fun things to do with kids in puglia   italy   Travel for Kids


Puglia (also called Apulia), in the "boot" of Italy, was colonized by ancient Greeks and Romans. Over the next millennium, the area was ruled by the Byzantines and Saracens. The Normans arrived from France in 1015, took over southern Italy and left a legacy of majestic cathedrals. In the 13th century, Fredrick II, Holy Roman Emperor of Germanic ancestry, sprinkled Apulia with over 100 castles , some of which remain today. Exploring Puglia and (adjoining province Basilicata) with kids, discover ancient ruins layered on top of each other, beehive houses, a cave city, stellar castles, and relax at the beach.
  Castel del Monte (Andria) – Built in 1240, this castle was one of Frederick II's favorite places to visit. Beautifully restored, made of limestone and marble, it's octagonal-shaped, with eight Gothic towers at each corner, and interior courtyard. In three of the towers, climb up the spiral staircases to the second floor, explore eight rooms on each floor.
    Kids will just have to imagine what Castel del Monte was like in Frederick II's time – colorful silks on the walls, Byzantine-style mosaics in the ceilings, tiled floors with rugs, a large marble dining table where meals were served on gold and silver plates. The castle had running water in the bathrooms and a big bathtub (Frederick took baths every day, very unusual in the medieval era).
      Located on the Adriatic with a good harbor, Trani was an important town for the Greeks, Romans, Normans, a merchant trading center, departure point for Holy Land pilgrims, and oldest Jewish community in Italy.
    San Nicola Pellegrino Cathedral (Basilica Cattedrale di Trani) – This impressive cathedral is three buildings, one on top of each other. Ground level is the Norman church, with rose windows, and lovely medieval animal and bird carvings on the exterior. Then go down into the crypt, which was an earlier church San Maria della Scala (lovely painting of St. Theodore, and also reliquary of St. Nicola). Underneath this is the shrine of San Leucio, a 6th century underground Christian burial chamber.
      After going down, down, climb up the campanile, bell tower, for stellar views of the old town.
      Trani Castle (Castello Svevo) – A substantial fortress, also built by Frederick II to defend against attacks by the Turks, it's right on the harbor. In 1259, Fredrick's son Manfred came to Trani to meet this new bride Helena from Byzantium. After her boat docked, there was feasting and dancing in the castle to celebrate the marriage. The castle was later a military garrison, and then used as a prison.
      After looking at the cathedral and castle, walk through the old town, Via Giudea was the Jewish quarter in Trani.
    Egnazia Archaeological Park and Museum – On a sunny day, it's great to run around the ruins, right next to ocean. The ruins are from three different eras – ancient tribal, Greek and Roman.
      Kids can walk on the ancient Roman road, Via Traiana (Trajan's Way), which extended from Beneventum to Egnazia. Explore the Roman amphitheater, forum baths, basilica temple, walk through a underground corridor (cryptoporticus). Ruins are well labeled with English and Italian, with explanations and drawings to make the ruins come alive.
      In the museum are floor mosaics, a lovely marble head of Attis, pottery, coins, clay figures, ancient paintings and vases.
  Alberobello Stay in Alberobello, a town of storybook "beehive houses" (trulli). The trulli are made from local limestone (no mortar), with brilliant whitewashed walls and dome ceilings. Houses are very comfortable, breakfast and room service available.
  Matera (Basilicata) – Visit a "cave city," with dwellings dug out in caves ("sassi") and underground churches hewn out of the rocks ("chiese rupestri"). People moved into the cave dwellings in the 9th century, after the Saracens devastated the town. Monks and monastic orders also built churches in the rocks, and decorated the interior with paintings.
      Start your explorations in the upper town, with two different areas Sasso Barisano in the upper town, and Sasso Caveoso.
      In the upper town, stop into the church Madonna delle Virtu, a two level church, with frescoes on the walls, and plenty of cave rooms to explore. Then walk on the promenade, with views of the ravine below – this is a great walking city.
    In the Sasso Caveoso area, check out two cave houses – Casa Grotta di Vico Solitario Casa Grotta del Casalnuovo, kids can imagine what is was like to live in a cave house, with kitchen and sleeping areas, cistern to collect water, stable for animals, reconstructed with traditional furnishings – wooden tables and chairs, looms, cooking equipment. Also visit two churches, Santa Lucia alle Malve, and climb up the steps to Santa Maria de Idris, located inside a huge limestone cliff.
  Metaponto (Basilicata) – Metapontum was founded as Greek settlement and fortified city on the Ionian Sea. Before going out to the ruins, stop into the Archaeological National Museum which has a good collection of ancient everyday Greek objects, such as toys, tools, jewelry, swords, helmets, vases, and lion faces with traces of the original paint in red, blue yellow.
      In the archaeological site, check out the Tavole Palatine, 6th century Temple of Hera. Ruins of Metapontum include a theater, and additional temples, houses, shops (but are largely outlines of these buildings.
      Acquazzurra water park – June to Sept. cool off in the nearby water park, with slides, lazy river, toboggans, pirate island and lagoon for little kids.
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