The history of Barletta begins with the ancient Roman city of Bardum (or Barlum), which blossomed in medieval times as a Norman fortress and reached its glory under the Angioine rule. During the war between the French and Spanish at the beginning of the sixteenth century, the city was the scene of historic events whilst during the Second World War it was the location of the first episode of Italian Resistance against the Nazi troops and for this it received important recognition from the country.
As far as Andria is concerned it has been inhabited since prehistorical times. It may have been founded by the Greeks and in Roman times it was probably a station on the Via Traiana. It gained value under the rule of Frederick II, who favoured its development with tax benefits and exemptions. He chose the town as his official residence and commissioned the construction of the Castel del Monte fort. It became part of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies and followed its destiny up until the Unification of Italy.
Trani is said to have been founded by Tirreno, son of mythology’s hero Diomede, whilst historic documents confirm that it was under Roman rule up until the end of the Western Roman Empire. Following events of varying fortune, during which it fell into the hands of the Greeks and the Normans, the city reached economic prosperity to the extent of being able to consider itself a commercial emporium between the Middle East and other Italian states. During the Norman-Svevo period, lasting more than two centuries, Trani gave its best demonstration of it economic potential by encouraging the constitution of conspicuous monumental legacy. After a brief period of Venetian rule, the city passed under the Spanish, who established it as a political, judiciary and administrative centre. During the 1700’s the city underwent heavy plundering by the French forces. This was the cause of the downfall of Traini and determined the choice of Bari as provincial capital.
The cities and their monuments
Barletta has a very long sandy coastline with a commercial port that divides the East from the West; along the coastline there are various equipped beaches and hotels that provide excellent tourist services. The city’s principal monuments are the Castle, the colossal bronze Eraclio statue next to the Sepolcro church, the Cathedral, a magnificent example of fusion between romanic and gothic art, the disfida, the Palazzo Della Marra, a unique example of barocco leccese outside of the Salento area, and the Canne archaeological site.
In Andria the Cathedral should not be missed. It is built on a pre-existing place of worship dating back from the ninth century and has been rebuilt several times in ever changing styles after numerous occupations and destructions. There are numerous, different religious monuments: the churches of Sant’Agostino, San Francesco, San Domenico and Santa Maria di Porta Santa. Finally there is the Palazzo Ducale, which has been remodelled and extended over the centuries, the Clock Tower, built on a pre-existing look-out tower, and the Museo Diocesano, which hosts numerous liturgical furnishings and works of art (amongst which a Byzantine icon of the Virgin Mary with Child, Puglia’s most beautiful icon).
Traini’s cathedral is probably the most beautiful and celebrated building in Romanic Puglia. The splendid background in which it lies, a beautiful and large piazza that faces out to sea, has almost certainly contributed to this reputation. In addition to this there are the Museo Diocesano and the Svevo castle, both important buildings. The first of these is equipped with a picture gallery, a room with sacred furnishing and funeral ceramics that mostly originate from the Canosa necropolis; the second building is rectangular shaped with corner towers of various sizes and is one of the few to have preserved the beauty of the original form.
The geographical area
On the outskirts of the three cities lie various monuments that testify the area’s rich history and culture. The Basilica di Santa Maria dei Miracoli, dating back to the 1500’s, was built above a cave that became its crypt; the Monument to the Disfida di Barletta is located where the battle between the 13 Italians commanded by Ettore Fieramosca and the 13 French soldiers took place: Castel del Monte is an example of the oldest Svevan architecture, with evident echoes of the Cisterna gothic style, and was built by Frederick II probably as a hunting residence, but was subsequently used principally as a prison. Among the main towns in this new province we should mention: Margherita di Savoia, famous for its tourist bathing and thermal sectors that have undergone considerable development, and Bisceglie, whose origins are testified in the buildings constructed in the medieval era by the Normans and subsequently restored by the Aragonese.