Apulia is a region with many faces. Nestling between the Adriatic and Ionian seas, it is a land rich in colour, diversity and light.
With its wonderful nature, traditions, cuisine and spirituality, Apulia is most definitely a visitor’s ideal destination all year round!
The Salento peninsula is one of the most well-known and enchanting areas in Italy. With its many ancient spiritual traditions, a cuisine with a tradition going back to the 5th and 6th centuries, its richly baroque palaces and churches and some of the most beautiful coastal areas in Italy with their pristine beaches and crystal clear water, Salento is easily the perfect destination for a dream holiday! For this reason, we believe that Villa de Donatis is the romantic and elegant choice for our guests, from which they can enjoy a truly Salentinian experience during the day as well as blissful serenity and relaxation at night.
Villa de Donatis organises picnics in the olive groves during the autumn harvest as well as taking our guests to traditional bonfires accompanied by folk music and organising boat trips where can you taste your freshly-caught fish grilled on board. We can also accompany you to visit houses open to the public during the festival of the Tavole di S. Giuseppe in March. Whatever you would like to do in Salento, Villa de Donatis aims to make your stay unforgettable!
With our transfer service you can easily reach Lecce – a baroque city par excellence, Ostuni the “White City”, or nearby Gallipoli with its fantastic beaches.
Our guests are sure to discover that savouring the soft light and scented flowers of the cool and sunny Salentinian spring in March, as it steadily welcomes the hot summer, is an amazing experience – made all the more enjoyable with a great array of traditional and spiritual events which take place during spring.
One of the most important festivals in spring would have to be Le Tavole di S. Giuseppe; representing a vibrant form of devotion to St. Joseph and in time-honoured tradition, the festival sees families prepare food and set out their own tables that are open to the public in thanks for their prayers’ having been answered.
One particular event of great importance to the people of Casarano is the festival dedicated to one of the town’s patron saints, the Madonna della Campana.
The festival, which lasts two days, begins on the first Sunday after Easter with a procession through the town centre that winds its way up to the hill where the Madonna’s sanctuary is to be found.
On the Monday, there is the festival of Cavamonti, also known popularly as La Campanella, that sees the area around Villa de Donatis filled with young people and families who celebrate a second Pasquetta, or Little Easter meal against a backdrop of beautiful countryside.
During the month of May, there are a number of festivals to entertain both local people and visitors, such as La Ciliegie – the festival of cherries – in Leverano or La Polpetta at Monteroni di Lecce.
The spirit of these festivals brings joy and excitement as all of the local population join in to prepare the celebrations – a time of rejoicing, lights, faith and timeless tradition.
In the small, nearby town of Parabita, at just 7 km from Villa de Donatis, the festival of the Madonna della Coltura at the end of May is of great local importance. Adhering strictly to tradition, the Basilica and its surrounding streets are decorated in bright lights and over two kilometres of tall, gabled galleries – some up to twenty-two metres in height – which set the stage for a magnificent fireworks display organised by expert pyrotechnicians. The highlight of this amazing display of light and colour is when the Basilica’s bell-tower is set ablaze in a fantastic symphony of sound, fire and light! This is a show that no one in the area should miss, and also one that attracts thousands upon thousands of visitors every year. The bell-tower itself is forty-two metres high and, as is right and proper, is the protagonist in this the crowning moment of the festival with its greens, reds, golds, showers of sparkling stars, Catherine wheels and thunderous flashes of light.
Between the 28th– 30th of June, the city of Galatina is filled with music, tradition and cuisine in honour of its patron saints – St. Peter and St. Paul. This festival is a great celebration, marked every year by dance and rhythm with the Tarantolate (traditional participants) who have – since the 1980s – made their annual way to Galatina to request intercession and healing from Galatina’s patron saints. During the festival, the city of Galatina is immersed in sound, music and colour to welcome the multitudes of people who come to enjoy this wonderful and historical experience.
These spiritual celebrations see numerous traditional Pizzica groups – cheered on by many onlookers – singing, dancing and playing music from the evening until dawn; a wonderful celebration is to be enjoyed in one of the historical hearts of Salento, accompanied by numerous bands, fireworks displays and the sky lit up with colour and light as it resonates to the rhythms of traditional folk music – this is Galatina!
An unmistakable feature of the many spiritual and religious celebrations to be enjoyed in the towns of Southern Italy are their illuminations which are accompanied by fireworks displays, a wide variety of traditional music, stalls selling local products and fairground rides – all of which create the essence of a festival in genuine Southern Italian style.
Of particular note are the celebrations that are held in Scorrano. Scorrano is a small town in Salento that – in little time – has become the World Capital Of Illuminations! Between the 5th – 10th of July, the whole town of Scorrano is illuminated so as to mark the Festival of Santa Domenica of Tropea (St. Kyriaki). During this festival, there really is no excuse not to celebrate! For its people, the festival itself represents a welcome way to relax after their traditional hard work in the surrounding countryside. Scoranno’s churches as well as its squares, monastery, ancient buildings and church bell-towers – indeed the whole town – are transformed in this wondrous celebration of light that just has to be seen!
Every August, in the elegant little town of Maglie, an event is held that is ideal for all lovers of good food, that is to say the Mercatino del Gusto – food fair – where the excellent culinary delights of Salento amongst others are to be savoured. As its name suggests, this is an extensive food fair at which visitors can taste and enjoy the excellent quality of local foods produced in Salento, Apulia and Southern Italy.
