Trulli Italy in Puglia

About Puglia

Where is Puglia

Puglia (Apulia) occupies the extreme south-east of the Italian peninsula and makes up the ‘heel’ of the Italian ‘boot’. The region shares borders with Basilicata, Campania and Molise and is divided into 5 provinces, namely Foggia, Bari, Taranto, Brindisi and Lecce. The two main airports are situated at Bari and Brindisi.


A Brief History of Puglia

Apulia’s fine harbours and fertile plains always made it very vulnerable to invaders. In the 8th Century BC Greeks founded Taranto, Gallipoli and Otranto, Italy’s easternmost town. After the defeat of Pyrrhus in 272 BC the Romans took control of Taranto and also made Brindisi their main port for Greece (in modern day Brindisi ferry companies sail to Corfu, Patras, Igoumenitsa and Cefalonia, whilst Phileas Fogg, Jules Verne’s hero in ‘Around the World in Eighty Days set sail for the Suez Canal from here).


Apulia then flourished and enjoyed six centuries of Roman civilisation. The Arabs occupied Taranto for a short time in AD 840 and later Bari in AD 847.

The Norman invasion in 1056 finally ended two centuries of Byzantine rule, Otranto, Bari and Taranto being the last of the Byzantine cities to fall in 1070. Magnificent churches and cathedrals belong to this period of hybrid Romanesque-Byzantine-Arab culture, known as ‘Apulian Romanesque’. There are a vast number of Romanesque cathedrals in Puglia yet no two are completely alike, no rules govern their architectural style, but their variety, decoration and sculptural skill make them one of the many glories of Italian medieval art.

The cathedrals of Bari, Otranto, Taranto and Trani are all spectacular examples. At this time in the 11th century Lecce became a great trading power.


Puglia became the favourite region of Frederick II (King of Sicily from 1177 to 1250 and German Emperor from 1220 to 1250) and he built the magnificent Castel del Monte at Canosa around 1240, now listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site. The oldest surviving example of a trulli also dates back to the 13th Century.



The Renaissance was never fully established in Puglia, but in its place a new age of splendour began with the Baroque period. Lecce, often referred to as the “Florence of the South” is to the Baroque what Florence is the Renaissance. Its Cathedral, built from soft pale stone, is the best expression of this movement, but the style was even applied to private buildings, many of which have elaborate portals, carved window frames and sculptured balconies. Martina Franca’s centre is also a marvellous showcase of Baroque and Rococo architecture.

Now, at the beginning of the 21st Century, Puglia’s tourism and agriculture are thriving. In 2003 Puglia had over 1,500,000 Italian visitors and almost 300,000 visitors from abroad…Puglia’s own population was less than 4,000,000 in that year! It produces a very large percentage of  Italy’s wine and is the home of the sun-dried tomato and olive oil on a industrial scale. The environmentally conscious regional government continues to legislate to improve Puglia’s beautiful countryside, as well as its heritage. Craftsmanship such as stone carving, pottery, basket weaving and wrought iron are all still thriving here.

Places to Visit



Alberobello, meaning “beautiful tree”, is the ‘ Capitale dei Trulli’ and the most beautiful and famous trulli town. It is situated on two hills, once separated by a riverbed. The area of Rioni Monti and the Aia Piccola is wholly composed of trulli, over 1000 in total lined up on the side of seven streets. This area has been listed as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO since 1996. A visit to this totally unique town is an absolute must during your stay in Puglia.

Martina Franca

Martina Franca

Martina Franca is a stunning 18th Century town with a marvellous showcase of baroque and rococo architecture. It is known for its strong white wine, which is used in preparing spumanti and vermouth. It is unlike any other city in the province and is untouched by tourism. Its plan is almost circular, surrounded by a long and very panoramic ring road overlooking the Itria Valley, dotted with trulli.

Martina Franca is home of the world famous opera and classical music 'Festival della Valle d'Itria', now in its 32nd year.



Ostuni is a pre-roman town built on three hills. The beautiful old town centre is made up of steep medieval alleys and is circled by ramparts and many hours can be enjoyed just exploring these gleaming white streets. The cathedral, in the heart of the old quarter has one of the most beautiful facades in Puglia. The focus of town life is the triangular Piazza della Liberta flanked by bars and restaurants where you can sit outside and watch the world go by.



Lecce is a clean and spacious town and is to the baroque what Florence is to the renaissance, often being referred to as the “Florence of the South”. There are many things to see in Lecce, of the twenty or so churches in the town, Basilica di Santa Croce is the most impressive. There are ruins of a Roman amphitheatre once capable of accommodating 20,000 spectators, built at the time of Hadrian. To protect its heritage, Lecce’s old town has been restored and renovated and is now a pedestrianised zone.

Castellana Grotte

Castellana Grotte

Possibly the most exciting series of caverns in the whole of Italy. First discovered in 1938 the caves are a series of corridors connecting various chambers, rich in stalagmites and stalactites, in alabaster and other coloured stones. The caves are 1.5km long with an average depth of 65m. The Grotta Bianca (the white cave) is considered, by some the most beautiful cavern in the world because of its brilliant crystalline formations.



Materais located just over the border of Puglia in Basilicata. It is famous for its “sassi” cave dwellings and 120 cave churches, which were dug from the rock in ravines in and around the town. The “sassi” have been inhabited since prehistoric times until 1952 when its peasant population were evicted and re-housed in modern apartments around the new town. The old caves have now become the latest in “designer homes” and over 700 people now live back in the “sassi”. The best view can be obtained on the Strada Panoramica, a scenic road specially built for sightseers. The “sassi” have been declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO since 1993.Filming for the Mel Gibson film "The Passion of the Christ" was done at Matera, and in May/June 2006 scenes for the upcoming Hollywood movie "Nativity" were also shot in and around the town.



Back in Puglia, Massafra bears striking similarities to Matera. It is also divided in two by a deep ravine and has many grottos, cave dwellings and cave churches. A dramatic baroque staircase leads to the Madonna della Scala, which was built around an early cave church with a primitive 8th Century crypt.

Castel del Monte

Castel del Monte

A mighty fortress built around 1240 by Emperor Frederick II and one of the greatest medieval buildings of Europe. Its plan is octagonal, built around an octagonal courtyard, flanked by 8 towers which are also octagonal, with 8 rooms on each floor. It is still not known why the peculiar mathematical obsession with the number 8 dominates this structure. The castle is located on a hilltop and can be seen for miles around. UNESCO declared the castle a World Heritage Site in 1996.



Locorotondo is a strikingly beautiful town designed in a circular plan (hence the meaning of the name “round place”). It has been referred to as the “balcony of the Valle d’Itria” as it is set on a hilltop at the heart of the Murge and affords spectacular views of the Itria Valley. It is famous for its white wine and a visit to the Cantina del Locorotondo is certainly recommended. At the centre of the beautiful old town you will find the church of San Marco della Greca, a late Gothic building erected by Piero Del Balzo, Prince of Taranto.

Locorotondo is listed as one of "I Borghi piu belli d'Italia"..the most beautiful villages in Italy."



Cisternino is located 400 metres above sea level between olive groves and pine woodland. The medieval historical centre is almost of Greek appearance and is made up of white terraced houses with external staircases. The heart of the town is the lovely square with its clock tower. During the summer months and patron saints festivities the main square becomes alive with festivals, concerts and shows.

Cisternino is listed as one of "I Borghi piu belli d'Italia"..the most beautiful villages in Italy."


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