The traces of Serbian history led us to Barletta, another charming city at the Adriatic coast, well-known mostly for its bronze sculpture of Colossus, a Norman castle, De Nitis gallery, the battle between knights called “The Challenge of Barletta”, but also for the best ice-cream in the world.
In this city there is also the memorial ossuary of fallen Yugoslav soldiers (mostly Serbs) during the two world wars built in 1969, since when a commemoration is traditionally held every year.
History and remembrances in collaboration among nations
A series of events was organized in Barletta on 15th July 2015 to mark the 100th anniversary of the rescue of Serbian soldiers in World War I, the concept being “History and remembrances in collaboration among nations”. There was a commemoration, wreaths were laid and a prayer was said for those who never saw their homes and their loved ones again. We attended the promotion of the book “For the Serbian Army – One Forgotten Tale” by Mila Mihajlovic. She pointed out that from 12th December 1915 until 29th February 1916 the Italian navy, with its remarkable military and humanitarian operation, managed to evacuate 260,895 Serbian soldiers, 24,000 Austro-Hungarian prisoners of war, 10,153 horses, 68 cannons and 300,000 tons of food and materials from Albania.
The Serbian government, the military leadership, king Peter and regent Alexander, as well as 6,000 Montenegrin soldiers and king Nikola with his family were also evacuated together with the army.
This feat of the Italian navy remained almost unknown. Simultaneously, the evacuation of the Serbian army and people represents the precursor, ante litteram, of present-day humanitarian operations and remains to this day the most significant and the most complex international aid operation of all time.
The time of the city patron saint celebration
We arrive in Barletta exactly at the time of the city patron saint celebration. The scent of incense is wafting from the brightly lit gothic cathedral of Saint Maria Maggiore and processions are making their way among the people. The streets of the old town are crowded, full of people, both the young and the elderly have come out, cheerful children and the youth, well-groomed ladies and gentlemen, tireless grannies and grandpas, everyone has joined in. The atmosphere is fascinating. I don’t feel like a foreigner, nor like a tourist, but like a guest of the citizens of Barletta.
You can feel the devotion to the tradition, the temperament and liveliness of the people, some amazing energy, cordiality, smiles on people’s faces, there is no alienation. Wine is being poured, horse sausages and intestines are being grilled, and breaded cheese with all that, everything smells so good. I go strolling down the side streets. From time to time a drop of water from the washing hanging between the houses falls on my head. The passages are narrow, through the windows I see people stirring pasta, watering their flowers, I can hear them singing in some incomprehensible dialect. I see life everywhere, I see a man, I feel the sentimental and melancholic Mediterranean soul…
How can you not love them!
The beauties of the South await the passenger in romantic Trani. A magnificent Romanesque cathedral dominates a large square. Sunlit and located right by the sea, it seems as if the cathedral emerges from the Adriatic. In the early evening, with its reflection in the dark blue waters under the light of candelabras, it looks different, but still unbelievable and enchanting.
It is dedicated to a Greek, Saint Nicholas the Traveler or the Pilgrim, and it was built of well-known Trani marble in the Apulian Romanesque style on the basis of a Byzantine church whose remains are preserved and visible on the icons. Svevo Castle is located next to the cathedral, and it represents yet another connection with Bari, it is built in the same style but it had different purposes throughout the centuries. The port in Trani used to be the starting point for the Crusades and the seat of Masons from South Italy, and the Church of All Saints built by the Templars on their way to the Holy Land during the Crusades attests to that.
I will always remember our host’s warm welcome with the wine, sea, poetry and the specialties of the local cuisine such as foccacia, shell-shaped orecchiette pasta, rustico, Altamura bread, burrata cheese, pampanella (cheese rolled into a fig leaf), smoked prosciutto, olives, a variety of cheeses, taralli and casarecce snacks. You cannot truly experience Italy if you do not taste their food. Family gatherings over a meal are sacred.
This is a real paradise for gourmets. Poetry on a plate, an unusual mixture of various flavors, smells and colors feeds both the body and the soul. It is an enormous pleasure to watch them sing to the dough while it rises, to observe with how much love and passion they devote themselves to every slice of mozzarella, every drop of olive oil, every leaf of basil. Maybe the secret of Italian cuisine lies right there.
Author: Rada Sević
Translation: Marija Đurđević