Exploring the Heel of Italy’s Boot: The White Hill Towns of the Valle d’Itria

The White City (Ostuni)

The White City (Ostuni)

If you go to Puglia (Apulia), you must visit the trulli in the Valle d’Itria. Lucky you, because the valley, smack dab in the center of Puglia, has other lovely sights, including many dazzling white medieval hill towns, endless fields of olive trees, and several fortified farms called masserie. I can’t show you a masseria, because we saw only a couple, and we drove by the best one on a rainy night on a narrow road. Masserie were fortified with thick walls, towers, and other defenses against attacks by foreign invaders or by thieves, and many of these farms have recently been converted into lavish spas. They sound fascinating and I so wanted to see one. Sorry!

One town in the Valle d’Itria, Ostuni, is called the White City. I don’t know why it bears that nickname, since most of the hill towns are bleached white as snow. We visited Locorotondo, Martina Franca, Conversano, Ceglie Messapica, Putignano, and Ostuni, and although Ostuni sits on the highest hill and has a gorgeous view of the sea, the other hill towns seemed much more lively, cheerful, and interesting.

Locorotondo - mal occhio decoration

Locorotondo – mal occhio decoration

One of my favorite discoveries in the Valle d’Itria is the mal occhio (which means “evil eye”) building decorations that are used to ward off evil. Mean but beautiful, these masks are mounted above the doors of houses and businesses to protect the inhabitants. I wouldn’t want to mess with them!

Another favorite was the interesting building construction in Locorotondo: the cummerse, narrow rectangular town houses with pointed gable roofs that reminded me of the roofs of Belgium or The Netherlands. The streets of this town on a conical hilltop are circular (hence its name, which means “round place”), and the views of the Valle d’Itria were terrific—trulli everywhere!

Walking—and getting lost—in these whitewashed villages is such a treat. But photos speak better than words, so I’ll let them do the talking.

Here’s my advice for the Valle d’Itria. You will go to see the trulli, so pick one or two (or more) nearby hill towns and while away a few hours. The towns are not far apart, so seeing a few is easy. I especially enjoyed Martina Franca and Locorotondo, but all of the hill towns are pleasant and restful.

Ciao!

Other posts in this series: Matera and Basilicata, Trullo Country, Trani and Castel del Monte, Easternmost Spot in Italy, Lecce, Simple and Delicious Food

Martina Franca - one of the gates leading into the old town (photo by K. McKenna)

Martina Franca – one of the gates leading into the old town (photo by K. McKenna)

Martina Franca - Ducal Palace (now the city hall) with 18th-century frescoes by Domenico Carella

Martina Franca – Ducal Palace (now the city hall) with 18th-century frescoes by Domenico Carella

Martina Franca - Ducal Palace frescoes - one of my favorite frescoes EVER (on the ceiling)!

Martina Franca – Ducal Palace frescoes – one of my favorite frescoes EVER (on the ceiling)!

Martina Franca - we saw lots of these unusual, bell-shaped windows in this town.

Martina Franca – we saw lots of these unusual, bell-shaped windows in this town.

Martina Franca - the glorious Baroque Basilica di San Martino

Martina Franca – the glorious Baroque Basilica di San Martino

Martina Franca - a mal occhio is mounted over this beautiful door

Martina Franca – a mal occhio mask is mounted over this beautiful door

Martina Franca - this is the mal occhio mask above the door in the previous photo

Martina Franca – this is the mal occhio mask above the door in the previous photo

Martina Franca - mal occhio decoration

Martina Franca – mal occhio decoration

Martina Franca - madonnella

Martina Franca – madonnella

Martina Franca - church

Martina Franca – church

Locorotondo - I took this shot from a traffic circle below the town.

Locorotondo – I took this shot while we were driving around a traffic circle below the town.

Locorotondo - cummerse house

Locorotondo – cummerse house

Locorotondo

Locorotondo

Locorotondo - closeup of the cummerse construction

Locorotondo – closeup of the cummerse construction

Locorotondo (photo by K. McKenna)

Locorotondo (photo by K. McKenna)

Locorotondo - mal occhio decoration

Locorotondo – mal occhio decoration

Locorotondo - church

Locorotondo – church

Conversano - castle (photo by K. McKenna)

Conversano – castle (photo by K. McKenna)

Conversano - such a graceful castle tower

Conversano – such a graceful castle tower

Conversano - beautiful majolica dome of the monastery of San Benedetto

Conversano – beautiful majolica dome of the church or the monastery of Santa Benedetto

Conversano - dome of the monastery of San Benedetto

Conversano – dome of the church or the monastery of Santa Benedetto

Conversano - cat fight at the Monastery of San Benedetto (so ferocious!)

Conversano – cat fight at the church or the monastery of Santa Benedetto (so ferocious!)

Conversano - Cattedrale di  Santa Maria Assunta

Conversano – Cattedrale di
Santa Maria Assunta

Conversano - icon in the basilica

Conversano – icon of the Virgin of the Source in the cathedral

Conversano - alterino (s small altar honoring someone, usually a real person—not the same as a madonnella.

Conversano – altarino (a small altar honoring a person—not the same as a madonnella)

Ostuni house

Ostuni house

Ostuni church

Ostuni church

Ostuni street

Ostuni street

Ostuni - view of the sea and the olive orchards

Ostuni – view of the sea and the olive orchards

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One Response to Exploring the Heel of Italy’s Boot: The White Hill Towns of the Valle d’Itria

  1. Lizzy says:

    Beautiful! Thank you for sharing your experiences as well as the info on Valle d’Itria!

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