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Digital Subscriptions > Italia! > Apr 2019 > MEET THE makers

MEET THE makers

Penny Wainwright explores the villages on the very southern tip of Puglia in search of traditional artisan craftsmanship, underground tunnels and ancient local festivals…

The sunshine welcomed me as I arrived in Ruffano to take part in the Fiesta and Fiera di San Marco, one of the most notable in the region to celebrate St Mark the Evangelist’s feast day on April 25th. Ruffano is a small market town about 60 miles south of Brindisi and 30 miles from the capital of the region, Lecce, and though it was still early in the day, stalls along the streets were already selling domestic animals, clothes, household items, antiques, plants and foods. At one, passers-by were being encouraged to try a traditional dish, scapece, which is small fish marinated in vinegar then fried.

Nearby sat Patrizio Siciliano with his display of handwoven baskets made from reed, willow and olive twigs. By his side was a bundle of twigs, some still bearing the dried olive leaves. I watched as he threaded the olive branches in and out, almost unaware of the people in the market. His craft is a tradition handed down through his family, using materials from the land around him. His baskets come from “the sun, the wind, the earth of Salento” and are part of who he is.

Rocco Luca is an expert tambourine maker from Ruffano, and also a very accomplished player. His band, Tamburellisti di Torrepaduli, has played traditional music all over the world. Rocco demonstrated the stages of making a tambourine using beech or olive wood and young goat skins. His experience tells him how much to stretch the softened skin and what sound it will make when it is dried. Finally bells are added to complete the instrument. A display on one wall shows the tambourines he created for Dolce and Gabbana. One tambourine had a spider design on the skin, which relates to the story of the women bitten by spiders and the healing dance of la pizzica played by the musicians. Ruffano claims to be the centre of la pizzica, which is part of the larger family of tarantella dances, and the town holds a pizzica festival every August.

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About Italia!

We have a splendid line-up of features to inspire your travels this month: our cover star Lake Maggiore has a wealth of stunning locations to explore, both around its shores and on the lake itself. If you like a good hike, our itinerary around the byways of a small corner of Maremma will defi nitely stretch your legs. For cricket fans we have the extraordinary tale of a most unlikely team – and they are really rather good! We have e-biking in the majestic Dolomites and we meet a 3-star chef there who’s really making a difference. And for culture vultures, we have the story of the rise, fall and rise again of Venice’s aptly-named La Fenice opera house.