Puglia: Books and Videos
Puglia's geographic and cultural isolation are evidenced by the dearth of travel literature. However, there is a strong body of fiction by writers from Puglia or neighboring regions and some interesting films.
Otranto, by Maria Corti, is an account of the Turk's invasion of this port city in 1480. Eight hundred Christians were slaughtered. We will see their remains in the church. Corti was consciously drawing much of her inspiration for the book from the Nazi occupation of Italy.
Christ Stopped at Eboli, by Carlo Levi (1945) is set in the remote region of Basilicata to which Levi was exiled during the war on account of his anti-fascist activities. This "neo-realist" novel was one of the first to expose the poverty and hopelessness of lives in the South. Neo-Realist director
Like Carlo Levi, Ignazio Silone was exiled during the war for his anti-fascist beliefs and spent the war years in Switzerland. During that time he wrote Fontamara, set in the Abruzzi, just north of Puglia. The novel recounts a small town's rebellion against Nazi occupiers. Silone's most famous work is Bread and Wine, which explores the relationship between religious and political commitments. These are available in The Abruzzo Trilogy, sold through Amazon.
Ann Cornelisen’s Women of Shadows is a series of portraits of poor women from southern Italy, based on her stay in that region in the 1950s. It is a moving book and great background for understanding life in the small villages we will visit.
Murder in Matera, Helen Stapinski. In this work of non-fiction, Stapinski searches for clues into the life of her great-great-grandmother, Vita, a "murderer" who in 1892 emigrated from Basilicata to America. Intrigued by stories of Vita's crime as well as her life in Southern Italy, Stapinski travels with her family to the town of Bernaldo where she interviews locals, discovers a six-hundred page file documenting her great-great-grandmother's crime, and eventually comes to terms with a family skeleton that has long haunted her.
Food and Memories of Abruzzo by Anna Theresa Callen is exactly whatthe title suggests: recipes from this far off corner of Italy along with memories of a childhood there.
Frederick II (1194-1250), aka Stupor Mundi, ruled much of Europe but had a particular fondness for Puglia where he built his Castel del Monte which we will visit. David Abulafia's biography (1988) is quite readable.
Pasolini's Gospel According to Mathew (1963) a radical take on a familiar biography, was filmed in Puglia and Calabria with some very recognizable locations in the Sassi of Matera—which we will visit.
In 1979 the politically charged director Francesco Rosi made a film based on Christ Stopped in Eboli. Rosi's 1980 film, Three Brothers, is set in Puglia.