Where is Conversano located?
The city stands on a gentle hill at 219 s.l.m., dominates the surrounding area up to the Adriatic Sea which is about 6 km away. The surrounding landscape is typical of Puglia, very green, due to the presence of orchards, olive groves, vineyards, almond groves and above all cherry groves intended for export. It borders to the north with the municipality of Mola, to the north-east with Polignano, to the south-east with Castellana, to the south with Putignano, to the south-west with Turie to the north-west with Rutigliano. The surface of the territory (127 km²) is one of the largest in the south-east of Bari. Within its territory there are two administrative islands (“enclaves”) belonging territorially to the municipality of Polignano a Mare.
What to see in Conversano?
“A charming town 219 meters above sea level”, this is the definition on school books, but those who undertake the visit and get to know this city will be enchanted.
Land of colors, scents, majestic monuments and historic alleys.
The CONVERSANO CASTLE overlooks the hill, the beating heart of the city, the residence of the Acquaviva d’Aragona family, a site of history and legends to be listened to and explored with curiosity.
The PINACOTECA, residence of the famous canvases representing the “Jerusalem Liberated” written by Torquato Tasso and painted by Paolo Finoglio.
The Cathedral of Conversano also overlooks Piazza Castello. In Apulian Romanesque style, it is a very characteristic building made entirely of white stone with a beautiful rose window in the central part of the facade. The Cathedral is perfectly intact thanks to the restoration works that have given it the splendor of its origins.
The CATHEDRAL BASILICA, a typical example of Apulian Romanesque, home of the icon of the MADONNA DELLA FONTE, patron saint of Conversano.
What to eat in Conversano? Where to eat in Conversano?
A typical product of the Conversanese land is the CHERRY, the red fruit par excellence and the unmistakable heart shape, the succulent flavor and the smell that emanates at the first bite the queen of the varieties of cherries: the RAILWAY.
What to do in Conversano?
In spring, “Maggio Conversanese” takes place, a festival that revolves around cultural and entertainment events such as the “Cherry Festival”, a well-known anniversary and an opportunity to taste typical local products
CHURCH AND CONVENT OF SS. DOCTORS COSMA AND DAMIANO
In the 1830s, Count Giangirolamo II Acquaviva d’Aragona (Il Guercio di Puglia) and his wife Isabella Filomarino commissioned the renovation of the ancient Romanesque church of San Matteo, naming the new complex after the Saints Cosma and Damiano. counts were particularly devoted, having received a grace from them.
The pre-existing building underwent a total refurbishment according to the Baroque style, and the task of the complete redesign of the internal decorative apparatus was entrusted to the Neapolitan painter Paolo Finoglio. He, who died prematurely in 1645, never saw the work completed, continued by his pupils; the church was then consecrated in 1660 by the bishop Giuseppe Palermo.
The exterior is extremely sober, with compact and uniform limestone masonry (almost inspired by the ancient Romanesque style). The facade has curbs that run horizontally and, aligned with the entrance portal, a large window with pilaster, the model of which is taken from the smaller windows on the side elevation (at the intersection with Corso Umberto). The bell tower has two orders, in brick.
The history of Conversano:
The ancient NORBA
The origins of the city date back to the Iron Age at the latest, when the indigenous peoples, iapige or peucete, founded a city named Norba on a hill higher than the surrounding area and endowed it with mighty stone walls (the toponym, not unique in Italy, in fact it would mean “fortified city”).
The city had a happy location, placed as it was along an important road axis. This soon made it a thriving settlement, at the center of trade between the Magna Graecia colonies of the coast and the indigenous peoples of the interior. The large necropolis dating back to the 6th century BC. in fact, it has returned dozens of tombs with rich funerary objects, partly of Hellenic origin.
In 268 BC, with the extension of Roman hegemony in Peucezia, Norba also lost its autonomy; nevertheless, it maintained an important role, as evidenced by the conspicuous findings of coins, armor, terracotta artifacts and jewels, thanks to the archaeological excavations carried out inside and outside the walls. The Peutingerian Table itself reports the toponym Norba, but the town did not survive the dissolution of the Western Empire, presumably by the Visigoths of Alaric who passed through Apulia in 411.
Already starting from the fifth century AD, not long after the presumable disappearance of Norba, and in the same place, the sources attest to the existence of the toponym Casale Cupersanem, which probably was a bishopric since the seventh century. In 949 the Annales Barensis attest to the action taken by the Platipodi hamlet on the siege of Conversano.
