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30 January 2023


The city of flowers and ceramics



The recent recognition of Terlizzi as the city of ceramics exalts the centuries-old tradition of working with clay, which in these districts, in the heart of Apulia, has been able to achieve art forms of unusual beauty. Terlizzi is also the city of extra virgin olive oil and other agri-food delicacies, including the 'Mingo Tauro' florin, candidate for IGP denomination, and above all it is the 'city of flowers', with the hundreds of companies operating in the area and in the district, all well established on national and foreign markets by virtue of their excellent and much sought-after products: a true treasure of biodiversity.


But Terlizzi has many 'flowers', and all to be discovered, in an emotional journey that smells of both the ancient and the modern, where modernity is under everyone's eyes and the ancient is well portrayed, up to the point of reliving, in the pages offered by passionate scholars such as Don Gaetano Valente and arch. Michele Gargano, accustomed to immersing themselves in the documentary papers as in the maze of narrow streets and paved widenings of the medieval village enclosed by the 'stradone', overlooked by the elegant residences of the families that have made history in the city.

At the edge of the mediaeval town, one can admire the elegant bulk of the neoclassical Co-Cathedral dedicated to St Michael Archangel, built on the 13th-century Collegiate Church that bore the signature of Anseramo da Trani, whose refined portal set in the Church of the Rosary can still be admired. In continuity, as if guarded by the tall bell tower with its bulbous, oriental-style termination, is the Church of the Immaculate Conception. It houses, amidst stuccowork and ornate Baroque ornamentation, a sequence of canvases depicting stories from the Old Testament and the life of the Madonna painted by Domenico Antonio Carella.


But what literally takes your breath away is the celebrated Adoration of the Shepherds by Corrado Giaquinto around 1750. A stone's throw away is the Pinacoteca Civica, which houses the rich legacy of works (over a thousand) by Michele de Napoli (1808-1892) in the same rooms as the artist's residence. It leads to Terlizzi's main square, dominated by the austere bulk of the Norman Tower, a strategic defence work, today the Clock Tower, crowned by civil architecture, including the Palazzo del governo cittadino (town government building) in conjunction with the Millico Theatre, and religious architecture, the churches of San Gioacchino and Santa Lucia with the War Memorial by Giulio Cozzoli in the centre, without neglecting the memory of illustrious Terlizzi citizens who fought for freedom and were slaughtered at the Fosse Ardeatine: Don Pietro Pappagallo and Gioacchino Gesmundo, whose commemorative monument is in Largo La Ginestra.


Your gaze along the Corso lingers on the imposing façade of Palazzo de Gemmis, with Vanvitellian-style inventions, and on the nearby church of Santa Maria la Nova, which was the forge of culture and theological knowledge of the Friars Minor Observant. It houses first-class works of art, such as the Nativity (1540) by Giovan Girolamo Savoldo (1480c-1548) and the Madonna and Child with Saints John the Baptist and Francis of Assisi (1532-1533) by Giovanni Antonio de Sacchis, known as Pordenone (1483c-1539).


An authentic oasis of peace and spirituality, along the routes of the Francigena, the Borgo di Sovereto encloses and preserves, as a precious pearl, the sanctuary of the patron Virgin whose icon was found, according to ancient legends, by a shepherd in a cave. Ѐ the Marian effigy of the Theotòkos (Mother of God), which every year, in the ritual commemoration of the mythical discovery, crosses the main streets of the town hoisted on the mammoth 'triumphal chariot' for the 'major feast' on the first Sunday of August, sealing one of the most beautiful and exhilarating feasts to be witnessed in Apulia.




Terlizzi's triumphal float represents the symbol in which the entire community recognises itself. It is a festive machine with a wooden supporting structure and a 22-metre-high canvas covering, which every year parades along the main city streets, pushed by more than fifty men and driven by four helmsmen in traditional dress, directed by a head helmsman who skilfully leads it through the traditional and spectacular curves of the city centre.


It carries in triumph the icon of Our Lady of Sovereto and the statue of Saint Michael, the city's main patron saints, as well as a large number of children, seated on the steps leading from the 'carretta' to the 'throne' on which the sacred image of the Virgin is placed.


In Terlizzi, the tradition of the triumphal cart, attested by some documents from the 16th century, is intimately linked to the birth of the cult in honour of Our Lady of Sovereto. Its symbolism is imbued with content that refers to the legend of its discovery: the image of the Virgin was found by a shepherd who, while trying to free a stranded sheep, noticed the icon in an underground cavity. The shepherd was from Bitonto, while the icon was found in the Terlizzese countryside. The problem immediately arose as to which of the two municipalities the icon should belong to. It was thus decided to entrust the fate to the 'judgement of God'.


The image was placed on a cart drawn by two oxen, one from Bitonto and one from Terlizzi. The latter prevailed, blinding the ox from Bitonto with a horn. The cart thus arrived in Terlizzi, constantly changing its appearance. In 1868 it took on its final shape, both in its supporting structure and in its architectural and decorative components, handed down to the present day, thanks to Michele De Napoli, a great neoclassical painter who had become mayor of the town, who designed a new festive machine.


The operational construction of the float was entrusted to set designer Raffaele Affaitati from Foggia. Since then, the float has remained virtually unchanged in its stylistic components and continues to deeply move people on the first Sunday of August each year.


Places to visit: Co-cathedral of San Michele Arcangelo, Church of Santa Maria la Nova, Church of the Immaculate Conception, Church of the Rosary and Portal of Anseramo da Trani, Medieval village, Norman Tower (or Clock Tower), Palazzo di Città and 'Millico' Theatre, 'Michele de Napoli' Art Gallery, Sanctuary and village of Sovereto, Sanctuary of Santa Maria di Cesano.


text by Franco di Palo / photos by Francesco De Chirico


Municipality of Terlizzi

T + 39 080 3542011


Local Police

T + 39 080 3516014


Tourist Infopoint Pro Loco

Corso Dante 56

T + 39 340 8498 169



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