the powerful, inky reds from Primitivo, Negroamaro and Malvasia Nera. But increasing attention is being given to fresher reds and rosés, as well as to some unexpectedly bright and fruity white wines.
Primitivo di Manduria, the early ripening variety of Salento is related to California’s Zinfandel. Though it once served primarily as a blending wine, Primitivo from a new wave of producers has shown undeniable class in a style that stands comparison with its American counterparts.
Among the many DOCs of Salento, Salice Salentino stands out for its robust red and refined rosé, though wines from such appellations as Squinzano, Brindisi, Alezio and Copertino can show unexpected class.
The Salento IGT applies to red wines that often carry individual names. White wines also show promise, Chardonnay in particular, though Salento is also renowned for flowery rosés that rank with Italy’s finest.
- Castel del Monte Nero di Troia Riserva (newest)
- Castel del Monte Rosso Riserva (newest)
- Castel del Monte Bombino Nero (newest)
- Primitivo di Manduria Dolce Naturale
- Aleatico di Puglia
- Cacc'e mmitte di Lucera
- Castel del Monte
- Gioia del Colle
- Martina or Martina Franca
- Moscato di Trani
- Orta Nova
- Primitivo di Manduria
- Rosso Barletta
- Rosso Canosa or Canasium
- Rosso di Cerignola
- Salice Salentino
- San Severo
- Valle d'Itria
Grapes and wines