Italy is a country of artisan bread lovers, but if you ask any Italian what’s the best bread in italy, chances are they will say Pane di Altamura, the bread of Altamura. The wood-fired ovens of the Santa Chiara Bakery in Altamura, established in 1423.
Perhaps the only bakery product to boast the prestigious DOP brand: Altamura bread is known all over the world thanks to its fragrance, its aroma and its perfect flavor.
Waiting for the upcoming European Heritage Days 2015 (with the opening of the oldest furnace of Altamura) scheduled for Saturday 19 and Sunday 20 September, let’s discover together what makes this Italian bread so special with its thousand-year history.
Altamura is a middle center located in the Murge plateau, in what is now called the Metropolitan City of Bari, a few kilometers from the capital of Puglia proper. Yet its white walls eroded by the sun, its maze of twisted streets and twisted around the majestic cathedral have very little “metropolitan”.
It is another story that here seems to tell: that of a millenary town, founded by the Saracens and rebuilt by the Emperor Frederick II of Swabia, that of an area covered by acres from the protection of the Alta Murgia National Park, that of a city at the intersection of history and traditions.
Not by chance, then, right here, in what legend has it to be the New Troy, has found the birthplace one of the most typical products of Italy and that since 2003 has been recognized trademark of protected origin (DOP) by the European Union : the Altamura bread.
A bread born and designed to meet the needs of shepherds and farmers for which it was an essential and daily food. In fact, they sometimes had to stay for several days away from home, in the farms, the typical farms that once stood and rise in the countryside around the city.
Here then a large amount of bread that could be consumed for several days was a precious resource to say the least. A centuries-old tradition, therefore, that of the bakery in the Murgia and Altamura, which can be traced back to the Roman poet Orazio, who in his Satire praises the ovens in the area and advises travelers to pass not to miss the delicious bread.
A bread traditionally prepared at home and cooked in public ovens and that, in addition to its scent, is easily recognizable by its shape.
Two are the traditional ones: u Scquanét, higher and a cappidde de prévete (with priest’s hat) lower and with less crumb.
This famous bread is made from the semolina of some specific varieties of durum wheat (appulo, arcangelo, duilio, simeto) grown in Altamura and in some neighboring municipalities (Gravina di Puglia, Poggiorsini), in the territory now delimited by the regulations of the protection consortium.
From the Middle Ages until today little has changed: the recipe is still the same, simple, from centuries ago (durum wheat semolina, water, salt and mother yeast) the ovens are still the traditional ones in stone, the taste is still exceptional.
Unlike the Middle Ages, however, now the protection consortium has established strict rules for production and precise characteristics that must comply with a real bread of Altamura PDO: a weight of not less than 0.5 kg, a crust with a minimum thickness of 3mm and a humidity of not more than 33% is an example. The needs of the market and the technologies have naturally changed a lot but the strong link with the tradition makes of the bread of Altamura DOP the sure direct descendent of that tasted from Horace.