What to see in Puglia: The Pizzica dance
What is the Pizzica dance?
The Pizzica dance dates back hundreds, if not thousands of years. Shrouded in myth and legend, the dance was thought to have been the only cure for a tarantula bite. Or, metaphorically, for someone possessed by the devil...
When the alarm went that someone had been bitten, usually while working in the fields, the local band would pick up their instruments. These would traditionally be violins, mandolins, guitar, flute, accordion and large tambourines. They would rush to the house of the afflicted.
Once arrived, they would begin to play, slowly at first, while the patient, usually in a high fever by this time, began the dance. As the music got faster, so too did the steps of the dancer, whose aim was to expel the poison (or malignant spirit) through sheer force of motion and perspiration. Often family and other villagers would join in in a show of unity.
The dance originally would continue prestissimo until the main protagonist collapsed to the floor, utterly exhausted, but hopefully cured.
La Notte della Taranta festival
Other versions of the dance exist, including more romantic ones requiring a partner. But the real excitement comes when exorcism is called for.
This important folk tradition is celebrated each year in August in a festival called La Notte della Taranta. The towns and villages of Grecìa Salentina, the area south of Lecce and west of Otranto, all come together, hosting concerts, dancing and all-out parties.
Musicians and bands from around the world are invited to take part, and recent editions have starred the likes of Stewart Copeland, Joe Zawinul, the Buena Vista Social Club, Goran Bregović, Phil Manzanera and Carmen Consoli.
Traditional Puglia activities
Watching, or even learning how to dance the pizzica, is a truly fun and authentic Puglia experience.
Interested in celebrating this popular tradition or getting a taste of more traditional events during your visit? See our top recommended Puglia festivals and events to experience the region like a local.
You can also see our collection of villas in the Salento area, ideal for exploring a variety of events for all to enjoy in local towns and cities.