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13 June 2020 - Day 63 – Foggia and Barletta

Updated: Jun 25, 2020

With a departure at 8:51, and a slight decline for the kilometer and a half walk from the hotel to the San Severo station, I planned a checkout at 8:15. Per the weather forecasts, it would be partly cloudy (it was) and the temperatures were in the 70’s. Up half an hour ahead, I was cleaned, packed and hauling the bag to the lobby in 20 minutes (I’m really getting good at this), so was moving smartly. Street traffic was light this Saturday morning, and when I arrived at the station, my train was posted for the close platform, so no extra effort. It arrived on time, and 30 km and 20 minutes later, I was on the platform at Foggia.

With a lift, it was easy to out to the south side of the station. Three blocks away, at Hotel Cicolella, I asked for Rolf, per my instructions from Ute, and I was directed to the concierge desk. A tall young German, after I introduce myself, smiling, he accused me of going after his girlfriend, as she had flowers from me. Now I understood how Ute had been successful getting me a luggage hold location where I’d had so little luck. They were both on the same work study program, separated by 30km. Rolf handed me a street map, with the route to the cathedral already marked. These “kids” were sharp!!

With my next train departing in 4 hours, my brief read on Foggia gave me some ideas on what else to see. But first the cathedral. Passing shops and restaurants, and the main post office, I made the kilometer walk in bright sunshine with established trees providing some shade. A hexagonal arrangement of streets diverted the walkers from the rotary at the Fontana del Sele and the long park that stretched east. Walking west and then northwest with yet more retail, I reached the Piazza Pericle Felice to the immediate southwest of the cathedral and its bell tower.

The Basilica Cattedrale di Santa Maria Assunta in Cielo faces northwest into a radiating Piazza Francesco de Santis, although a doorway offers access through the base of the campanile. The main façade is relatively narrow, with a single tall central door in a plain arch, bracketed with smaller pairs of slightly dressed arches containing small rose windows outermost, and a window with 8 small panes. Above this Romanesque survivor of the 1731 earthquake, a more baroque level contains a central large rose window with short columns framed by niches between flat half-columns in an arch. Above is a tympanum, with a smaller central rose window.

Entering through this central door, I mounted 6 steps to reach the nave floor. The façade wall has an enframed oil painting on the wall over the door, but below the larger rose window. The nave is decorated in a rococo style, with plaster decoration on the four columns delineating the side aisle and the transept. Supported by 4 thick piers at the crossing, a large dome with a lantern of blue glass lights the center church. To the “south”, the altar displays the ancient icon, a panel portraying the Madonna on which three flames burned. This icon gives the church an alternate name, Santa Maria Icona Vetere.

Leaving the cathedral, I headed down the street towards the Palazzo Dogana. A fifteenth century palace, it is now the administrative center for the Foggia province. Several rooms are used for exhibitions, featuring photography, costume, local creative art, etc. One hall is used for musical performances.

Heading across town to the Three Arches, and the location of the Arco di Federico II, I was fairly underwhelmed with the list I’d read at Wikipedia for important sites in #Foggia. At one corner of the Piazza Nigra were these three arches, which passed through buildings, allowing pedestrians to walk on either side on a one-way center arch. No history. In the opposite corner, an arch was bricked in, with an explanation that this was the only remaining presence of the King of Sicily and Holy Roman Emperor in the thirteenth century. Fortunately, a pizzeria I Tre Archi was opening, and I entered and ordered a prosciutto pizza and a glass of house red.

Finishing half the pie, I took a box with me as I headed back to pick up my roller. Rolf was there, and really appreciated the pizza, as his cover hadn’t shown. By 1pm I was heading towards the station, so I was on the platform for the 13:22 train. An express train, we covered the 65km in half an hour.

A nice station in #Barletta, I exited to the north, towards the sea, and walked across the Giardini de Nittis, a blocked over pathway through the park, five blocks through retail. Zigging around a church, I rolled up through a long pedestrian-only block to the B&B Casa Lopez.

A wide wooden door in a stone arch, I was buzzed in and greeted by Annamaria, who insisted on helping me haul the blue beast up a flight of stairs. A simple room overlooking the street, I had plenty of floor space and enough power outlets.

Needing my light jacket, as being closer to the sea must be making it cooler, I hung the parka and other jacket, and pulled out another pair of slacks, in case. It was quarter past 2, and the cathedral would open at half past. I had three cathedral-related churches to visit here. Plus I was a quarter kilometer from the beach.

