Lying approximately 11 km to the west of Bari, Bitonto is nicknamed the “Town of Olives”, due to the numerous olive groves surrounding its territory and to the great production of extra virgin olive oil, exported elsewhere in Italy and Europe. The city includes a medieval burg and a modern area.
The worship of Saints Cosma and Damian
Bitonto honours its patron Saints, Cosma and Damian, on the third Sunday of October. According to legend, they were twin brothers, born in Arabia, who become skilled physicians. When the persecution under Diocletian broke out, the Healing Saints were arrested and martyred by beheading. They came to be regarded as the patrons of physicians, surgeons, pharmacists, and nurses. On the occasion of the Feast their busts are taken out of the Sanctuary in which they are kept and swayed down the main streets of the town. The highlight of the Celebration is the so-called “Intorciata”, a really touching and meaningful procession during which the devotees walk barefoot behind Sts. Cosmas and Damian’s statues, handling lighted votive candles, many of which are large and heavy. Someone walks backwards. The pilgrims invoke the protection of the saints to heal their own diseases and those of their loved ones or thank them for favors granted.