In September of 2008 we visited the southern Italian region of Puglia for the first and so far, the only time. We went there via Zürich to join up with Emma, Cosimo and Alessio for the flight south. The reason for the trip was to introduce little Alessio to his Italian relatives. Both his paternal grandparents came from Puglia and his nonna, Pompeia still has a small flat in her hometown of Francavilla Fontana. This is where we stayed for the first couple of nights, before moving on to a holiday village by the Adriatic coast. Puglia is a beautiful part of Italy and we had glorious weather for all of our stay. In fact it was too hot most of the time for us. That is except for Alessio, who seemed to be immune from the heat. Francavilla is an old medieval town founded by the Normans. It is a very busy commercial centre and not really a tourist destination. Though there are some fine old buildings to appreciate. Below are a couple. The first shows the dome of the cathedral, or Chiesa Madre as it is known locally. I used the tile pattern on the dome for my first embroidery project. Then comes a wonderful archway and finally Alessio enjoying some water from one of the many fountains in the town.
The reason we had chosen September for our visit was that Alessio’s birthday is on the 3rd of that month and we could celebrate his second birthday with his Italian relatives. This was done in suitable Italian extravagance. A lovely inn in the middle of the countryside was the venue and we were treated to a veritable feast of successive exquisite local specialities. Even Alessio enjoyed himself! The country inn was built in the style of trulli houses, one of which can be seen in the first photo below, followed by the gorgeous birthday cake and a group photo of Alessio’s relatives.
The next day we moved to our holiday villa by the coast. We chose this as a good base for touring the area, while the beach would provide a bit of relaxation for Alessio and the rest of us. A few miles inland from the coast rises a slight ridge and along this ridge is where the main settlements were built. These small towns are known as Le Città Bianche and as you will see from the photos below, White Cities is an appropriate name. The largest and main town is Ostuni which we visited a couple of times. It has all you would expect from a Puglian town – beautiful buildings, squares, sculpture, narrow streets and wonderful vistas of the countryside and the sea. Here are some glimpses of Ostuni.
Along the road from Ostuni are two other Città Bianche – Cisternino and Locorotondo. Both are smaller than Ostuni, but otherwise quite similar as regards buildings and styles and of course the colour white. Below are three examples.
From all these towns you get great views of the surrounding countryside, which is rich agricultural land, though rapidly filling up with houses. Below are a couple of views. The first is a view across to another town, Martina Franca, I think. Then a closer view of the land and its buildings. Finally a scene from the coast – the harbour at Marina di Ostuni.
A little bit away from Le Città Bianche is the town of Alberobello, the capital of Trulli country. A trullo is a dry stone hut with a conical roof. They are traditional to this part of Puglia. These unusually shaped buildings were originally rural shelters or stores, but during the 18th and 19th centuries they spread to towns such as Alberobello, where they are now a major tourist attraction. Below is a general view of the main area of the town where trulli houses are to be found, followed by a more detailed view of trulli, then Kathleen posing in one of the winding streets.
The town now has a fine museum dedicated to the history of trulli and the lifestyle of the people who used to live in them. It is housed in some of the old trulli buildings. Below are a couple of photos of articles from inside the museum. Finally, just to show that there is more to Alberobello than trulli, there is a photo of the town’s spectacular church.
While in Puglia we managed to sneak in a brief visit to one of the outstanding gems of the region, the city of Lecce. This lies a fair bit to the south of Ostuni and is the main city in southern Puglia. It was also the main residence for the Spanish governors when southern Spain was part of the Spanish Empire. And it is from that period that many of the glories of Lecce date. It is now a UNESCO heritage city on account of its marvellous baroque architecture. I end with three photos from Lecce, a lovely courtyard and two examples of the intricately decorated church façades.