The territory of Puglia Imperiale bears the indelible signs of the presence of Frederick II, a precious and emblematic impression visible in the monuments, alive in the traditions and in popular folklore. Wine and oil have ancestral ties with this land and seal intimate relations with the Emperor, who was fascinated by the boundless spaces and smells of these areas of luxuriant nature. Visitors to this land discover flavours and knowledge: a world of authenticity and passion for good food with roots in enogastronomic traditions passed down over the ages.
Alongside the Tratturo regio which crosses the Alta Murgia, fields and olive groves alternate with rows of vines on slopes and terraced land. Above, steppes, pasture and sowable land vie for space with swamps, dolinas and sink-holes, signs of Karstification, typical of the Parco Nazionale dell’Alta Murgia, Italy’s first ever rural park. On longitudinal routes that run beside paths used for transhumance, it is easy to encounter farms, rural settlements with old wineries, oil mills and enclosed fields, where rows of vines alternate with secular olive groves, almond groves and herbaceous cultivation. The landscape is steeped in history, vines and olive trees are living monuments and the sun-kissed ground is vibrant with intense colours.
The “murgia” is some distance from the sea and the traveller remains enchanted by an alternation of landscapes so diverse and yet so intimately tied to history. Our journey starts at Andria, the “town of oil”, pride of the land for its commercial supremacy with the production of extra-virgin olive oil. Situated among green expanses of olive groves and vineyards, by the Strada dell’Olio DOP Castel del Monte, it is a must to visit the oil mill to taste our “green gold” that enhances the flavour of a classic bruschetta.
Andria, a town termed “fidelis” on the epigraph of Porta di S.Andrea and noteworthy for its cultural-historical heritage, can also boast an age-old confectionery tradition attested by the presence of a Confectionery Museum (Museo del Confetto), one of a kind in all of Southern Italy. Travelling next to Montegrosso, an old rural town, one can discover the pleasure of tranquillity and appreciate the natural pace of an agricultural centre and typical local cuisine. Diving to the heart of the Alta Murgia National Park, we reach Minervino Murge. Called the “Balcony of the Puglie” for its dominating position, it is a small centre rich in history and charm. The oldest quarter of the town, known as Scesciola, is a fascinating labyrinth of tortuous alleyways, small arches and stone stairways leading to the ancient Norman-Swabian Castle. Inside the Castle is the archaeological exhibition “Quando l’Ofanto era color dell’ambra” (When Ofanto was the color of amber), taking place in the rooms that probably once belonged to Knight Bayard, and to whom the confectionery tradition has dedicated the well-known panetto di Minervino, a typical sweet bread made with dried figs, raisins, almonds, orange flavouring and cooked wine.
Enogastronomic tradition reveals an enviable heritage of flavours and knowledge and relives, like in a story, the sublime art of feasting in local restaurants.
In the autumn reigns the well-known cardoncello mushroom, the principal product of the Alta murgia between Minervino and Spinazzola, a delicious food known and savoured since Roman times, considered by some the expression of supernatural forces and called the “food of the Gods”, appreciated and studied during the Middle Ages and Renaissance and now part of local anthropological heritage.
After Minervino, taking the wine route Strada dei Vini DOC Castel del Monte to Corato, your gaze is attracted by the unmistakable “stone octagon” Castel del Monte, the better known of Frederick’s mansions for its magic and evocative suggestiven