Impressions from Trulli
Until recently, Puglia, the easternmost part of the heel of Italy’s boot, remained largely unknown, but today things are changing, and the region is recognized as a fascinating place, rich in architecture and lovely to behold. Farming is still the mainstay here – ancient, gnarled olive trees and verdant vines, luscious figs and almond trees emerge from the intense red soil, and deep green pines clothe the low hills.
Begin your journey at Monopli on the coast, with its defensive walls and towers that protect a once important harbour, dominated by an ancient castle. The pedestrianized centre is a charming maze of narrow streets, and there are imposing palaces and a splendid Cathedral to be seen. It’s an easy ride from there to Conversano, inhabited since Palaeolithic times. Built by the Normans, part of the megalithic walls form the foundation of the trapezoidal castle, which today houses the town’s picture gallery and Paolo Finolglio’s 16th century frescoes.
Now ride through the gently undulating landscape of the Itria Valley, with its old fortified farmhouses, masserie, standing amidst the cherry trees and olive groves, to the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Alberobello, and its 1,500 14th-century trulli houses. Unique to this area, trulli are small, circular buildings made of limestone blocks, with conical roofs, originally constructed without mortar. The town is, of course, heavily visited, but more trulli are dotted around the countryside.
Finally, make your way back towards the coast to Ostuni, an architectual gem of a palace. Known as la Cita Bianca- The White Town- for its brilliant, whitewashed houses, it is built on several levels, approached up steps, through arches and along little alleys. There are balconies and carved entryways everywhere, flowers trail from terracotta pots and from each corner you can see the sea.
Best highlights in Trulli Valley
Conversano – San Benedetto, 11th century monastery, with its two bell towers and medieval cloister.
Alberobello – The trullo church of St Anthony and the trulli museum.
The spectacular caves of Castellana Grotte, near Alberobello.
The ‘Processione della Grata, a candlelit procession of up to 6,000 people that takes place on the second Sunday of August, going from the Sanctuary della Grata, outside Ostuni, into the centre of town.