Squelch, squelch, squelch. Squeals of joy. Stomp, stomp, stomp on the grapes. I can’t help laughing too as I watch the giggling children eagerly treading grapes in two huge barrels in a race to see which team can produce the most juice in the fastest time. I’m in Locorotondo in southern Italy and it is grape harvest time.
We arrived at the Gara di Pigiatura, an annual festival celebrating the grape harvest, just in time to catch the last round of this traditional game. Which team won I can’t be certain, but the youngsters in the right-hand barrel seem to cheer the loudest so I’m guessing they are the victors.
Ladies are busy cooking frittelle, deep-fried turnovers stuffed with cheese. A gentleman with the most fabulous of beards drives families around in a horse and cart, just for fun. And now that the games are over, the music strikes up and dancers in their red, black and white traditional costumes are getting ready to perform.
Earlier that day everyone had joined in with the harvesting of the grapes accompanied by traditional music, followed by a typical local lunch before the games began in the afternoon.
Masseria Aprile, where the Gara di Pigiatura is held, has been in the same family since it was built in the early 1700s. It’s famous for its wine, made from sweet white grapes, as well as the extra virgin olive oil that it produces.
A typical agriturismo, it was renovated in keeping with its heritage in 1992, and is now a B&B, as well as a working farm. There are just 6 guest rooms here, and each one is named after the building’s original function. Casaro is where cheese was made, Fienile was the barn, and so on. The current owner, Anna Maria Aprile, was delighted to show us around. Surrounded by vineyards and olive groves at the foot of the lovely, white-washed town of Locorotondo, I could easily see myself staying at this masseria in one of the enchanting trulli, the traditional round dwellings with conical roofs found throughout the Itria Valley in Puglia.
Sadly, we can’t stay long, as Locorotondo is waiting to be explored. This pretty hill-top town is connected to Bari (one of two international airports in Puglia) by train so is easy to get to. It is officially a Borghi più belli d’Italia, one of the most beautiful villages in Italy.
Locorotondo literally means round place. It takes this name from the circular old town, a wonderful maze of white-washed alleyways lined with historic buildings; the perfect place for an early evening stroll before dinner.
St George’s Church, the beautiful neoclassical, nineteenth century building dominates the main square, with St George on horseback looking down over the town.
As we explore we pass a sign for I Pastini, a famous wine producer that we are going to visit during our stay for a spot of wine tasting.
Soon we are on our way again, headed for another agriturismo where a feast awaits us. Cheeses, cold cuts, octopus, focaccia bread, mashed fava beans… I can see we are not going to go hungry on this visit to Valle d’Itria. There will be more on the region’s lovely towns, food, and wine coming soon.
Thank you to GAL Valle D’Itria and GAL Alto Salento for hosting me on my visit to Puglia. While my accommodation, transport, meals and activities were all complimentary I will, as always, give you my unbiased and honest opinions.