Puglia, in just five letters, contains a land to cross and discover, anyone who has the good fortune to do it even in passing notes that this region of Southern Italy is an experience that involves all five senses.
In addition to the pastel shades, which vary from the blinding white of the lime-red to the red of the dried tomatoes on the farm terraces, to the green of the olive trees to the yellow of the wheat fields to the blue of the Mediterranean sea of the thousand civilizations and the thousand adventures, it is a succession of flavors and smells that intertwine and touch ancient traditions such as those defined as "the days of fire": the fanoves of Castellana Grotte (Ba) and the focara of Novoli (LE).
Two events that find in January an opportunity to feel all the warmth that this land is able to emanate warming hearts and minds of many devotees and also of many tourists not necessarily related to religious worship but only fascinated by something that sinks its roots in the mists of time and that every year is perpetrated according to a specific ritual.
In Castellana the fanove are small medium and large piles of wood that burn throughout the city to recall the miracle granted by the Madonna della Vetrana, who saved Castellana from the plague in 1961, on the night of 11 January each year there are almost 100 bonfires, around which an atmosphere of cordiality, of popular songs and typical gastronomy is created.
Five days later, on 16th January, moving to Salento, in Novoli, we can witness the Focara, the largest bonfire in the Mediterranean, made with freshly pruned vines, with impressive dimensions on top of which religious symbols are hoisted. The ritual is repeated every year on the occasion of the feast in honor of St. Anthony the spectacular moment of lighting with the fireworks is set at around 20 to stay lit all night and be consumed in the cold of January even here in an atmosphere of lights, colors, music and food.
The preparation of this huge bonfire takes months of work to dozens of novolesi engaged in the singular ritual: once collected the many necessary branches, it begins the implementation in order to give life to the gigantic wood volcano. To be able to place the bundles, men of the country, which are handed down from generation to generation the secrets of the structure of Fòcara, form a human chain arranged in height at the top of long stairs, to pass from hand to hand the bundles of wood and decorations to put on top.
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