The virtually undiscovered region of Puglia/Apulia in Southern Italy is rural with historic towns perched on the top of the many hills, painted white to reflect the glistening sun. The sun in July & August can be very strong but with the weather pleasant from May to November there is plenty of time to explore this beautiful region.
Puglia is Italy’s largest olive oil producing region with olive trees in every garden and field, some easily 500 years old. Every town has a market day selling locally produces goods from fresh fruit & vegetables, cheeses & meats, to clothing & shoes, a bargain to be had by all.
It is easy to see why Puglia is now becoming popular as a holiday destination and many of the tradition houses have been renovated and are now beautiful villas with swimming pools.
Alberobello - Bari
Probably the most famous of the towns in the Itria Valley, Alberobello is also the capital of the Trulli and is a designated UNESCO world heritage site. The town is spread over two hills, one of which is almost completely covered in small inter twined streets bordered with rows of Trulli. As a major tourist attraction many of these now sell local wines, olive oils and souvenirs, others are charming restaurants while the majority are still family homes. There is no shortage of excellent restaurants throughout the town as well as traditional bars for an aperitif before dining.
The newer section of the town on the other hill is very popular with the locals on the weekend evenings for their “passeggiata” and there are lots of boutique shops to wander around if you fancy some shopping, even if it is just window shopping.
Any visit to Puglia is not complete without a visit to this popular town.
Cisternino - Brindisi
Cisternino is an enchanting small medieval village in the province of Brindisi. Cisternino’s historic centre is in the middle of the town, with the typical whitewashed buildings. As you arrive at the centre of the historic town you will find the clock tower, in this area you will find an abundance of localy crafted ceramic, art and jewellery shops. Cisternino has many good local restaurants and is well known for it’s Bracceria’s (meat restaurants).
Locorotondo - Bari
Locorotondo is offically recognised as one of Italys most beautiful small towns. It’s name derives from the old Latin word Locus Rotundus, rounded place, the town is perched on a pretty hilltop with stunning views across the green valley towards Martina Franca. The centro storico is very picturesque and entirely painted in whitewash. Through the narrow streets you will find a mixture of elegant doorways and balconies, in summer full of flowers. In the middle of the historic town you can see the beautiful St. Giorgio Martyr church.
In the evening the locals take their passeggiata (a gentle stroll) through the centro storico, you will see the older gentlemen sitting around the Piazza Vittorio Emanuele and in the park opposite talking and playing cards.
The town has many good restaurants and cafes and is well known for it’s good quality white wines. The main wine producer is a historic co-operative called the Cantina Sociale del Locorotondo. It dates from the 1930s and managed to obtain a prized DOC classification for the local white wine in 1969.
Noci - Bari
Probably the least famous and least touristy of the Itria Valley towns owes its name to the many existing ancient walnut trees in the area is located on a pleasant hill 420 metres above sea level.
On the origins of Noci, although there is a lack of documents and reliable sources, according to recent studies the most likely origin can be attributed to the time of Norman rule. The present state of research on Noci is the first document of the Archbishop Rainald of Bari in January of 1180 it recognizes the church of Santa Maria.
Characterized by the typical white-washed roofs of local limestone the heart of Noci is divided between, winding streets and the small courtyards where the women are about to peel the beans for their family dinner or are just sharing joys and sorrows. While here and there, almost in an involuntary game of hide and seek, you will discover the typical shrines, dedicated mainly to the patron St. Roch. Do not miss the ancient and elegant mansions carefully renovated, distinguished by the magnificent entrance doors surmounted by the arms of family and artistic balconies of wrought iron.
Ceglie Messapica - Brindisi
The ancient town of Ceglie Messapica has been inhabitated for over 4000 years. It is rich in history and sites worth visiting include the 11th century castle with a huge square-plan tower, the church of San Leucio containing beautiful furniture of the 17th century, among them a finely carved wooden pulpit and the beautiful Montevicoli grottos of Karst origin.
Tourism is a phenomenon that has only recently arrived in the town however cookery is flourishing; the city and the local country-side are full of restaurants which are known and appreciated even outside the region of Puglia; the ancient town has become the capital of cookery of the “people who lived between the two seas”.
The very popular Food and Wine Festival, Divingusto, is held in Ceglie in July and attracts chefs and foodies from all over Italy and beyond.
Fasano - Brindisi
The current City of Fasano is derived from the Hamlet of Santa Maria de Fajano, it was under construction in 1088 by the people who fled the ruins of Egnatia. With the fall of the Roman Empire Egnatia was gradually abandoned by the inhabitants and plundered by various invasions. The population gradually left the settlement on the coast and for safety reasons they began to settle in villages.
Today Fasano, like many towns in southern Italy is characterized by the historical centre with alleyways, whitewashed walls, archways and squares. The ancient walls of a tower are still visible in Via San Francesco.
In the heart of the town one of the most ancient churches can be seen, dating from the seventeenth century and dedicated to St. John the Baptist. The imposing late-Renaissance facade, recently restored, has a beautiful rose window carved in stone.
Martina Franca - Taranto
Situated in the beautiful Valle d’Itria on the top of a hill at nearly 1,500 feet above sea level is the ancient town of Martina Franca. The town has a particularly beautiful “old city” surrounded by stone walls with prominent Baroque gates leading to piazzas and narrow, winding streets. Piazza di Roma is the largest open space in the old city, with a grand greenspace in the center, facing the 17th century Palazzo Ducale.
Since 1975, the town has hosted the annual summer opera festival, the Festival della Valle d’Itria, during late July.
A typical product of Martina Franca is capocollo. It is a cured pork known and appreciated since the eighteenth century throughout the Kingdom of Naples and is the most representative example of the ancient art of curing meat. “Capocollo of Martina Franca” captures the intense fragrance and delicate flavors of the beautiful Itria Valley.
Ostuni - Brindisi
Probably the largest town in the Itria Valley, the “Old Town” is Ostuni’s citadel built on top of a hill and still fortified by the ancient walls. It is regarded as an architectural jewel and is one of the most stunning cities in southern Italy. Famous for the dazzling effect of its white washed walls and its typically white-painted architecture, it is a genuine and charming example of a Mediterranean town.
The city of Ostuni is a series of levels, with staircases, small roads, alley ways and arches. Hints of the Middle Ages are at hand in every corner, from the portal of a palace, to the walls of a convent or even on the front of a church.
A monument on its own, the town’s largest buildings are the Cathedral and the Bishop’s Palace, together with a number of palazzi of local aristocratic families.
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