PUGLIA CONTINUED: alberobello, locorotondo, martina francA

It was mostly Alberobello and Lecce which had drawn me to Puglia in the first place; that and simply a desire to see a new part of Italy because there wasn’t an area we’d visited so far that I wouldn’t visit again. Some of Sicily had disappointed but that had been made up for easily in Taormina, Savoca and the superb sights in Palermo/Monreale.

So – I was excited to be finally making for the World Heritage Site of Alberobello. Lecce also sounded quite something , described as the ‘Florence of the South’ with extravagant Baroque architecture. I couldn’t wait to see it too.

Leaving Polignane, it wasn’t long before we began to see the famous white – washed, cone roofed Trulli dotting the flattish landscape. Amazing structures! I had read somewhere (far too many guide books consulted) that Puglia often offered a harsh, even raw landscape but while I can enjoy that kind of wildness this was certainly not the landscape we drove through to Alberobello. It was mostly flat and populated with many smallholdings.In fact, I was quite surprised at how populated the countryside was though I shouldn’t have been; Puglia’s fertile land and climate have led to it being coveted for thousands of years by many different peoples.

Our Airbnb accommodation was in a Trullo , very close to the largest of all – Trullo Sovrano – in Piazza Sacramento.This is a quiet part of Alberobello away from the main historic centre, close to the cathedral and on the edge of the modern town. Easy to find free parking in Via Monte Grappa, leaving us just a minute’s walk away from the offices of ‘Charming Trulli ‘ which offer several Trulli as accommodation.We followed the chap on reception to a small residential cluster set in a small lane, all brilliantly whitewashed and pristine. Going through the front door was like entering a house that Frodo might have lived in, in Lord of the Rings. But on closer inspection, it was quite spacious inside and lived up to its ‘charming’ description.A nice simple place and super quiet.

Our Trullo
Our Trullo
Our Trullo for the night
Sitting room

We were keen to get a first look at the famed historic centre , the Rione Monti, so after a much needed mug of tea, off we headed to the Basilica SS Cosma E Damiano , a beautiful cathedral on the Piazza Curri.

Alberobello Duomo
Alberobello’s Duomo

At the far end of this pleasant area, there in front of us was THE iconic view over the hundreds of coned roofs of Alberobello as seen in myriad postcards.Quite something! Unique.

The historic centre

The plan had been to explore this area tomorrow but there was still plenty of daylight left and given there is no time like the present…

Stone steps led us down to the main road and piazza at the very entrance to the World Heritage Site.I noticed the last of the tour buses taking off and felt relieved that the crowds had now gone; we had the place pretty much to ourselves.


There’s no denying that the dazzling white Trulli are pretty but each one, unfortunately, is now a shop selling tourist tat which severely detracts from their appeal.Suddenly, it felt a bit like entering a theme park with none of it seeming quite real.Music blared out from some of the Trulli, somewhat ruining the atmosphere of car free little streets.

Most trulli converted into tourist shops
Most of the main street was like this…

There seemed only to be two main streets as such with various narrow connecting lanes in between. At the top of the historic centre was a beautiful old Trullo church, a haven of peace.But the main area itself, we found ourselves quickly losing interest in.

Trullo church

Our host had suggested a wander through the more residential side of the town and this was certainly much more authentic where people did genuinely live.


That said the tiny little cluster of Trulli which made up ‘ our bit’ was very genuine. An elderly lady lived next door and greeted us next morning with a smile and a quiet ’buongiorno.’ She asked us how we enjoyed our stay and since we had genuinely liked the house itself, I replied ‘molto bene.’ With a wave of her hand, she indicated the Trulli all around us and said ‘bellissimo.’ She clearly loved living here! 

A small TODI Supermarket off Piazza Curri supplied our evening meal as we weren’t really very hungry after the late lunch in Polignane. The same fare did us proud as ever – tomatoes, good bread, prosciutto and Emmental, very predictable!

