Altamura Bread for the Journey
September 2, 2019
“Altamura bread, by far the best bread to be had, so good that the wise traveller takes a supply with him for his onward journey”
– Horace’s Satires, 37 BC
When I daydream of Europe, I can almost smell the warm aroma of fresh bread spilling into the streets. In the Italian region of Puglia, pane di Altamura has been attracting visitors from around the world for over 2,000 years.
No Ordinary Bread
At first glance, it resembles the common sourdough, but this bread is simply incomparable. But to have your taste of the acclaimed loaf, you won’t be able to replicate it in your KitchenAid mixer. There are strict rules to distinguish authentic pane di Altamura from all other pursuits. In 2003, it received the prestigious Denominazione di Origine Protetta (DOP, or PDO in English) status, given only to foods that must be made in and with ingredients from a very specific geographic location.
The traditional recipe includes yeast, local durum wheat, sea salt, and water from the Altamura area of the Puglia region – the heel of the Italian boot. The use of local ingredients is what makes Altamura bread so special.
It has a thick, crispy crust and a distinctly yellow crumb that’s dense but heavenly in texture and taste. The poet Horace describes it as the best bread for the journey possibly because of its hearty longevity and sustenance. It certainly has been alluring pilgrims for centuries.
No Ordinary Town
The town of Altamura isn’t just notable for its baked goods. The architecture spotlights the ancient origins of the town and its rich history. Remnants of its medieval high walls – hence, Alta (high) mura (walls) – are still standing. The Altamura Cathedral is a beautiful Romanesque masterpiece with Gothic influences from the 13th century. And you’ll never guess what aliment is featured on the portal. Pane di Altamura shows up from the nativity scene to the Last Supper, a testament to its high status in Apulian culture.
But perhaps more captivating than its architecture is its archaeology. In the early 1990s, researchers stumbled upon the remains of a Neanderthal whose bones are dated as 130,000 to 187,000 years old. The Altamura Man has given us the oldest human DNA that scientists have been able to successfully interpret. The town has also recently been discovered as a particularly popular site for dinosaur fossils.
Inspired by Altamura’s ancient roots?
Adagio Travel is Savoring Puglia next month! For eight days, we’ll be immersed in the rich history, the exquisite cuisine, the awe-inspiring architecture, the coastal beauty, and of course, the exceptional pane di Altamura. You won’t want to miss it.