Itria Valley, Puglia

While Croatia may have taken recent plaudits for its Adriatic festival excursions, Southern Italy is perhaps less discussed in conversations surrounding electronic music hotspots.

Puglia, which lays beside the southern Adriatic Coastis a region rich in beauty and distinction. From the groves that line the countryside to the hilltop towns with requisite crumbling old walls, ornate churches and a plentiful number of trulli dwellings – the distinctive white-tipped corbelled abodes of the local workers. It’s also really warm.

Polifonic Festival operates within the natural elements of this spectacular surrounding and bleeds into the landscape. After an opening salvo at the Cala Maka Beach Club, the festival’s fourth edition swung into action with a set from in-house residents Dirty Channels, who were an ever-present and popular act across the entire weekend. The pair played disco-tinged house to an immaculately dressed audience soaking up the Apulian sunset. Italian DJ royalty Francesco Del Garda provided a requisite counterpoint on the beach with a session replete with low-slung baselines, grooves, techno oddities and the odd banger. 

The Saturday and Sunday of the festival pulled another stunning setting into the mix: Masseria Capece, an old Italian farmhouse complex flanked by olive groves and stone walls. With four stages situated within the grounds and the warmth of the night allowing for looser attire, there was sense of post-pandemic eagerness in the air as revellers basked in the return of this particular event – hosted here for the first time since 2019.

Therefore, it was somewhat unfortunate that on the night prior, the location’s new showpiece stage – situated in a quarry, and called The Cave – was subject to late interference from the local authorities. This led to an extremely limited capacity of just a few hundred people in an aesthetically pleasing space designed to hold at least triple that number. Equally frustrating, was the authorities decision to curtail the running time of the event by an hour, changes which meant certain DJs weren’t able to play and set times that had to be hastily re-configured. Despite this setback, the deeper strains of Italian techno were ably served up by the likes of Adiel and Marco Shuttle, who played to a smaller but entirely appreciative crowd.

With changes afoot in the programming, the night was propped up by two of the most reliable spinners in the game. Jane Fitz’s commitment to the ravier side of electronica was the perfect antidote to the difficulties on the ground and a recently rejuvenated Danilo Plessow of Motor City Dance Ensemble was in fantastic form to close out the night with all manner of disco rarity.

Saturday saw The Cave stage move back onto the main festival grounds with spectacular results. The deep energetic techno from the Italian duo of Claudio PRC and Z.I.P.P.O was the kind of release the festival had been seeking. The enthusiasm from both DJs (who had originally been scheduled to play the night before) as well as the audience was palpable, resulting in a set many enjoyed for the full duration of.

Donato Dozzy remains one of the most elusive characters in electronic music; he plays irregularly yet still commands the kind of reverence reserved for the top table of international techno artists. His two hours on the Magma Stage was a masterclass in the power of restraint and release with huge hypnotic sections of deep and quick techno punctuated by flourishes of drama and drop. His selections were largely unidentifiable right through until the end of his set, at which point a full crowd remained very much in place. This was a set that relied on the tension that comes with repetition and slow change – a total weekend highlight. And with the likes of Bradley Zero, Ash Lauryn and Chaos In The CBD stepping up to the controls elsewhere on the grounds, Saturday closed with a rejuvenated vibe in the air.

Polifonic’s closing party at the Palme Beach Club felt altogether joyous, with Âme and Octo Octa providing the finish the festival deserved this year as it returned in full form larger and more ambitious than ever. Despite some unpredicted and unfortunate growing pains, Polifonic’s latest outing demonstrated the festival’s overall focus rather well. This is a celebration of Italian electronic music, and an enticing gathering for those who wish to experience it in a picturesque setting that’s just as welcoming to international acts and globe-spanning sounds.