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Altamura
Photo: Sailko

Altamura

Altamura is a town in the region of Puglia in Southern Italy with around 70,000 inhabitants. It is found on a hill in the Murge Plateau, roughly 45 kilometers south-west of the City of Baria and close to the border of Basilicata. It is twinned with the other Italian cities of Lucera, Modic, and Castellana Sicula. Altamura has its own railway station and is crossed by the Via Appia national road.

According to an old legend, Altamura’s former name was Altilia, or “other Troy”, and was founded by Antellus, a fugitive from the destroyed city of Troy. Altamura has a rich history. After being looted by the Saracens, it was left empty for several hundred years before being re-founded by Emperor Frederick II in 1232. Frederick II also ordered the construction of the Altamura cathedral, which you can still visit today.

In the 1500s, Altamura was governed by several feudal families, most notably, the Orsina del Balzo and the Farnese families, who contributed to Altamura’s development by building many churches and palaces. A university was later created by Charles VII of Naples in 1748, but it was forced to close in the 1800s due to a lack of funding.

In 1799, the Altamura Revolution took place as the city joined the Parthenopean Republic after being abandoned by its king. This did not last long, however, as several months later, Sanfedisti stormed Altamura, restoring the rule of the Kingdom of Naples. During the 19th century, Altamura was named the provisional capital of Puglia.

Also of note, in 1993, a 130,000-year-old calcified Altamuran Man was found in a local cave known as Grotto de Lamalunga. The Altamuran Man is one of the most complete Paleolithic skeletons ever to be discovered in Europe and you can learn about his story in local museums.

Altamura’s most famous landmark is, of course, its old cathedral. It is just one of four Palatine churches in Puglia and it was designed in a strong Gothic style, typical of the time of Frederick II. Many ancient tombs have been discovered in the cathedral, contributing to the city’s long and varied history.

Altamura is also a major site for the study of dinosaurs. In 1999, around 30,000 dinosaur footprints were discovered in an area of Altamura known as “Cantrada Pontrelli”. Since then, Altamura has been a hub for historical research. Additionally, Altamura is known for its high-quality bread, known as Pane di Altamura, which is sold in cities across Italy. The Museo del Pane Forte is a local museum which tells the story of Pane de Altamura, beginning in 14th-century ovens and ending in the modern-day distribution of the famous bread.

One of the main Altamuran events is Federicus, a 3-day renaissance fair. It involves a historical re-enactment of the time that Frederick II re-founded Altamura and typically takes place in the second half of April. The festival only began in 2012 but has quickly grown in popularity, attracting tourists from other Italian regions and from abroad.

Some famous Altamurians include football player Francesco Caputo, basketball player Romeo Sacchetti, mathematician Giacomo Bellacchi, and writer Nicola Serena de Lapigio.
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