Puglia, the Daunia between myth and nature

How many things is Puglia, and how many incipits its landscape allows! In this season you want to start with flowers, with the infinite varieties of orchids that crowd the Gargano and Alta Murgia National Park. In the waves of grass of the latter, broken here and there by rocks of rocks, there are more than fifty species, and they are a real feast of the gaze. On the Gargano, the same party rises to triumph. Two years ago, in a volume of the series “The enchanted mountains” (also attached to Repubblica and National Geographic), the naturalist Paul Harcourt Davies told of having made 45 trips in the region, learning from each of them “much more than from any course university”.

And he explained why. “In spring, on the Gargano, you can witness one of the most incredible blooms in Europe. The woods are carpeted with daffodils and anemones, while the cultivated meadows still have wild yellow tulips. The grasslands are a tapestry of wild violets and wild irises, while the rocky areas are covered with thousands of orchids. The Gargano is a therapy for the spirit “. If you then look up from the flowery carpet, a second beginning of Puglia offers its horizon: generous with strong signs, the skyline of this land dispenses towers and bridges, bell towers and castles, isolated profiles that announce the depth of field and fill of impressions. In front of the Lucera walls, with its rugged walls, Giorgio Manganelli waited for the landing of a spaceship. But even less than those severe fortifications, the ruin of a Dauna tower on a hill is enough to warn the presence of the ghosts of history. Or enough more, for those who went under the walls of Castel del Monte and looked for the top of one of its eight towers with their eyes. Set on top of a rise from which reigns over a crowd of Aleppo pines, this miraculous building has the simple force of an idea.

It is a sort of self-portrait of its designer, Frederick II of Swabia who needed thirty years, from 1220 to 1250, to fill an entire century with himself. Stupor mundi, they called him, also because in that dark age his work, really intense, was constantly illuminated by his ideas. Which? The effectiveness of dialogue, the comparison between different cultures, the cult of beauty, the myth of peace. Utopias, in short, which however he made true in his life and which today are legible in the limestone of this castle and give it the charm of unreality. “This is a place that is both sweet and impressive, mysterious and elementary”, wrote the poet Franco Arminio. “Who built it has never left”. Of the more than one hundred castles that Federico built to protect Puglia and Basilicata today much less survive.

But there remains that contamination of cultures and civilizations that was a cornerstone of his vision of the world. This volume will illustrate how the Apulian Romanesque style, already influenced by Northern European ancestry, was enriched with characters derived from Arab and Byzantine art until it conquered its original identity, today represented by churches of rare beauty. As he will tell you about Jewish Puglia and the Franco-Provençal minorities. After all, it is the plurality, the contrasts that make this land special, stretching out like a pier in the heart of the Mediterranean: the contrast between the impetuous chronicles of the past and the still time of the hidden villages, between the shining stone of its historic architecture and the stones gray of the dry buildings in the countryside, between the explosion of his nature and the implosion of his secluded existences. And over everything a light that blinds, and forces every distance to its extreme. Vittorio Bodini, a poet from Lecce of the last century remembers it in his verses: “You don’t know the South, the lime houses / From which we came out into the sun / Like numbers from the face of a dice”.

Puglia, the Daunia between myth and nature is the fourth volume of the Landscape Italy series, which goes on newsstands, at the beginning of each month, with the Republic and National Geographic, for 12 months. Here is the editorial plan of the series.

1) Precious Umbria, from Città della Pieve to Montefalco

2) Sicily, Baroque Mediterranean

3) Terre di Siena, the perfect Middle Ages

4) Puglia, the Daunia between myth and nature

5) The other Lake Como

6) Gallura and Barbagia, beyond the sea

7) Langhe, between mists and traditions

8) Tuscia, city of tuff and gardens of delight

9) Veneto of water and land, from the Euganean Hills to Polesine

10) Ligurian west coast of stone and sea

11) Garfagnana, land of wolves and brigands

12) In the Marche, between history and Infinity

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