Oria: Puglia Medieval and Messapian

Oria is a town of around 15,000 people in the province of Brindisi. Oria is one of the principal Messapian cities. It is just north of the ancient town Manduria, which produces the wine called Primitivo di Manduria, the same grape as we know in America as Zinfandel and has Messapian walls.

It’s a bit of a hill town. Unusual in the Salento. There’s a castle on top and a fantastic medieval festival takes place every year. There’s a Jewish quarter in Oria, one of the oldest in Europe.

The area is a hotbed of nuts and dried fruit. A local brought me into this tiny shop. It sold every kind of healthy snack you might imagine.

There is also great food to be found in more formal and airy establishments like restaurants, as you can imagine. Our friend took us to Ristorante Vecchia Oria, shown below. It was way earlier than most Pugliese eat, so the owner adjusted the pictures before he came to the table to talk about what we wanted to eat. We had had a huge meal for lunch, so we were snacking—the four of us shared many appetizers.

I was surprised to see that many people said that the food wasn’t to their taste—and many said the wait staff didn’t treat tourists well. Forget that. Talk to your waiter. Show your interest in not just food but in the food that people in these parts eat. Then you are (usually) as good as a local. Just don’t make retching noises when a fish arrives with its head on or look appalled when you see squid tentacles. It’s all part of the cuisine.

Oria, if you are anywhere near it, is an interesting place to visit. There are great views from the castle built in 1227 by Emperor Frederick II of Hohenstaufen, the 13th-century Swabian ruler of southern Italy.

August brings the Corteo storico di Federico II – Torneo dei Rioni

“During the second half of August Oria stages one of Italy’s best medieval pageants when the town re-creates the splendors of the glorious ages by performing a historical Parade of Frederick II and the Palio dei Rioni (Tournament of the four districts). The event originated in 1225 when Frederick II decided to “amuse the loyal inhabitants of Orea” while waiting for his wedding with the bride Isabella of Brienne, which occurred in November of that year in the Cathedral of Brindisi. This historical parade is the most important recreation of the Frederick II’s domain period that takes place today in Italy.” ~ Oria

Map of Oria

Unique:Corteo storico di Federico II – Torneo dei Rioni Medieval Festival
Don’t miss: Oria Castle
When to Go: Spring or Fall. Summers are hot. Lecce climate charts and information
Region: Puglia Map
Days: 1-2
: Train station to the north of town along the Taranto-Brindisi line.
Parking: Parking lots outside of the old town, some near the train station
Recommended Hotel: B&B Messapia
Local Wines: Salice Salentino, Primitivo

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