Puglia. Italian Marinas.

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General Information

Geographical Position

The elongated region of Puglia (Apulia) forms the south-east part of the peninsula, on the Adriatic and Ionian Seas, delimited by Molise to the north-west and by Campania and Basilicata to the west. As far as size and population are concerned, it is the seventh largest region in Italy and its population density is above the national average.

The Natural Environment

Although Puglia comprises a diversity of morphological zones with clearly defined characteristics, it retains a precise uniformity, conferred by the underlying rock and its structural constant, for the Puglia landscape consists prevalently of horizontal lines and gentle contours, which rarely take on the appearance of mountains, even at higher altitudes. These forms owe their existence to the large extensions of limestone rock in vast horizontal or sub-horizontal strata. As a result, there are few water courses, and consequently considerable karst phenomena.

From north to south, four geographical regions, Gargano, the Tavoliere, the Murge and Salento (or Salentino peninsula) blend into each other with little contrast; to these can be added the so-called Appennino di Capitanata', ie. the Apennine belt rising with the Monti della Daunia (1,152 m.), blocking the Tavoliere to the west, and the flat coastal amphitheatre extending in the immediate hinterland of Taranto.

Gargano is a blunt compact promontory with a rolling landscape and steep or terraced slopes. Between the Candelaro and Ofanto rivers and the Apennines lies the Tavoliere, a vast plain on the Adriatic, with a low sandy dune-fringed coastline. Towards the south-east, lies the Murge tableland, formed of great limestone blocks which, to the south-west, drop steeply towards the Fossa Bradanica (in Lucanian territory) though sloping gently to the Adriatic coast. The Penisola Salentina landscape, south-east of the Soglia Messapica, is very similar.

The Fortore and the Ofanto at the two ends of the Tavoliere are the principal rivers, both flowing into the Adriatic Sea. In Gargano, Murge and Salento, surface and underground karst phenomena are widespread (the Castellana Caves). The largest lakes are the Lesina and Varano coastal lakes.

The climate is entirely Mediterranean, with mild wet winters and hot dry ventilated summers. The precipitations, falling mainly in winter, are somewhat scarce, with a minimum of only 400 mm./year on the inner coastal belt of the Gulf of Manfredonia. Long ago most of Puglia was probably covered with Mediterranean scrub, composed of evergreen bushes and trees, but today only 67,000 hectares are wooded, 5% of the entire territory of the region.

One of the most beautiful parts of Puglia is Gargano, the `heel of Italy', the large promontory which juts into the Adriatic Sea, and culminates in Monte Calvo (1,055 m.). It is likely that, in Roman times, the whole promontory was a magnificent forest, though little now remains, the most important traces being the Aleppo pine woods on the coast, oaks in the valleys and at medium altitudes, together with beech higher up. An exceptionally interesting characteristic of Gargano are enormous trees, such as the evergreen oaks at Cappuccini di Vico del Gargano, the Bosco Quarto Turkey oaks, the Baracconi beeches in the Umbrian Forest, the yews and the centuries-old San Michele at Monte Sant'Angelo, together with the two tallest Aleppo pines in Italy (the higher of the two, known as Zappino dello Scorzone, is over seven hundred years old, and has a circumference of five and a half metres).

An entirely different environment caused by high salinity is that of the Saline di Margherita di Savoia, salt pans obtained by transforming the old Salpi lake, slightly south of Gargano, characterized by vast evaporation pans and picturesque mounds of salt. The large lakes are the habitat of large numbers of birds: duck, members of the rail and stork families and waders, and it is interesting to note the presence of shorebirds such as the oystercatcher, and gulls, in close proximity to marshland species including the ringed plover, avocets, herons and the black-winged stilt.

Between Massafra and Mottola lie the Murge Orientali, a wild zone with dense low woods, survivors of the great forests that once mantled the entire plateau. The finest part is the Gaglione forest, mostly great oak trees, some hundreds of years old and covered with ivy. Another of the most singular environments in Southern Italy is the Bosco di Tricase, the sole Italian habitat of the quercus aegilops; other interesting species here include the white oak and, in particular, the quercus coccifera, from whose cochineal insect galls scarlet dye was once obtained.

The Grotte di Castellana, slightly south-east of Bari, is a famous and much visited series of caves.

Discovered in 1938, they extend prevalently on the level for nearly 2,000 m., and consist of five large and immensely high caverns, linked by tunnels and corridors, all with splendid stalagmites and stalactites.

Population and Economy

Characteristic of Puglia (with the exception of the Salentino peninsula) is the concentration of numerous small farmers in large urban centres (with tens of thousands of inhabitants), forming `farming towns' (though now partially converted to other economic sectors), frequently at a distance from the land itself. This gives the Pugliese countryside an appearance that seems to contradict the somewhat high average density of population statistics; consequently, population scatter is at a minimum.

