The Salento Peninsula is the tip of the heel of Italy, a place where different peoples and cultures have succeeded one another over the centuries: Greeks, Romans, Byzantines and Arabs. A tongue of earth surrounded by the Mediterranean, lapped by the Ionian Sea on one side and the Adriatic on the other, it is the first place where the sun rises in Italy.
With its unique climate and landscape, its artistic heritage and strong ties to its traditions, the Salento Peninsula is a fascinating place that makes its mark on the visitor’s memory and heart. The local people capitalise on their ancient cultural heritage with events celebrating the history and traditions of a people who lived mainly on the land until just over 50 years ago.
This blend of nature and farming traditions has produced the art of folk song and dance that has made the Salento Peninsula famous the world over. Many of the songs are the basic elements in a curative ritual (“music therapy”) which the peasants enacted to heal men and women who had been bitten by a mysterious poisonous spider. The bite of this spider, known as the “tarànta”, brought on hysteria and convulsions in its victims, who were often peasant women who were bitten (“pizzicate”) as they worked on the land. The phenomenon now known as “tarantism”, evocative and laden with significance, and truly unique in the world, has been studied by world-renowned anthropologists.
The spirit of the tarànta may be felt all over the Salento peninsula and its musical and cultural heritage is very popular with the new generations. Every summer, throughout the month of August, musical events follow one upon the other focusing on “pizzica”, the music and dance of the “spider”.
This is the origin of the Notte della Taranta, Europe’s biggest folk music concert. It is held in Melpignano at the end of August with the participation of local musicians and international performing artists such as Stewart Copeland of the Police, Joe Zawinul of Weather Report, Mauro Pagani of PFM, Francesco De Gregori, Franco Battiato, Gianna Nannini and Piero Pelù of Litfiba. Local Salento artists featured include Sud Sound Sistem and Negramaro.
But the beauty and attractions of the Salento Peninsula are not limited to the summer season: visitors all year round can enjoy the pleasures of the wholesome, flavourful local cuisine and the outstanding quality of wines made from grapes that only grow here, such as Negroamaro and Primitivo.