Having enjoyed a day trip from Bari to explore some of Puglia’s enchanting sights and delights in coastal towns; it was now time to indulge in some sensory delights, with stops in Alberobello and Martina Franca before arriving in Italy’s famous art city Lecce, known as “the Lady of the Baroque” and spending a few nights to take in the charming old town and to explore some of outer regions treasures.
Such sensory delights await as we embark on a lengthy stop to indulge the taste buds with fine wine, share a food feast platter of some of the regions finest cheeses, prosciutto and then dazzling the eye with uniqueness. Let’s take a walk around the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Alberobello.
Alberobello is approximately one hours drive south from Bari along the inner country roads, avoiding the Srada Statale toll roads.
Arriving in the township and crossing the rail line, we noticed an interesting mural on the wall of what turned out to be the Cantina Museo Albea (Albea Winery and Museum). Parking the car a little closer to the town centre, we then walked back to the rail crossing and made our way to the winery and museum.
The winery name, Albea is derived from the ancient name of Alberobello. With the town named after the primitive oak forest Arboris Beli (beautiful tree) that once covered the entire town area. Following an introduction to the wine region and an overview of the wines available, we then wondered around the upper level where the museum is located. It was interesting to read about the wine making techniques from the past through to modern day and see old agricultural tools used in days pasted, including large leather bags called capasoni that were used as wine bags.
Having sampled some nice reds, it would be unjust to leave the winery without purchasing a bottle of red to honour our visit to this amazing and very unique township with its origins dating back one thousand years.
Returning to the township, to find a very welcoming delicatessen; Antica Salumeria del Corso. Stepping inside was a feast to the senses.
Prosciutto, cheeses, various seafood, olives, those tasty little savoury treats know as taralli and so much more…grateful to learn they serve shared platters, and of cause a glass of vino to complement the tastebuds.
At the back of the delicatessen there is a small seating area where we settled in to dazzle the taste buds with a platter of stuzzichini (Italian tapas, in Southern Italy) and a glass of nice red wine. Time pasted and we left Antica Salumeria del Corso with contended tummies.
Stepping outside to see at the top of the street stands the Basilica of Saints Cosmos and Damian.
The neoclassical style Catholic Church built in 1885 welcomes parishioners and visitors with a large staircase and a façade that is decorated with Corinthian columns, in honour of the twins who are the patron saints of Alberobello.
Before wondering in the direction to see the township of trullis, we headed back to the car to drop of items that we didn’t want to carry. Happy we did so, having been issued a €42.00 parking fine. Lesson learnt and was time to move the car somewhere more suitable. We found a long stay parking area with a parking metre. Phew!
Alberobello – a UNESCO World Heritage site is famous for its charming rustic whitewashed cone topped rural homes, known as a trulli. A whole township of 1400 interlocking trullis, that are still lived in as private homes and others are available to stay overnight. What a sight to behold.
Alberobello became a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1996, yet as you can appreciate the township origins is significantly older. The name of these unique dwellings trulli, and the word trullo, comes from the Greek word tholos that means a circular dome shaped construction. The conical domed shaped dwelling, probably originated in Anatolia (now part of modern day Turkey) where similar style dwellings made with stones and topped with a domed roof, known as Harran can be found in the ancient city of Mesopotamia.
During the 1500’s Alberobello was a farming community; however the area wasn’t formally registered until 1654. At which time Count Giangirolamo Acquaviva the local land owner was called to the King’s Court to explain why he wasn’t paying taxes on all the dwellings on his estates? Therefore, it is believed by some that these unique and charming homes that were inhabited by the Court’s farmers were originally built consisting of a conical done built directly on the ground without any mortar or cement and having only one front door, that facilitated the ease of being dismantled and hence seen to be uninhabitable, were exempt from paying taxes to the Crown.
Either way, the dwellings of today that have been perfected over thousands of years to form permanent dwellings provide warmth in winter and the interlocking stone walls providing cool in summer, in favour of more modern day housing structures are truly a unique and charming sight to behold.
Strolling along the narrow lanes and then walking the hillside walk to take in the panoramic views across the lumpy, bumpy rooftops nestled in the shaded green forest consisting of almond trees and olive tree groves that occupy the surrounding countryside resembles a distinctive architectural whimsical land.
Before leaving Alberobello we made our way to the Romanesque style Church of Saint Anthony of Padua, built in 1926 and featuring the traditional domed trullo rooftops. The priest of the day, Antonio Lippolis wanted the poorer farming community folk who inhabited the many traditional trulli dwellings and worked the land to attend a church that resembled their homes.
Alberobello is truly like no other place in the world, the distinctive and consistent housing giving the town a calming and harmonious feel and look, its history together with many local artisan shops and excellent eateries that serve the many and tasteful delights and specialities from the region, certainly makes for a well worth place to visit and experience all this unique and charming town has to offer.
Leaving Alberobello and staying on the country roads we pass through the historic hilltop township of Locorotondo with its origins dating back to the 3rd and 7th century BC. The towns name is founded on the distinctive circular shape of the old town centre built during 1000 BC. A charming village with pops of colourful flowers greet us as we pass through on our way to the delightfully picturesque and charming old town of Martina Franca.
The historic township of Martina Franca lies on the Murgia plateau and is the half way point between the Ionian and Adriatic Seas. The towns name was founded in part by the grace and devotion of the town’s patron saint, San Martino who saved many of the towns inhabitants from invasions.
Entering through Saint Maria’s gate, one of four gates that are still used and once framed the walled town of Martina Franca, together with twenty four towers (not all towers remain), to find ourselves in the central piazza.
Roaming the sleepy lanes on a quiet afternoon we find ourselves in the Piazza Plebiscito approaching the ornate Basilica di San Martino standing proud as a main feature of Martina Franca.
A short distance away stands the historic old clock tower building that adjoins what was the University Palace during the medieval period and at the time the seat of the local parliament, giving a group of local citizens the equality rights to discuss and address local social issues under the governing of Ferdinand of Aragon, King of Naples.
The Baroque style Basilica of Martina Franca’s patron saint was built in 1747. The focal ornate and intrinsic sandy coloured carving on the Basilica’s majestic façade depicts San Martino giving a cloak to the poor.
Stepping inside, the Basilica is quiet with no one else around and provides a peaceful haven to appreciate the majestic surroundings of the basilica’s interior.
Leaving the Basilica and Piazza Plebiscito, it’s time to wander the lanes of the vertically standing and intertwining whitewashed houses and soak up the atmosphere of this delightful 18th century old town, that has its foundation from the 10th century.
A town that is a melting pot of history, artistic and ornate architectural designed houses with wrought iron decorations that adorn the balconies and many quaint open piazzas offering a choice of many outdoor cafés for an afternoon refreshment.
The day becomes night as we arrive in Lecce old town, approximately 1½ hours’ drive south from Martina Franca and home for the next couple of nights.
This blog is the third in a series of posts sharing my travels on day trips around Southern Italy’s Puglia Region. I hope you enjoy reading and that I bring some inspiration (if needed) to visit this amazing and magical part of the world.
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