No need to go to Santorini, Greece, to watch the spectacle of a city all painted white live. The Valle d’Itria, which extends in the northern part of Puglia, between the provinces of Bari, Brindisi and Taranto, is famous throughout the world for its charming villages with white houses like a bride's dress. An amazing tour, an experience to do at least once in your life. Going to discover the "white cities" of Puglia is like being immersed in an enchanted world, suspended in time, light years away from the metropolitan chaos that is actually just around the corner. Bari, which with one million and three hundred thousand inhabitants is the sixth largest urban center in Italy, is in fact half an hour by motorway from Polignano a Mare. Here begins our itinerary based on relaxation, art and nature between the coast of Bari and Valle d'Itria, an ancient land of farms and antechamber of Salento. Here are the villages we visited and that we will describe for your May Day bridge: Polignano a Mare, Ostuni, Cisternino, Martina Franca, Locorotondo, Alberobello and Monopoli.
The Bari Palese Airport (also called Karol Wojtyla) was recently elected by the Altroconsumo allocation as the best airport in Italy with five stars. At the terminal it is easy to rent a car at reasonable prices to undertake a tour on the road in Valle d’Itria: the car is certainly the easiest way to move freely from one location to another, without time constraints. At the airport exit, take the Strada Statale 16 Adriatica, towards Brindisi, exit at Polignano a Mare. For those arriving by train, Bari Central Station is located in Piazza Moro, in the Murattiano district, from which the lines that make up the entire Apulian railway network branch out.
Our spring tour in Valle d’Itria starts from the spectacular Polignano a Mare, located in the middle of the east coast of Puglia. The statue of Domenico Modugno welcomes us with open arms, almost as if inviting those who admire it to Fly towards the sea that takes off behind it. Made in bronze by the Argentine sculptor Hermann Mejer and three meters high, it was erected on May 31, 2009 on the waterfront dedicated to the famous singer who was born here on January 9, 1928 and died on Lampedusa August 6, 1994, struck down by a heart attack.
Statue of Domenico Modugno in Polignano a Mare
Lama Monachile Beach in Polignano a Mare
Driving south on the Strada Statale 16 Adriatica, in forty minutes we are in the presence of Ostuni. Nicknamed "the gate of Salento", it rises on a hill overlooking the southern edge of the Valle d'Itria. The old Ostuni is entirely painted with white lime, with the exception of the Church of San Vito Martire, the Concattedrale dedicated to Santa Maria Assunta (with its splendid rose window in Romanesque style) and some other post-medieval buildings. Piazza della Libertà, where the Sant’Oronzo column stands out, is the main meeting point of the nightlife.
Entering the narrow alleys that lead to the village, you will come across typical and dimly-lit restaurants, inside small brick caves that make the evening more intimate. Ostuni, at sunset, is a unique spectacle: the red of twilight blends with the white of the houses, giving an iridescent effect to what is considered the whitest of the white cities. Moreover, walking along Viale Oronzo Quaranta, called ‘lu stradone’ due to its size and situated on the perimeter of the walls of the historic center, it is possible to enjoy a magnificent panorama that extends to the coast. With the traditional Notte di San Giovanni (June 24) the summer season of Ostuni officially opens, full of festivals, parties, concerts and tourist initiatives. In July and August, in fact, the white city is colored with emotions, music and fun!
Vittorio Emanuele Square in Cisternino
After twenty minutes on Provincial Road 17, we arrive in the first of the three cities that make up the heart of the Valle d’Itria. Cisternino, lying on a hill, overlooks the 'twin' Martina Franca and Locorotondo, forming a geographical triangle where the provinces of Bari, Brindisi and Taranto meet and, among the trees and agricultural estates, the famous trulli sprout like mushrooms . These particular dry stone conical constructions, the most remote prototypes of which date back to the 14th century, concentrate more, as we shall see, in Alberobello, but are scattered here and there also throughout the Valle d’Itria, the so-called Murgia dei Trulli. Cisternino is a small village that is characterized by its white streets, lacquered steps and a welcoming atmosphere. The festival of orecchiette, rabbit and grapes is an occasion for celebration and conviviality for citizens. But the real gastronomic specialty of Cisternino are the bomblets, pork meat rolls stuffed with cheese, salt and pepper. Enjoy them at Osteria Bell'Italia, a stone's throw from the Clock Tower. For a rural stay, we recommend the characteristic B&B Masseria Piccola, composed of light stone rooms with typical vaulted ceilings.
Plebiscito Square in Martina Franca
Martina Franca, a quarter of an hour away by car, is the largest city of the three. The historic center is a summary of the Apulian Baroque: the Basilica of San Martino in Piazza Plebiscito is its most striking artistic example. Those who love classical and lyrical music, in the summer Martina Franca offers the Valle d’Itria Festival. In ten minutes we are in Locorotondo, so called for the circular layout of the buildings, white and full of flowers, in particular cyclamens, which color the terraces and windows of this real enchanted labyrinth. At the Locanda del Ristoro, you can enjoy delicious traditional orecchiette and meat-based main courses.For a fabulous stay, we recommend Casa Vacanze Madonna d'Ibernia, surrounded by olive trees, fruit trees and the red earth of the countryside surrounding Locorotondo.
A little less than a quarter of an hour from Locorotondo rises Alberobello, a UNESCO World Heritage Site thanks to its trulli known all over the world and sets of various films, including Che bella giornata of 2011 which features the Apulian comic Checco Zalone. Walking among these cones, many of which are still inhabited by entire families, is an emotion to experience at least once in your life. It is also possible to visit them internally. We recommend the Trullo Siamese, the Trullo Sovrano and the Church of Sant’Antonio of Padua, with the trullo-shaped domes. It is true, the monumental complex of Alberobello is a purely tourist attraction, it is not by chance that most of the trulli are used as souvenir shops, but the spectacle of this village remains one of a kind and it is absolutely worth inserting it between the stops of a tour in Puglia.
Half an hour from Alberobello, on the coast, there is Monopoli, perhaps the least sponsored among the white cities, but in our opinion the most surprising. Yes, because Monopoli preserves the vintage charm of the Porta Vecchia as well as the ancient port. Its imposing bastions and the castle of Charles V, a 16th century manor that stands on the small promontory of Punta Pinna, make the historic center of Monopoli one of the most evocative seaside villages on a national level. Fishing boats and boats in blue wood, the pre-eminent color of the boats that you will find stranded on the pier, give a postcard of a Monopoly to be discovered, even walking through the medieval streets protected by the walls. For those who want to take a refreshing swim, the beach of Cala di Porta Vecchia is bathed in clear, emerald water, a prelude to the marvelous Salento sea that extends further south.
Cala di Porta Vecchia in Monopoli