But it was from the middle of the 11th century, with the Norman domination of the southern regions of the Italian peninsula, that the place became a real center of power: around 1054 Goffredo d’Altavilla, grandson of Roberto il Guiscardo, took the title of comes Cupersani and made the town the fulcrum of a very large county, extended for a large part of the Central-southern Puglia, between Bari e Brindisi and up to Lecce and Nerito (Nardò). The importance of the Conversano court in the noble panorama of those years is well attested by having hosted in Conversano for a few months the Duke of Normandy, known as Cortacoscia, son of the King of England William the Conqueror, who was passing through Puglia The importance of the Conversano court in the noble panorama of those years is well attested by having hosted in Conversano for a few months the Duke of Normandy, known as Cortacoscia, son of the King of England William the Conqueror, who was passing through
The rise of the Acquaviva d’Aragona
The last count Orsini del Balzo was Giovanni Antonio, son of Raimondo prince of Taranto and Maria d’Enghien (who later married Ladislao I of Anjou). Giovanni Antonio gave the entire county of Conversano as a dowry – which included the towns of Castellana, Casamassima, Castiglione (which later disappeared, between Conversano and Castellana), Noci and Turi– to his daughter Caterina, wife of the Duke of Atri Giulio Antonio Acquaviva. Thus began in 1455 the long possession of the fief of Conversano by the Acquaviva family who, except for a four-year parenthesis, would have held it uninterruptedly until the abolition of feudal rights in 1806.
Giulio Antonio Acquaviva, considered by his contemporaries to be a talented leader, distinguished himself above all in the battle of Otranto against the Turks (1481). That same year he died in battle due to an ambush, leaving the estate as an inheritance to his son Andrea Matteo. He too excelled in numerous battles; his heroic behavior earned him the recognition, by the king of Naples Ferdinando I, of the privilege of adding the royal one to his family’s weapon and of changing his surname to Acquaviva d’Aragona. His fortunes at court, however, were clouded by the accusation of having taken part in the so-called conspiracy of the barons, so much so that he suffered prison and the temporary loss of the county for the benefit of the Duke of Termoli, Andrea di Capua (1504-1508). Back in Conversano, he was able to distinguish himself as a patron, bibliophile and man of letters and was included in the Academy of Jacopo Sannazzaro. He died in 1529, while Conversano was ravaged by a plague epidemic.
Giangirolamo II, the Guercio delle Puglie
The famous Guercio delle Puglie, Count Giangirolamo II (1600-1665), also belonged to the Acquaviva d’Aragona family, who administered the fiefdom from 1626 to 1665 surrounded by enormous power, many enemies and many legends.
The chronicles describe him as a despotic and unscrupulous feudal lord, accustomed to gratuitous violence and able to exploit any circumstance to increase his power. So it was on the occasion of the ephemeral Neapolitan republic of Masaniello (1647) which also spread to Puglia: although the Spanish crown had turned to Giangirolamo to restore order to the Apulian lands raised against the local lords (which happened for example in Terra d’Otranto in San Cesario and Nardò), when the rioters of Martina took refuge in the territory of Conversano, the count granted them protection to use them later as executors of the most heinous actions against his less docile subjects, as happened in Locorotondo on the occasion of the sack of 1648. Soon, the many enemies with which he had surrounded himself made news reach the Spanish court of the abuses of Giangirolamo, who in 1650 was therefore translated to Madrid and imprisoned. Just when he was preparing to return to his fiefdom left in the meantime in the hands of his wife Isabella Filomarino della Rocca, he died a victim of malaria. It was 1665.
In reality, the figure of Guercio remains incomplete without mentioning the patronage of his court. It was certainly a specific political program, aimed at increasing the prestige of the family. However Giangirolamo and his wife Isabella enriched the family collection which with them came to count over five hundred paintings and various other works of art, including furniture and furnishings; they also gave hospitality to the painter Paolo Finoglio, who in the long stay in Conversano (1622-1645) was the author of various works: from the frescoes in the bedroom of the spouses, to the ten large canvases of the cycle inspired by the liberated Jerusalem, both housed in the castle, to the sumptuous decorations in the city churches of Carmine and Santi Cosma and Damiano which were built in those years.
Also the construction of the trulli of Alberobello it was an expedient of Giangirolamo to circumvent the viceregal edict that required the consent of the court for the foundation of the cities: thanks to the particular dry construction technique, every time the royal inspection approached, the Guercio could give orders to destroy the roofs of the houses, which would later be easily rebuilt.
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An important fortification work around the hill where the city once stood dates back to the 6th century BC, when the town of Norba reached the apex of power and wealth. This wall, largely incorporated in subsequent constructions but sometimes visible on the ordinary wall fabric, was formed by huge parallelepiped boulders with an average section of 0.60 meters and length of 1.60, superimposed with a dry technique so as to form thick walls up to 4 meters. 790 meters long, the megalithic walls enclose an area of 4.75 hectares. There are still sections of the walls in some areas of the historic center. They have all the characteristics of the Pelasgians’ buildings, and we are told that Conversano built on those walls is to be considered a rebuilding of a destroyed city, much older and founded by the Pelasgians 18 centuries BC; era in which they emigrated from the east to Puglia.
