Puglia occupies the entire heel of Italy, stretching from the spur, Monte Gargano in the
north, to the tip of the toe in the south, the Salentine Peninsula.
This region is more surprising than any other region of the south and includes such
diverse and unexpected surprises as the forests and limestone cliffs of the Gargano;
the expansive tapestry of farmlands that is the Murge; the fantastical trulli of the
Val d’Itria; stunning Byzantine, Baroque and Romanesque architecture; some of the oldest
and most glorious olive trees in Italy; towns bearing the imprint of their Arab and Greek
origins; beaches and sandy coves stretching the full length of the Adriatic and the
The Trulli Country and the Val d’Itria
Villa Santoro sits amongst the undulating hills and olive groves that make up the plateau
between the east and west coastal plains. This is the area that includes the Val d’Itria,
a landscape peppered with the fairytale stone cones of the ubiquitous Trulli. They are
unique to Puglia, their true origin as yet unknown, though it is thought they have their
origins in the civilisations of North Africa and Greece.
Built of limestone with extremely thick walls and of dry stone construction, their
conical roofs made up of three layers. The interior finished stone “candela” can be
particularly beautiful, extending all the way up to the pinnacle. The outer layer is
finished with upwardly decreasing concentric rings of horizontally laid limestone known
as chiancarle. The pinnacle is usually finished with one of a number of gifferent
symbolic plaster finials.
The towns and villages in this part of Puglia are amongst the most beautiful in southern
Italy. The Saracens, Greeks, Byzantines and Normans, through their conquests and
colonisation combined to influence the local people and produce a unique mix of exuberant
architectural styles and cultures.
The town of Ostuni floats like a vast white ocean liner over-looking the coastal plain
north-west toward the Adriatic. The views are stunning especially from the top of the old
town above the beautiful baroque cathedral and piazza. White-washed houses wind cheek by
jowl through labyrinthine streets, each sometimes no more than a few feet apart. Even in
the scorching mid-summer mediterranean heat these streets and houses remain reasonably
cool. Restaurants and bars abound in the old town and the baroque main square. Shops
range from the artisan to the most sophisticated.
Many other beautiful hill top towns are a particular feature of this part of Puglia.
Cisternino, Locorotondo and Ceglie Messapica form a triangle south and west of Ostuni,
all having their own distinct individuality and charm. These towns, surrounded by olive
groves and vineyards, are the epitome of real Italy, as yet unspoiled by tourism.
Limestone paved streets, open tree-lined piazzas, the evening passaggiata, weekly
open-air markets. All these are a part of the unspoiled character of Puglia.
Alberobello to the north west of this region is unique in that an entire section of the
old town is made up of streets of “terraced” trulli. There are over one thousand, many
now turned into souvenir and craft shops. Sad though it may be that this is probably the
one part of the area that has succumbed to tourism, it in no way lessens the impact of
so extraordinary a place.
The olive is king here,the finest and most unctuous. Also there are almonds,
pomegranates, oranges limes and lemons. The seafood, be it shellfish or wet is the
freshest; Sea bass, octopus, squid, clams, mussels, the variety is vast and quality
superb. Weekly markets in every town provide an outlet for locally grown vegetables and
reared meats; lamb, pork, beef and other meats you might not be prepared for!
Olives however equal with the grape are the driving force of the agricultural economy in
Puglia. This is only too evident when one sees the ancient trees still lovingly pruned
and cared for. These ancient and gorgeous specimens instill a reverence and awe in all
who see them.
This interior part of Puglia is very different to the coastal plains of both the Adriatic
and Ionian seas, however the beaches of both coastlines provide endless variety and the
closest are no more than 25 minutes drive away.