Foggia – A Beautiful City in Northern Puglia
As an Italian Enthusiast, my quest has always been to experience authentic Italian culture. If I had the choice to spend an evening at a well-known commercial vineyard in Tuscany for a fancy wine tasting, versus an evening at a local’s apartment in a small Pugliese city where homemade wine is served, I would choose the latter option (at least most of the time). Mass tourism, while great for the Italian economy, is not always great for the tourist when the goal is to capture authentic Italian lifestyle without running into a souvenir shop on every corner.
Don’t get me wrong, I think all Italian Enthusiasts should visit cities of mass tourism, like Venice, Florence, Rome, Milan, Naples, etc., as there are life-changing treasures in all those cities; however, smaller cities which may lack the art of Michelangelo, or churches the size of football fields, deserve no less attention. In fact, the experience derived visiting smaller, less-known Italian cities (less-known to tourists) will only result in a deeper and more fulfilling appreciation of the country as a whole.
By way of example, this past September I arrived in a northern Puglia city of about 150,000 inhabitants called Foggia. Up until a year prior, I had never even heard of Foggia.
As I disembarked the Frecciargento at the Foggia train station, it did not take long to realize that I had entered an Italian city unspoiled by tourism. Prices were refreshingly moderate, English scarce, and I did not have to avoid crowds of tourists taking selfies in every direction. In fact, I don’t even recall seeing a souvenir shop in Foggia other than the store at the train station selling magnets.
I stayed at the B&B White Hotel, located in the historical center. After checking in, my friend and Foggia-native, Sara Caputo, showed me around the city, taking me first to Teatro Giordano (Giordano Theater), followed by Piazza Umberto Giordano. Umberto Giordano, a world-famous Foggia-born composer, is highly honored in Foggia, and known in America through the soundtracks of various films, including Philadelphia, To Rome with Love, and Saint Laurent.
During my 3-day stay in Foggia, I saw various attractions, including the cathedral (Cattedrale di Foggia), community park (Parco Urbano Karol Wojtyla), and museum (Museo del Territorio). Indeed, Foggia does not have Antonio Vivaldi, but it has Umberto Giordano. Foggia does not have Michelangelo, but it has Francesco Saverio Altamura. Foggia does not have a customs office (for humans), but it has one for sheep (Palazzo Dogana – now a UNESCO site). In addition to ancient history in Foggia, the city was largely destroyed in World War II after extensive bombing raids by allied forces. It went through a rough period, but it has been recovering.
Other than its history, which I found to be both rich and prolific, what impressed me most about Foggia was the lifestyle. On a Tuesday evening close to midnight, I walked around the historical center with my friend, Sara, and observed a large amount of locals socializing, hanging out with their friends, and enjoying life. I took a walking video of the evening, which you can see below.
The contemporary mood in Foggia was right for me. Nothing ostentatious. Nothing over the top. Water is always served with coffee in Foggia. The simple dish of beans and chicory (purea di fave con cicoria) are commonly served for dinner. Clothes are dried on balcony clotheslines (stendini). Friends hang out past midnight on weeknights in the popular squares. Main streets are not filled with tourist traps. The Euro gets you farther in Foggia than in larger, more touristy cities. And for Italian Enthusiasts who desire to learn the language, there sure is a better chance to learn Italian in Foggia than in other cities where English is commonplace.
Over all, I think Foggia is fantastic. When I walk through Foggia, I feel like I am walking back in time through a Federico Fellini film. Other than Foggia, there are some other nearby cities worth visiting. The beautiful mountain area of Gargano and the ocean town of Peschici are about an hour away. Manfredonia is only 20 miles from Foggia (also with incredible nightlife), and Campobasso about 60 miles. Larger cities such as Bari, Naples and Pescara are between 1.5 to 2 hours away.
I recommend Foggia for all Italian Enthusiasts who have already been to Italy at least once, and who have a basic understanding of the Italian language (unless they make arrangements to have a tour guide or local show them around). If anyone needs help finding someone to show them Foggia, please let me know and I can provide a referral.
June 22, 2019