The Conversano Castle stands on the highest point of the hill on which the city stands, in a position capable of dominating the entire surrounding area up to the sea, and delimits the ancient largo della Corte, a large square with an irregular shape always the fulcrum of city life.
Of the castle, which today looks like a stone citadel made up of buildings belonging to different eras and architectural tastes, one can now appreciate the impregnable aspect, now the refinement of the elegant rooms later on. It was the residence of the Counts of Conversano for almost seven centuries, since the Norman era. However, its history is much older: probably already at the time of the Greek-Gothic war (6th century AD). On the same place there was a defense building that incorporated a section of the megalithic walls of the ancient city of Norba.
Certainly the first Norman feudal lords imposed in the 11th century the reconstruction of a manor on the ruins of the previous one. A square-based tower, known as the Maestra Tower, and a fresco placed on the vault of the original entrance, depicting Saints Cosma and Damiano, remain today of the original Norman nucleus. Subsequently, important expansion works were carried out, among others, by the Luxembourg counts (14th century) who promoted the construction of the high circular tower at the north corner, right where the crest of the acropolis became steeper. Around 1460, the Acquavivas built a tower with a dodecagonal base, more squat and with escarpment walls, particularly daring from an engineering point of view: inside, in fact, there is a cistern around which a corridor equipped with machicolations, essential for the defense of the city.
The following centuries saw the further transformation of the building which gradually lost the characteristics of the manor to become an elegant stately home, suitable for the prestige of the powerful feudal lords. The current entrance opens along the boundary wall on Piazza Conciliazione, built in 1710 at the behest of Countess Dorotea Acquaviva. It is thus possible to access an internal courtyard which in turn guarantees access to the late Renaissance portico. Further interventions on the building complex followed one another until the end of the nineteenth century.
Currently the castle is only partially acquired to the municipal heritage, while some wings – including the bridal chamber decorated with scenes from the Old Testament by Paolo Finoglio – are still private property. In the public area of the building today there is the Civic Art Gallery which exhibits the large canvases of the Jerusalem Liberata cycle, also by Finoglio.
In the territory of Conversano, outside the town, you can visit the Oriented Regional Nature Reserve of the Lakes of Conversano and Gravina Monsignore: ten karst sinkholes, welcoming rainwater, are transformed into suggestive lakes; the gravina di Monsignore is instead a karst incision that extends from the extreme south-east Murgia to the coast. Admire the landscape made of woods, pastures, fields and olive groves, and scattered with ancient signs of settlement such as dry stone walls, ‘casedde’ and ‘specchie’.
the Laghi di Conversano and Gravina Monsignore Regional Nature Reserve: ten karst sinkholes, welcoming rainwater, are transformed into suggestive lakes; the gravina di Monsignore is instead a karst incision that extends from the extreme south-east Murgia to the coast. Admire the landscape made of woods, pastures, fields and olive groves, and scattered with ancient signs of settlement such as dry stone walls, ‘casedde’ and ‘specchie’.
Along the provincial road that connects Conversano with Putignano, about 6 km from the center is the Castle of Marchione. The building was used as a hunting reserve by the Acquaviva d’Aragona, usually residing in the castle of the city. This place, which covers about 1,260 hectares, was surrounded by an oak forest and Mediterranean scrub. Of this rich flora, only one oak survives today, five centuries old. According to a legend, a secret passage connects the Marchione with the Castle of Conversano.
It is in this scenario that the numerous cultural events of Conversano take place, such as the feast of Sant’Antonio Abate (January 17) and the Cherry Festival (in June). Outside the city, however, the Marchione Castle and the suggestive lakes await you.
Where to sleep in Conversano?
Why visit Conversano?
The Norba Group was founded in 1976 in Conversano, a city of art in the province of Bari, at the instigation of Luca Montrone, who still chairs it today. Norba is the pre-Latin name of Conversano, a village built between the eighth and sixth centuries BC.
The Group has been operating for 40 years as a leader in the multimedia communication sector in Southern Italy.
Starting from 2010, during the experimentation that preceded the transition from the analogue to the digital system, the two thematic TVs of the Group were born: first TG Norba 24, TV all news, and then Radionorba Television, the first radio and television broadcast in Europe.
The new headquarters in Conversano, “The Heart”, which covers an area of over 3 thousand square meters, will have, among other things, a container for live events, digital rooms for the creation of digital content and 4 new studios for direct. The scenographies with a fluid and futuristic design, also created in collaboration with the creative division of Sky, will have a technological infrastructure consisting of over 100 square meters of high-resolution LEDs, 220 light fixtures, moving head projectors and 4K cameras, all managed by a mediaserver for the synchronization of audio, video and graphics lights.
Do you want to visit Conversano and save on the price of the B&B? Check our availability and ask for a discount!