Looking over the Valle d’Itria, in the Murgia dei Trulli, Cisternino lies 46 km from Brindisi, not far from the Adriatic coast.
The Great Gate or Norman-Swabian tower, crowned by a statue of St Nicholas, was formerly the main entrance to one of the most beautiful small towns in Italy.
Historic residences abound in the old town, including the Governor’s Palace, a fine example of baroque architecture in Apulia; the sixteenth-century episcopal palace; Palazzo Amati and Palazzo Lagravinese; and Palazzo Ricci-Capece with its Torre del Vento (Tower of the Wind).
Further on is the convent of the Capuchin monks with the church of St Anthony, the church of St Quirico, and the mother church dedicated to St Nicholas of Patara, built in the XIV century on the site of an early Christian church.
On Easter Monday, the people of Cisternino go to the Sanctuary of the Madonna of Ibernia, an archaeological site with Roman and mediaeval ruins, bearing u chrruchl (a typical sweetmeat thought to bring good luck), in the form of a small bag with two hard-boiled eggs for men, and a doll with an egg in its lap for women.
Locorotondo perches on a plateau, southeast of the Murgia dei Trulli, in the heart of the Valle d’Itria, and less than 10 km from Alberobello.
The name Locorotondo comes from the characteristic circular form of the ancient town centre.
It was founded in about AD 1000 when farmers built their huts at the top of the hill.
Awarded the Orange Flag (recognition of quality for small towns) by the Italian Touring Club for its harmonious structure and accessible historic centre, Locorotondo’s ancient heart is uniquely appealing, with its snow-white houses, paved alleyways, elegant entrances and flowering balconies. Together with the trulli, typical of Locorotondo are the cummerse, small geometrically shaped whitewashed houses with sloping roofs, now restructured to provide original accommodation for tourists. These are disseminated throughout the old town, as one of the first dispersed hotels in the area.
Standing out from the sprawling white houses in the historic centre are the bell towers of the many churches, such as the church of our Lady of Sorrows (Addolorata), Spirito Santo (Holy Spirit), St Nicholas, St Rocco and that of the Madonna della Catena (Our Lady with the Chain). In the church of Santa Maria della Greca (the “Greek” church) is a Renaissance polyptych dedicated to the Madonna of the Roses, together with a sculpted group of St George on horseback.
The wine trail across the Valle d’Itria also includes Locorotondo, home to an excellent DOP white wine.
The town is on the eastern hills of the Murgia, equidistant from the Ionian and Adriatic Seas. One of the most densely populated towns in the province of Taranto, Martina Franca is a melting pot of history and art.
Its name derives in part from veneration of St Martin, who saved the population from enemy invasions, and in part from the days when Philip of Anjou (Prince of Taranto) exempted the inhabitants from payment of taxes.
Gracing the old town centre are the characteristically narrow white houses unravelling along the winding lanes, together with the sumptuous baroque of the Palazzo Ducale (ducal palace), Palazzo Martucci, Palazzo dell’Università, Palazzo Motolese, Palazzo Maggi, Palazzo Ancona and, still within the mediaeval town walls, the Basilica of San Martino with its sculptures by Stefano da Putignano and Giuseppe Sammartino.
By contrast, Martina Franca shows its more simple rural side along the country lanes where characteristic trulli and crops enclosed by drystone walls can still be seen.
On the boundary between the Bari and Salento regions, Fasano lies 56 km from Brindisi, not far from the Adriatic Sea and from the Regional Natural Park of Coastal Dunes stretching from Torre Canne to Brindisi.
The old town is characteristic for its narrow alleyways, white walls, arches and small squares. The ancient walls still enclose the Torrione delle Fogge, a tower that was once an entrance to the town.
Not to be missed near Fasano are the archaeological excavations in Egnazia and the Zoosafari, the largest wildlife park in Italy. Also to be admired is the still intact Montalbano dolmen, probably dating back to the Bronze Age, around 2000-1500 BC.
Along the main road (no. 16), beside a typical gully and close to a masseria (farmstead), is a small temple dating from the IX century, the Tempietto di Seppanibbale, built from large blocks of local stone. Inside is a remarkable fresco cycle from the Lombard era.
Also worthy of a visit are the masserie, many of which have been transformed into hospitable agritourism accommodation and luxury resorts. The Masseria Sant’Angelo de’ Graecis provides an ideal occasion to absorb the history of Fasano’s territory, thanks to the Museo dell’olio d’oliva (Olive oil museum). On high, the Selva (forest) provides cool in the shade of ilex, oak and chestnut trees.