Breakfast was cold meats, cheese and bread and we now had time in hand.There was no point in heading back into the historic centre, even if it was only a 15 min walk away. Locorotondo sounded as if it would offer perhaps a more rewarding experience.


Locorotondo from the road to Martina Franca
Locorotondo from the road to Martina Franca

A whitewashed village built in a circular fashion on top of a small hill, it looked just the sort of smaller town I increasingly enjoy. It was as we made our way along the main road below the older part of Locorotondo, that I began to feel the start of a cold coming on. Bought some Paracetamol (bizarrely, it cost £7- at least 7 times more expensive than at home!) and tried to ignore my heavy head and shiveriness.It was also Chris’s 67th birthday today and I’d booked dinner in Lecce tonight in Il Vico del Gusto, a place which looked good for a special occasion.

A Friday market was going at full pelt in the town and we picked up some Sicilian oranges.Vitamin C is good for a cold too!

Market day

Then coffee and a croissant in a quiet café before sauntering out once more to explore the small, winding streets and some pretty corners.

Good croissant

Some nice Baroque architecture too…

Some nice Baroque architecture Locorotondo
Pretty Baroque with wrought iron balconies

It was a pleasant visit but not wow.

Locorotondo Cappella Madonna del Soccorso
Cappella Madonna del Soccorso

We’ve seen so many beautiful, whitewashed villages (in Spain and Greece in particular) that Locorotondo didn’t quite compare.To me , its loveliest aspects were the church bell towers (San Giorgio Martire) and the views of the town from the road to Martina Franca.

Feeling perhaps just a little disappointed in Locorotondo overall, what a delight it was to arrive at Martina Franca and immediately love it!


Several original stone gateways lead into the town, including Porto Santo Stefano, the entrance to the pretty Piazza Roma.

Palazza Ducale
Palazzo Ducale , Martina Franca

The piazza is dominated by the imposing 17th century Palazzo Ducale, one of Puglia’s grandest buildings. A stern looking, armed policeman was guarding the building so I approached cautiously and asked if we could visit(I admit that I usually find Italian policemen a bit forbidding and haughty.) His demeanour changed completely, he broke into a broad smile and ushered us inside with a very friendly manner, showing us the staircase to the publicly accessible, upper floors. Maybe we’re finally beginning to look like a couple of old duffers who need a bit of help.

Paid the small ticket price to see inside the rooms with their impressive frescoes. The whole place is now the city’s Town Hall but this was worth seeing – very grand.

Frescoes Palazzo Ducale Martina Franca

Past the palm trees of Piazza Roma, a wander took us to the wonderful Basilica San Martino, with its lovely frescoes and lightness and the gorgeous Piazza Plebiscito.

Beautiful streets in Martina Franca

Many of the buildings were SO beautiful with that mix of whitewashed walls set off by doorways and windows of golden stone, decorated in an extravagant Baroque style.I really find that architecture very appealing.Very similar to white towns like Osuna in Andalusia.

Martina Franca

One side of the piazza had a semi circle of arcades and buildings with wrought iron balconies, adding to the overall attractiveness. A town to linger in, definitely.

Martina Franca
Martina Franca Baroque

I was slightly taken aback by a very realistic, macabre figure hanging overhead.She is a ‘Quarantana’ linked to Lent and the period before Easter.The Italian word quaranta means 40 , a reminder of Jesus’ 40 days of fasting the desert. Although it’s associated with the Christian celebration it has strong pagan roots too.

A Quarantana hanging over the streets

Lecce was 1hr 20 mins drive away still and our overnight stop but I was really keen to see Otranto.We debated whether it was worth the extra 35 min detour south but it was such a glorious afternoon and the sea as ever was a big draw.Otranto it was!

Other Trip Days:naples, puglia and the amalfi coast EXPLORING SOUTHERN ITALY – Puglia OTRANTO, LECCE AND MATERA


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