Along two streets to the east, a five-minute walk, was the Basilica Concattedrale di Santa Maria Maggiore. Facing west, there is a campanile on the north side. I made my circumferential exploration starting on the south face. Getting to the eastern apse end, a lot of space around the church opened up. The front had looked difficult to photograph, so this church would join my small list of “rear shots”. There was a pedestrian tunnel under the bell tower, and I got back to the Western façade as the doors were opened.

With a relatively plain front, there are three doors, the side two in arches bearing some scroll work carving. The central door is larger with more formal appointments, double pediments supporting flat half columns and a tympanum with a rosette in the arch over the doorway. Double arched narrow windows in an arch are positioned a level up over the side doors, while a single panel windows sits under a round window at the peak over the center.

Once inside, the ornamentation seems focused mainly on the few side chapels in the aisles off the nave. At the crossing, four steps up to the chancel and a classic ciborium stands over the main altar. The presbytery has an ambulatory, and the back of the chancel has wooden seating in an arch. The cathedra is a carved stone throne, backed with carved wood, and up two steps to the left of the altar. In the nave, opposite a shrine, are stair which go down into a crypt, as this cathedral is built about 5 meters above a former cathedral. The vault ceiling in the nave is wood. At the crossing, a plaster dome, and half dome over the apse.

The Chiesa Concattedrale di Santa Maria di Nazareth, my next objective, was back towards the flat, but two streets east and a bit further north. Historically dating back to the twelfth century, with the loss of the Holy Lands, the bishop of Nazareth (in Galilee) relocated his see to Barletta and set the former church as his cathedral.

It was destroyed in 1528 as it was outside the city walls. Rebuilding in 1570 inside the walls, the Nazarene cathedral was built, albeit with modest dimensions. The diocese was reorganized in 1860, with St. Mary of Nazareth becoming a co-cathedral to the newly elevated St Mary Maggiore cathedral.

The building is narrow, built with small stone which is whitewashed. A single door, three steps up from the sidewalk and behind an iron fenced gate, has a single wooden panel, a tympanum, and small window above. A wooden peaked vault, the interior is white stucco. A carved marble altar rail separates the chancel, with a main and high altar, from the nave. A canopied throne, the historic cathedra, sits off to the left. The small shrine, an elaborate baroque homage to the Virgin, is on the north wall.

Half a kilometer to the west is the Chiesa Prepositura Curata San Giacomo Maggiore, site of one of the oldest churches in Barletta, and a former (ex-) cathedral. [While the Wikipedia page for this church does not cite it as a cathedral, the Wikipedia page for the diocese states it is a former cathedral. Gcatholic also provides no dates, but states it was the pro-cathedral for the diocese of Canne.]

No electrical lights inside, and little natural light either. The nave is small, the sanctuary small, set back in a gothic arch. There are some nice icons/paintings, but difficult to really appreciate.

As I headed to St James’, I’d passed the Basilica del San Sepolcro, so I decided to go back to check it out. (Besides, it was in the direction of the B&B.) Located at the intersection of the ancient Via Adriatica and the Via Traiana, crusaders and pilgrim regularly passed to and from the Holy Land. Adjacent had been several successive hospitals, which, with the church, had been rebuilt several times. Due to close proximity to neighboring buildings on the west and south sides, exterior pictures will include the Colosso di Barletta, a 4-meter cast statue of a Christian Roman warrior in front of the north side. From the east end, the three round apses are visible.

From within, the arching of the columns to the vaults are clean cream-colored stone with little flourish. The main altar is in the central apse, with a single slit window behind a hanging wooden crucifix. The south apse contains the reserved sacrament in a brilliant gold tabernacle.

Ushers had been preparing the church for the vigil Mass, which was offered at 5:00. I had a walking tour scheduled, so I headed back to the B&B to get my heavier jacket, and then headed over to the Castello Svevo gardens, a bit east of the cathedral, which I walked past. The #GuruWalk guides were mulling around outside the castle entrance, and maybe 7 others, tourist possibly, were watching. When the guides broke apart, 3 went with the Italian guide, and the other four were split between the Spanish and English guides. Joining the English group, we were as big as the native tour!

Emilia, who happened to be from Reggio Emilia, was the English guide. She was studying Nursing at the local Università Facoltà Infermieristica, leading tours on weekends to practice her English. The other couple were two gay thirty-something guys from Bristol. They were spending two weeks at the beach here, and figured they should learn something about Barletta. Emilia had travelled to Britain twice, having visited London and Brighton. They were all surprised to hear about my 9-week trip in Britain last year and about the 9 weeks that I’d been traveling this trip.

