We’ve been waiting for this holiday trip for a long time.
After the first images aired during a TV documentary me and my husband had no more doubts, our next summer trip would be in this region of Southern Italy, authentic and for most parts still unexplored by mass tourism: Puglia.
We chose a place which is relaxing but also strategic for the distances to cover as a base from which to explore the region.
These are the phases of our trip: Alberobello, Locorotondo, Martina Franca, Cisternino, Matera, Castellana Grotte, Monopoli, Polignano a Mare and the Valley of the ancient olives.
1st Day, Arrival at Bari.
And so, here we are, have landed at the airport of Bari in a still bright afternoon of early June and headed with the whole family (and with a rented car) towards our b&b “Trulli del Bosco“, booked in advance this winter.
It takes about an hour by car from the airport and the road is manageable and adequately indicated. Once in Alberobello, we follow the GPS indications and immerse ourselves in the Apulian countryside…
The scenery is idyllic: slopes dotted with olives, old “masserie” (sort of farms) and pockets of recently-ploughed red earth.
The road to arrive at our trullo (the house of rocks, typical Apulian) is surrounded by two rows of stone walls and a forest of oak trees which extends along the way.
We arrive and incredibly feel like we’re at home.
Maybe it was the warm reception from Andrea’s family (owners of the trulli), or the innate affection of Francesca, the dog, or the delicious dinner, a base of wild herbs and homemade pasta served at dawn: but it was one of the best preludes of our trip to Puglia!
2nd Day – Alberobello.
For those who come from the city, it’s not easy to adapt to such tranquility. It’s been months that due to work I don’t wake up at these hours anymore…even the kids are asleep.
The Italian buongiorno is immediately recognizable by the good cup of espresso coffee from the coffee machine, a cup of fresh fruits and the homemade pie (crostata) made by Andrea’s Granma! Yummy
The air is saturated with oxygen and the heat is mild. We decide to spend the first day in the compound. And so, while the kids have their first dive in the pool with Daddy, I lay on the deckchair while reading a good book.
In the afternoon, we explore the zone and then head to Alberobello: famous for its trulli, Unesco World Heritage site.
Once arrived in the city center, we park the car (2€ h) and explore the countryside on foot while holding/enjoying our first ice cream.
The architecture of the trulli are suggestive. You find yourself immersed in an enchanted and exotic context which you can’t really point out clearly. The trulli are monuments which bring the earth and sky closer, sculpted from rocks and built with limestone slabs stacked to dry: a patient and superfine technique of the trulli maestros.
A real masterpiece of archaic culture that has quietly survived until our era.
Alberobello’s most famous zone: “Zona Monti”, it is gracious but we recommend a walk in the more quiet and less visited “Aia Piccola” neighborhood. At the end of the tour, enjoy the show from the “Zona Panoramica / Panoramic Area” at sunset.
Only then will you understand why Alberobello is a destination that one should never miss in their lives.
At nightfall, we begin to get hungry and decide to go to a restaurant recommended by many in Alberobello:
La Nicchia/The Niche.
The experience of eating in a trullo-based restaurant is fabulous.
Inside, the tables are cutely crouched between the “niches” and the atmosphere is intimate and relaxing. We then decide to order one of their best meals/plates, recommended by the courteous owner: tortino di fave e cicorie (fava beans and chicory cupcakes) and mixed grilled meats. We couldn’t have asked for more! Puglia has us by the throat…
Once back to our beloved trulli, evening gradually arrives and we are relaxing outside with the regular tunes of the crickets and the tender glimmer of the purposely lit candles.
3rd day – Locorotondo, Martina Franca, Cisternino.
Few are the places in which you can have fresh eggs that were just gathered from the hen-house!
Today alarm goes off earlier than usual and, once ready, Andrea meets us and recommends visiting some nearby villages. They are the three white pearls of Valle d’Itria: Locorotondo, Martina Franca and Cisternino.
So, we head towards Locorotondo which is just 10km from here. The city center presents itself with extremely clean and stone-paved roads.
Lush flowers of all types fall from the balconies (which we also discover is part of a rivalry/competition!) and the houses have a typical vaulted roofs, also known as “cummers” in the local dialect.
The blinding bathe of the quicklime on the walls of this village will be the most striking aspect, only the wonderful and colorful view of the Valle D’Itria, seen from one of its most panoramic spots will help you recover from all this splendor.
Hving left the first pearl la prima perla, behind, we head to Martina Franca.
We recommend taking the secondary route in-between the two villages and not the main one: a little bit distant but your eyes will appreciate it!
Martina Franca is the biggest town with respect to the neighboring ones, suitable for shopping but also with one of the most original city centers in the area. The Baroque style reigns here! All you need to do is observe the San Martino cathedral so as to remain fascinated by one of the highest examples of this style.
The alleys are a maze similar to that of an Arab medina, only by getting lost can one get the impression of how this agglomerate of houses could have preserved themselves all this while: the old grannies contemplating about passers-by while sitting in front of their doorsteps, the votive windows of saints placed in various angles of the neighborhoods and the alleys, so narrow that only one person at a time can pass…
The kids are tired and most of all hungry. We then bump into Gaonas almost by chance, a restaurant in the heart of Martina Franca. The young and friendly owner, nonetheless chef of the restaurant proposes a really inviting meal. The portions are of such unique aesthetic class, real works of art and their taste is nonetheless, here the traditional cuisine is made sublimely. In short, the paradise of taste/savory exists in Martina Franca!
In the afternoon we end our Tour of Valle d’Itria at Cisternino: we park the car not too far from the city center and take a walk without any worries through the silent alleys of incomprehensible names in their local dialect: “u panténe”, “bère vecchie”, “scheledd”…
The white color still engulfs our eyes but every town has its originality: here, in-between doors and windows, there are blue details which surround this enchantment.
Cisternino is famous also for its many butcheries which transform into real and proper open-space restaurants, with candlelit tables dotted along the alleyway and the fresh meat directly chosen from the counter (including rabbit and horse meat!).
Puglia also helps us to relax the mind and slow down the pace of our city legs. So, we stop in one of the many characteristic bars along the panoramic side of the town for an aperitif. With the Valle d’itria in front of us and dotted with many small trulli at sunset and a good glass of wine on your lips, red, like this sky, all we can do is contemplate the greatness of this spectacle for our eyes with infinite serenity.