Diomedes, Italy travel tips, Romanico Pugliese, Southern Italy, UNESCO World Heritage Sites, Wines of Puglia
According to legend, Troia (TROH∙yah) was founded by the Trojan War hero Diomede (Diomedes) in the 10th century BC. After the fall of Troy, he found out his wife was unfaithful. Instead of going home to Argos, Diomede travelled around the Adriatic, settling in the Daunia area of Puglia. Troia, also spelled Troja, was at the junction of the Via Traiana –the road from Benevento to Brindisi, and the road to Siponto (Sipontium). The Romans called it Aecae. In 1010, a medieval settlement was built on the ruins of the ancient city, and in 1017 a Byzantine fortress to protect against Saracen invaders. Modern Troia was founded in 1019, making this year its millennia!!! Auguri Troia!
Troia was ruled by powerful bishops, and they built a magnificent cattedrale (cathedral), an exquisite example of Romanico Pugliese, a unique architectural mix of Pisan Romanesque, Arab and Byzantine inspired features. It was an important connection between the Norman kingdoms of Southern Italia and the Pope. Completed in 1119, this architectural capolavoro or masterpiece is celebrating its 900th anniversary!
The stunning rosone-rose window is made up of 11 thin columns, each with a delicate stone ‘screen’ finely carved with Islamic inspired geometric designs. The 11 ‘petals’ or segments each have a different pattern. They look like they are woven out of stone. 11 is an unusual number of sections for a rose window, or for anything, actually. There could be some interesting numerology related to this building.
The upper façade is elaborate, with the rosone and gargoyles. The arches around the window are decorated with an odd but fascinating assortment of primitive looking animal and human sculptures and are held up on either side by Pugliese lions.
The lower front is a 7 arch façade-the center one being the main entrance through bronze doors with the most magnificent dragon handles. They look straight out of Trono di Spada (Game of Thrones)! The doors were built in 1127 by Oderisio da Benevento. The doors are decorated with reliefs and inscriptions. There are 10 knockers; 8 lions and 2 wyverns, which are small 2 legged dragons. On each side of the door are 3 blind arches topped with geometric carvings and a round window on the middle arch. The arches on the side of the building are topped with geometric sun and moon patterns in green stone. The main doors are closed and entry is only through the side door, another bronze by Oderisio da Benevento. The church is usually open during the day, and of course during Masses.
In contrast to the ornate exterior, the interior of the cattedrale is simple. The design is a Latin cross plan with 3 aisles separated by 13 Corinthian columns, 2 rows of 6 and a 3rd row in the SW corner with only one column, as seen in the photo below. These represent the 12 apostles and Christ. There is no ceiling, the beamed wood roof is exposed. The Cathedrals in the Romanico Pugliese style, including Troia’s, are on the tentative list for UNESCO World Heritage Sites. This is the step before becoming a heritage site!
The 1169 pulpit dates to 1169 has an interesting relief carved on one side. It is a dog biting the back of a lion, who is biting the neck of a lamb and is visible in the photo below. The dog symbolizes God, who is faithful and vigilant, preventing poor judgement and heresy (the lion) from devouring the church (the lamb).
Il Museo del Tesoro della Cattedrale di Troia (the cathedral treasury) is worth a visit for rare 11th century parchments and other medieval sacred artifacts. There are only 32 illuminated Exultet codes (Easter scrolls) in the world, and 3 of them are here. Also worth seeing is Il Capitello delle Quatre Razze (Column of the 4 Races). This is a 13th Century column with 4 heads, one on each corner, depicting the 4 races of man known before 1492- European, African, Asian and Arab. Admission is free, but it is only open Tuesday and Thursday 17:30-20 and Saturday 10-13. Mondays are only open for school groups with appointments. Call ahead, as they may open for groups 0881 97 00 20.Troia is named for the ancient city, but unfortunately ‘troia’ is also Italian slang for ‘slut’. My best guess is that the origin of this term is from Elena di Troia (Helen of Troy) who was an adultress. Don’t let the name put you off though. Troia is a charming town with a beautiful centro storico. It is also way off the radar for most visitors to Puglia, so you will not find any crowds. As an added bonus, you can find Nero di Troia vino everywhere! Read more about this lovely vino in Vini di Puglia. My Zia lives in Troia, so I have been there a lot. Here are some interesting Troia facts… #1-I had my confirmation at the Cattedrale di Troia when I was 15! Interesting fact #2-Troia is the only municipality in Italia providing free public transportation!
Get off the bus from Foggia or park the car near La Villa Comunale and Bar Cluny. Walk down Via Regina Margherita to explore the centro storico. The Cattedrale is half way down this long, narrow street, which is lined with shops and interesting doorways. Stop at the award-winning Pasticceria e Gelateria Artigianale Aquilino for a decadent treat. Visit the oldest church in Troia, the Byzantine San Basilio with ox heads around the altar. It was originally a Greek Orthodox temple. The haunted Palazzo D’Avolos is now home to the Civic offices and Civic Museum. Wander into the narrow side streets and you may come across a Fiat 600 or some work by local artist Leon Marino.
Troia has a population of about 7000. It is situated on a hill, 439 m above the Tavoliere plain, 22 km SW of Foggia, 15 km south of Lucera and 14 km east of Orsara di Puglia. The surrounding landscape is a beautiful blanket of wheat fields, vineyards and olive groves- like the view from the abandoned Celle Sant’Antonio, just outside of Troia.
Ferrovie del Gargano buses arrive regularly from Foggia and Lucera. The ticket is €1.80. If taking the train to Foggia, the bus station is conveniently next door. Troia has several B&B’s including Alba d’Oro, Stella and Svegliarsi nei Borghi. There is even a car rental agency, Automottola, on the edge of town, towards Foggia. For more information check out Troia’s website.Read more about Troia and Diomede in Puglia-Mia Regione Preferita. Have any of you readers who are not related to me been to Troia?
Ciao e buon viaggio, Cristina