As we were at the Swabian Castle, Emilia began relating its history: constructed by Normans in the 12th century, it was the regular starting or finishing point of crusaders departing for or returning from the Holy Land. Frederick II, departing on the 6th Crusade, issued a “Diet” with instructions for the running of his kingdom and what should happen if he died. Knights Templar were imprisoned here in 1308 until disbanded (and extinguished) in 1312. With the Reign of Charles V of Aragon, renovations converted it to a fortress.

We had been walking around the structure, and stopped to look at the fighting fields on the north side, the Fossato del Castello. She related the doings during the renaissance period through the founding of the Kingdom of Italy, describing the shifts and power plays and drama. We walked along the south edge of the grassy park that surrounds the castle to the cathedral. Here, her stories related to the disputes between the various bishops, with Rome, and with the ruling powers, and how it affected the state of the cathedral.

After making a 10-minute visit inside, we walked away from the cathedral on the Via Duomo. Emilia related that the area we were in had been a maritime village, boatwrights and fishermen along with a fish market. The proximity to the sea, and being a natural port was good for both industries, particularly when pilgrims would also use it for travel to and from Jerusalem.

When we arrived at Disfida’s Cellar, we made a brief stop at a bar nearby for a beer. The disfida, or challenge, was a staged contest between French and Italian soldiers to determine whether the Italians were up to the valor of the French. (The Italians were, at that time, allied with Spain.) A French nobleman had too much to drink and disparaged the Italians. Thirteen mounted knights on each side fought, with the Italians winning. In addition to losing their wager, the French had to ransom back their knights and the knight’s equipment.

After our drink, we headed down into the actual cellar where the incident unraveled. Period costumes, weapons and furnishings were on display. The Brits were hoping for a functioning bar as their whistle had been wet, to no avail.

Walking towards our final destination, Emilia discussed a few landmarks we were passing: the prefecture of the Barletta-Andria-Trani province, which sounded very complicated as each was an equal partner; Chiesa del Real Mote di Pietà, a secular operation that cared for (and then worked in textile manufacturing) orphans and young neighborhood children; and turning down Via Nazareth, the Concattdrale which I’d already visited. Emilia spoke about the hierarchy issues with two bishops in the same town, particularly when one was suffragan to the neighboring archbishop, while the Bishop of Jerusalem was Papal. The British men were astounded, as they hadn’t heard of anything like that in the Church of England history they’d learned. (I could tell stories.)

At the end of the street we arrived at the Basilica of the Holy Sepulcher, and the Colossus. Here I learned that this was an Eastern Caesar, was over 5-meters tall, and had been found during excavations in 1231 in Ravenna, and been brought south by Emperor Frederick II. The natives call him Eraclio, a local variation on Hercules.

We three all asked for suggestions for dinner, although the Brits were looking for a pizza place near the water and their hotel. Allowing them to go first, I expressed my preferences, getting a big smile as I wanted to eat local food. Asking if I ate seafood, I said yes, and she smiled and pulled out her phone. After confirming they would have a table for me, she sent me on to il Posticino. I was 5 minutes away.

With fish being my meal, I started by ordering a white blend from Posta Arignano: bombino bianco, malvasia and trebbiano. Dry, on the soft side and with good flavors, I liked this wine from San Severo. My next two choices created some confusion: a seafood salad and a pasta with mussels. They are both considered primi, so the waiter was unsure which to bring first. I just said I’d start with the salad and the problem went away. For my secondi, a tuna steak with a white wine sauce, and just the wonderful bread they were serving.

So my salad starter was on a bed of mixed greens, with fried calamari, a langoustine and a few shrimp, also fried lightly. They all went well with the wine, were fresh and tasty. The pasta was something I’d not seen before, and my scribble is illegible. But the light sauce, the mussels, the al dente pasta with a piece or two of marinated pepper and artichokes, it was sublime. The tuna was medium rare, poached and the sauce was more than wine, but I’m stumped with what. But I’d go back and have it again in a heartbeat. Then the dessert options were presented. I really hate too many choices, and they had a display counter full of options. I picked a white peach mousse with a current crème sauce. Intriguing mix of flavors, it actually worked.

Leaving, I was 4 short blocks away. I never got to the beach, but maybe Monday? My journal needed a little finishing up, as I wasn’t as productive as I’d like at dinner, what with the questions I got from fellow diners. The pictures were all downloaded, and chargers pulled out and plugged in. The netbook got some attention as I began writing this blog, and soon it gets pushed up. I’m off early tomorrow, with a very busy day.

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