The Puglia dialect, which belongs to the South Italy family of dialects, is divided into two sub-classes, that spoken in the north, with an affinity to the dialects of Molise and Abruzzo, and that of the south (or Salentine), typical of the area south of Taranto and Brindisi, which resembles the Calabrian-Sicilian matrix. Isolated instances are those of Albanian, spoken only in Capitanata and a few parts of the Province of Taranto, and Greek in certain centres south of Leone.

Agriculture is still the most important sector, both in terms of employment and production. In the course of agricultural development, which began at the beginning of last century, two basic problems have had to be overcome. The first of these, now successfully solved, was that of the latifundia, vast estates in the hands of the great landowners, whose land was redistributed to the farmers by the Riforma Fondiaria Act (1951); the second problem-the lack of water in these areas, has led the State and local authorities to build large-scale irrigation systems, the first being the Pugliese Aqueduct (1906-1939), wichch has proved to be still inadequate. In spite of this, horticulture is common in Puglia, including the production of tomatoes, lettuces, artichokes and fennel, as well as the traditional olives, and table and wine grapes. There are also high crops of carrots, aubergines, peppers, cabbage, wheat, corn, almonds and cherries. The only livestock of any importance is sheep, but Puglia has the fourth highest fishing catch in the country.

Underground resources include several natural gas deposits (Capitanata) and bauxite (Trani, Poggiardo); there is a fair production of electricity, almost exclusively by thermal generation.

In the south of the region, the industrial sector is highly developed, with two vast industrial complexes, the Taranto steel works and chemical plant at Brindisi, both planned as the basis for the growth of small and medium-sized allied companies. In reality, this has been only partly successful, and is limited to the Brindisi-Taranto-Bari industrial triangle. The sole branch of industry found in most areas is food, linked to the plentiful agricultural output (especially pasta and oil manufacture); other industries include papermaking (Foggia), engineering (Taranto, Brindisi, Bari), construction materials (Lecce, Bisceglie, Barletta).

The service sector suffers from the endemic malaises typical of the sector in the South of Italy: inefficiency, surplus of small businesses, flocks of intermediaries, especially in marketing the prosperous agricultural produce, a state of affairs this last which affects the earning power of the farmers. Of the remaining service industries, tourism particularly to beach resorts is steadily becoming important.

The conformation of the territory, unlike that of the other regions, is a serious obstacle to communications. The main highway is the last stretch of the Adriatic autostrada, which passes S. Severo, Foggia, Bari and Taranto; railway connections are based principally on the Milan-Bologna-Bari-Lecce line. Port facilities exist at Taranto (mercantile), as well as Brindisi and Bari, which have important links with Yugoslavia and Greece. The two domestic airports: Bari-Palese and Brindisi-Casale.


The influx of tourists in Puglia is linked to the numbers of beach resorts along the Adriatic and Ionican coasts. Most of the beaches are wide and sandy, giving way to attractive rocky coves, some with magnificent sea caves, in a few parts of Gargano and the Salentino peninsula. Taking the Gargano promontory as a starting point, the most important centres are Rodi Garganico, Peschici, Vieste, the elegant Pugnochiuso and Baia delle Zagare, where numerous sea crags give added beauty to the scenery.

Farther south lie Bisceglie, Polignano a Mare, Torre Canne, Marina di Ostuni, Roca Vecchia, Castro Marina and Leuca, at the tip of Salento. Along the Ionican coastline, Gallipoli is followed by S. Mari al Bagno, Porto Cesareo, Marina di Pulsano, Riva dei Tessali and Marina di Ginosa. Unforgettable is the rocky little Tremiti archipelago, off the Gargano coast, where the beauties of Nature still lie intact.

Many of the inland villages possess something of artistic or scenic interest, often with important historical remains. The visitor would do well to see the villages of Monte S. Angelo, standing in a panoramic position on the Gargano hills, Lucera in Capitanata, with the remains of a Roman amphitheatre, Troia, which has a Romanesque-Pugliese cathedral (11th-13th century), with a magnificent rose window.

In the Murges area, lie Canosa, with a 11th century cathedral and the beautiful isolated octagonal Castel del Monte, built by Frederick II, on a splendid panoramic site, Ruvo di Puglia, with one of the most important Romanesque-Pugliese cathedrals (13th century); Alberobello, with its extraordinary trulli; Gioia del Colle, which has a great castle (11th-13th century); Altamura, with a Romanesque-Gothic cathedral (13th-15th century), Grottaglie, a pottery craft centre; Manduria (megalithic walls and necropolis).

Some of the coastal towns also attract large numbers of tourists. Barletta, famous for the Disfida in 1503, with a giant bronze statue of the Colosso (4th century); Trani, with a fine Romanesque cathedral (12th century); Monopoli, dominated by its 16th century castle, with nearby ruins of the pre-Roman city of Egnazia; Otranto, with its characteristic historical centre and beautiful cathedral (11th-12th century). In the immediate Bari hinterland lies Bitonto, whose 13th century cathedral is probably the finest example of Romanesque-Pugliese architecture.