Putignano is a small town in the province of Bari in southern Italy, best known for its annual carnivals. The circular historic centre with its charming backstreets and old-school churches make this is a great Italian stop-off for that authentic small-town feel.
The most famous cultural selling point of this town is its Carnival, unique as it's the oldest and longest lasting carnival in Italy. Dating all the way back to 1394, the festivities start the day after Christmas with a candle exchange ceremony, in which people give a candle to the church to ask for forgiveness for their sins. The celebrations get into full swing on January 17th with the feast of St Anthony the Abate, then finish on Shrove Tuesday with a closing parade and 'funeral' for the Carnival.
Throughout the festive period there are four carnival parades in which colourful floats form lively processions through the town. The floats were originally built by the town's carpenters, who prided themselves on using their skills for this great event, and this spirit continues today with many handcrafted figures involved in the parades. Plenty of live music and bustling crowds accompany the festivities, so there's never a dull moment.
Another fun fact about the Carnival is that many of the events are dedicated to different social categories in the town, a fun way to celebrate the eclectic mix of individuals that used to, and continue to, live in the town.
We know what you're thinking, what if you only visit in the summer? Well fear not. Since 2006 the town has also held a summer version of the event, offering a taste of the official winter Carnival, which means no one has to miss out.
Bari is roughly 40 kilometres away and it's easy to get to Putignano from their by either catching a bus or a train, which takes about an hour. Catching the train between Putignano and Martina Franca is also easy, with a direct train taking around 45 minutes.
Alternatively, if this festive town is a stop on your Italian road trip, it's well connected by main roads, making it super easy to drop in on one of the Carnivals.