If a stunning coast line, crystal clear waters and amazing food aren’t reason enough to visit the beautiful region of Apulia – the heel of the Boot – the month of August gives vacation goers one extra incentive to visit this beautiful area: a truly unique musical festival that has roots in one of Puglia’s oldest traditions.
"La Notte della Taranta" is one of Italy's biggest music festivals and it takes place every Summer around the Salento area to promote the re-discovery and valorization of Apulia’s folk music and its fusion with other types of music – from rock to jazz to classical music. Participating to the festival is an unforgettable experience, as people of all ages dance around the squares in a frenzy, trying to keep up with the increasingly fast rhythm of the music. All are invited to join – no matter if experts or first time dancers – and the result is a joyous and slightly messy group dance that leaves everyone breathless, and not only because of upbeat tempo.
The Festival took place for the first time in 1998 by initiative of the "Unione dei Comuni della Grecìa Salentina" and the "Diego Carpitella" Institute, and in the past sixteen years it has enjoyed tremendous growth in size, audience and international prestige.
The Festival's formula, which culminates in the "Final Concertone di Melpignano" (province of Lecce), is made unique by inviting a "Maestro Concertatore" (a concert master) who arranges and interprets classics from the local musical tradition, and directs a group of nearly thirty musicians from Salento together with exceptional guests from Italy and abroad. The "Final Concertone" alone attracts around one-hundred and fifty thousand spectators, while tens of thousands follow the final rehearsals the day before: streets and piazzas are filled with concert goers, as street vendors sell pitta, a type of focaccia stuffed with potatoes, to be washed down with a good local wine such as Primitivo and Salice Salentino.
The Pizzica, an ancient genre of folk music deeply rooted in the Salento region, is similar to a Tarantella, fast, joyous and upbeat. An entertaining mix of music and dance – it has always been an important part of the cultural life of the area. In the past, rumor had it that the dance could heal the symptoms caused by two local poisonous spiders, the tarantula and the malmignatta: the ritual dance was said to be the only way a tarantolato – one who had been bitten by the spider – could truly be cured. Today the dance has become a popular form of entertainment not only in Salento, but in the rest of Italy thanks to famous bands such as Officina Zoè and Sud Sound System that have performed the Pizzica all around the country, bringing the sound of Salento all the way to Northern Italy and beyond.
This year the Notte della Taranta will take place in 17 towns (Alessano, Calimera, Carovigno, Carpignano Salentino, Castrignano dei Greci, Corigliano d’Otranto, Cursi, Cutrofiano, Galatina, Lecce, Martano, Martignano, Melpignano, Sogliano Cavour, Soleto, Sternatia and Zollino) from August 5th to the 22nd: the final Concertone will take place, as usual, on the last day of the festival in Melpignano. Although the official list of guest stars isn’t available yet, famous Italian rock star Luciano Ligabue is said to be among them. For more information visit: http://www.lanottedellataranta.it/index.php?lang=en
To reach Malpignano for the Final Concertone on August 25th, a special bus service will connect the town to bigger towns such as Lecce, Otranto and Gallipoli, running all night until 8 a.m. next morning, which makes leaving your car behind a fairly obvious and good choice.
Melpignano, part of the Club Borghi Autentici d’Italia, is definitely worth visiting even after the hustle and bustle of the Notte della Taranta is over: well kept and rich of history, it features some of the most interesting archeological sites of the country. Other nearby towns such as Otranto and Gallipoli, too, are perfect bases for a vacation during the festival. Otranto, a pearl on the Adriatic coast, is famous for its beautiful white sand beaches, from Conca Specchiulla to Porto Badisco. Gallipoli, a picture perfect Baroque town, is perfect both for those who want to enjoy a holiday by the beach and for those who prefer a more cultural experience.
Salento can be reached by plane flying into Aereoporto Internazionale del Salento Brindisi, Aeroporto Taranto - Grottaglie or Aeroporto Lecce - Galatina; by train from Bari, Naples, Rome and other main cities in Italy; by car from Lecce by taking the Statale Salentina or the Via Appia.