Puglia for Arty-types: Art Treasures and Archaeology to Discover

Puglia for Arty-types: Art Treasures and Archaeology to Discover

Dolmens, menhirs, early Christian churches, rock caves, museums and ancient cathedrals. Come on a tour to discover a little-known side of Puglia.

18 Dec 2020

Gruppo UNA

When we think of Puglia, we think of crystal seas in the Salento area. We think of rocky beaches along the Gargano peninsula and its wild, natural, jagged coastlines. We think of delicious cuisine, a centuries-old tradition rich in dishes from land and sea. On this trip however, we discover an unusual and still little-known aspect of Puglia: an Apulia made up of art and architectural treasures great and small, ideal for a visit at this time of year, when the hot summer gives way to pleasant autumnal temperatures. 

The La Chianca Dolmen in Bisceglie

Among the most important megalithic discoveries in Europe, the La Chianca Dolmen is a Bronze Age funerary wide-corridor tomb monument, consisting of a burial chamber and an access corridor. It is in Bisceglie, near Lama Santa Croce. Visits are free of charge. Tomb excavations have yielded numerous human bone remains and a rich funerary trove of ceramic vases, necklace pendants, fragments of obsidian and flint blades, a bronze bonfire, and ashes from a burning hearth.

The La Chianca Dolmen in Bisceglie


The Caves at Lamalunga and Altamura Man

The karst cavities in the Alta Murgia area and the deep Lamalunga Caves gave up an archaeological find of extraordinary importance. Known as Altamura Man, it is a fossilized skeleton of a man who lived in the Upper Middle Pleistocene, its skeletal structure still intact and in excellent condition. In fact, it is the oldest specimen of Neanderthal man ever found. Visit the National Museum of Altamura to see a perfect mock-up of this man in a scale display model. Seeing is believing!

The San Giovanni Archaeological Park at Canosa di Puglia

At this archaeological complex of Christian buildings, including the Basilica di Salvatore and the Basilica di S. Maria, dating back to between the fourth and sixth centuries, the most important building is the perfectly-preserved Baptistery of San Giovanni. Two more floors of the early Christian Basilica of Santa Maria, decorated with splendid mosaics were recently discovered below the Baptistery. After your visit, stop off in the town of Canosa, one of Apulia’s main archaeological centres. 

Canosa di Puglia


The Necropolis of Monte Saraceno in Mattinata

We move on to the eastern tip of the Gargano, specifically Mount Saraceno, between Manfredonia and Mattinata. A major Daunian necropolis was discovered on this plateau: more than five hundred tombs dug into the rock by the Daunian civilization. The site revealed numerous funerary stelae, which are now on show in the medieval castle at Manfredonia. But that’s not all. Not far from the necropolis a village with a defensive moat was unearthed, surrounded by a wall that was almost 6 metres high. The magic of this place will amaze you.

The Necropolis of Monte Saraceno in Mattinata


The rock church at San Nicola in Mottola

Next, we move on to the province of Taranto, to discover another jewel of Apulian architecture: the rock church at San Nicola di Lamaderchia, in Mottola. The church is located in the heart of the rock village of Casalrotto, and is known as the “Sistine Chapel of rock civilization in Southern Italy”. Want to know why? Dug into the rock, this church is the most complete and amazing picture gallery of sacred folk art in Puglia, featuring the lives of the saints, Byzantine iconostasis, episodes from the crusades, religious scenes and archangels in flight, still in perfect condition. The collection of art here bears witness to the influence of civilizations that passed through this part of the world and left their traces behind. 



Where to stay in Apulia

UNAHOTELS Regina Bari is the perfect launchpad for exploring the region and an ideal place to relax and enjoy Puglia’s many attractions. The hotel offers a wide range of amenities, including the famous Noha restaurant, indoor and outdoor pools, and comfortable, luxurious rooms.