We The Italians | Italian culture and history: The Music of Apulia The Pizzica

Italian culture and history: The Music of Apulia The Pizzica

Italian culture and history: The Music of Apulia The Pizzica

  • WTI Magazine #42 Sep 03, 2014
  • 1068

WTI Magazine #42    2014 September, 3
Author : italia.it      Translation by:


The Pizzica: A Tradition between Dionysus and the Saints
The sultry heat, sand blowing in the morning air, and the parched land of Salento, a small subregion in Apulia. The women here, bent over to work in the fields, are marked by fatigue. A tarantula bites one of their ankles, so she runs to grab a tambourine and dance without inhibition, until all the poison finally exits her body.

This turns out to be a real, live musical catharsis, and the origin of the tradition that the region of Apulia celebrates every summer: the pizzica tarantata, pizzica-scherma and the most well-known, pizzica-pizzica.

Today an attraction of international renown, the pizzica as danced by Pugliese grandmothers was not merely a dance, but a type of therapy; like the dances of the bacchanals of Dionysus – the Greek god of wine and drunkenness – the dance was an act that unleashed a certain sense of oppression shared by these women.

In summer the pizzica makes its way through the entire heel of the Italian boot (Calimera, Carpignano Salentino, Soleto, Sternatia and Zollino) until it concludes around the end of the month in Melpignano. Late into the night, a folk orchestra accompanies the Notte della Taranta (Night of the Tarantola) and its various exhibits from both the International "world" scene, along with more traditional groups from the zone around Salento.

Twenty-seven kilometers from the regional capital Lecce, Melpignano is located in inland Salento, and can be reached by train or regional buses, which run more frequently this time of year. Here, families, friends and visitors can dance barefoot all night, or even just take in the show with a delicious plate of turcinieddi at hand.