Every year on about 10th of August, a festival is held is in Cannole that lasts for several days – this is the famous Sagra della Municeddha. At this festival you can enjoy a local speciality, municeddhe, a type of small, local escargots. Named municeddhe in local dialect after the white cover that forms on their shells – reminiscent of a nun’s coif in days long gone by.
On 15th of August, in Santa Maria di Leuca, the Feast of the Assumption of Mary is celebrated in grand style. From the early afternoon, visitors flock to the seafront to see the spectacular procession of the statue of the Madonna to the sea where it is placed in beautifully decorated local fishing boats and then travels onwards to the marina of San Gregorio. An unforgettable character is given to this festival by the flotilla of countless little boats sailed by devotees who accompany the Madonna on her journey in order to create a fabulous sea procession. The pinnacle of the festival is a fantastic fireworks display from the sea that paints the skies and waters of Santa Maria di Leuca with fire and light for over half-an-hour to mark the end of the celebration.
In Lecce, from 24th – 26th August, the feast day of the patron saint – Saint Orontius of Lecce – grants visitors to the city a wonderful opportunity to wander through the city’s many ancient baroque streets and really soak up the local atmosphere.
September is harvest time, especially for grapes, and therefore it is also a month of sharing! As the grapes are picked, pressed and slowly fermented so as to become fine wines, you can experience the idyllic and timeless emotions of rural life in Salento – sharing moments of joy with the people of the countryside and, after a long day, you can enjoy your evening meal in the wine cellars with a variety of traditional local dishes and delicacies. During the harvest, the air in Salento is richly scented with grapes and the country lanes and roads become a hive of activity as the fruits of the harvest are brought to the wineries – magical scenes that have stood the test of time!
Harvesting grapes continues in October yet, as the wine makers begin to work their magic on the harvested grapes, our attention turns to olives and other local products.
The olive harvest is a moment in which we truly come into contact with nature, working with centuries-old trees in our glorious countryside. In order to experience this magic, Villa de Donatis organises – for those who wish to join in – participation in the olive harvest alongside picnics in the olive groves – a truly Salentinian experience not to be had elsewhere.
October also sees the sowing of legumes – coinciding with the Feast of Saint Leonard. As an old local proverb states: “Santu Leonardu chianta la fava ca è tardu!” – loosely translated: “St. Leonard’s day is when we sow!”
November is a truly magical month in Salento!
One particularly local tradition, celebrated perhaps more than elsewhere in Italy, is Saint Martin’s Day (Martinmas) on the 11th of November. Held in honour of St. Martin of Tours, the festival commemorates solidarity and charity and above all, vino novello, or new wine – this is a land of fine wine after all!
Families and friends gather around their kitchen tables and enjoy a very rich and traditional meal of homemade pasta dishes with meat, roasts and – naturally – much good wine! The evening is spent in good company enjoying food and drink, chatting and, importantly, sharing the festival as a family. Here at Villa de Donatis, we organise a St Martin’s Day banquet with all of our traditional local dishes.
Despite being a winter month, the climate in December is still relatively mild and pleasant and allows us to enjoy all of its annual traditions and rituals.
At Villa de Donatis, December is a month of great excitement as we start preparations for Christmas! From Christmas decorations to the preparation of traditional Salentinian sweet foods and dishes – which our guests can also join in – Agnese and her staff work with great joy and fervour in order to make Villa de Donatis the perfect place for our guests to enjoy that special warmth that Christmas brings.
The month of January also has its own delights – especially in the hinterland areas, rather than the coasts.
One of the most important events in Salento in January is undoubtedly the Focara di Novoli – a celebration of fire and light that brings warmth to cold, wintry days! The most important days during this religious celebration are the 16th and 17th of January respectively – festival days that attract many thousands of visitors. On the 16th of January, in particular, visitors flock to see one of the tallest bonfires in the world – the focara – being lit. Hundreds of thousands of branches and old vines are patiently stacked by local people in order to build the enormous conical bonfire that reaches twenty-five metres in height and twenty metres in diameter at its base! Originating in pre-Christian traditions, since time immemorial the people of Novoli have marked solstices, equinoxes and the times for planting and pruning vines and olives with their spectacular fire festival.
In Salento, February is rich in festivities and events, in particular Candlemas – Festa della Candelora – and Carnival, and so we are sure our guests will always have something to see and do!
The Feast of Candlemas is an ancient and time-honoured tradition with fairs and folk music such as the celebrations at Specchia and Martano (Lecce) in Grecia Salentina – the ancient area of Greek Salento. Candlemas is an ancient Christian festival that, on 2nd of February, celebrates the Feast of the Presentation of our Lord Jesus. Here in Salento, Candlemas represents the passing of winter and the onset of spring; however, according to folk-tradition, if the weather is bad on this day, the cold winter weather will last for another month!
The festival itself is generally known as Candlemas, because candles are blessed on this day as a symbol of Christ as light of revelation to the world. Candlemas is also known as the Feast of the Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary, marking the forty traditional days after having given birth to Jesus before purification in the Temple according to the customs of the ancient Jewish people. Indeed, the 2nd of February is exactly forty days after the 25th of December – the birth of Christ. After purification, Mary was able to go out in public and Jesus Himself was presented at the Temple; the purification ritual itself included the lighting of candles that were carried in solemn procession.
One of the most important events in Apulia, along with that of Putignano – the oldest carnival in Italy – is most definitely the Carnival of Gallipoli – an event that always includes all of the local population. Hundreds upon hundreds of local people, from individual specialists to entire families working through the night, contribute to the creation of artistic masterpieces in the form of the gigantic carnival floats, be they majestic, allegorical or satirical, which are paraded through the streets of Gallipoli