One of the major attractions in Puglia is Alberobello, a UNESCO world heritage site, where you will find over 1500 trulli, the cone shaped buildings unique to Puglia, clustered together in an urban environment.
During the height of the summer season busloads of tourists are dropped off near the Rione Monti the main road where picturesque trulli have been converted into souvenier shops and restaurants with vendors at the doorways enticing visitors to enter their shop. Escape the tourists and take the stairs across the main thoroughfare up to the modern part of town to the Basilica di Sante Cosma and Damiano. Here there are a noticable absence of tourists but plenty of locals shopping, sipping coffee outside a bar or just sitting and chatting in the square.
In summer Alberobello plays host to a number of festivals. These include a significant international folk festival, music festivals including classical, jazz and popular music, dance, theatre, street theatre and childrens events. There are also religious festivals with music performances and firework displays. Most of the performances are free and open-air.
The town has a vibrant passeggiata with summer strolls continuing beyond midnight.
Castel del Monte is a perfectly octagnal castle, built by Emperor Frederick II in the 13th century, is a mystery in that no one really knows why it was built: it wasn't lived in, it is not near any town, has no moats or other defence structures, although built on top of a hill. It is made up of a central octagonal core containing an inner octagonal courtyard that is surrounded by eight tall, perfectly octagonal towers on each of the eight corners. The interior, which has no corridors, consists of two floors which are connected by by three spiral staircases.
Some theories suggest that the octagon is a representation of the union between a square (representing the earth) and a circle (representing the sky) and therefore a celebration between God ad humanity.
Italian City of Matera in Basilicata Awarded European Capital of Culture 2019
The ancient city of Matera, inhabited since the Paleolithic Age, is home to the Sassi, caves that were adapted to be used as homes with a system of canals that regulated the flow of water. Many of these homes appear to be stacked one upon the other are in reality only caverns. Step onto one of the narrow lanes between houses, and you're actually standing on the roof of the house below.
People lived in these one-room stone homes without heating or plumbing and often with donkeys or other animals sharing the same space. Conditions were so bad that, in 1952, the government of Italy was shamed into moving the dwellers out of their old quarters and into new, modern homes. This "new Matera" still exists, up the hill from the ancient sassi, and it's where the vast majority of Matera's residents live today.
The Sassi are divided into two districts, Sasso Barisano and Sasso Caveoso. Both are riddled with serpentine alleyways, staircases and frescoed cave churches. Today however the districtss have gone through extensive re-development and hosts some incredible cave hotels, private homes and restaurants, lovingly restored to enhance their original features.
The World Heritage Committee has inscribed the Sanctuary of San Michele Arcangelo in Monte Sant'Angelo on the UNESCO World Heritage List. The Sanctuary is one of the seven groups of historic buildings included in the World Heritage Site "Longobards in Italy. Places of the power (568-774 A.D.)".
The shrine of Monte Sant'Angelo, which consists of a large cave, had once been the site of a pagan temple in pre-Christian times. Beginning in the year 490, it has been the site of at least four visitations by Saint Michael the Archangel, who specified this spot as a place where prayers will be answered. The shrine also houses a museum that displays many of the ancient offerings and artifacts left by pilgrims since the 5th Century.
Mass is still celebrated here and visitors are not allowed in during mass. Visitors should dress appropriately for entering a church and be respectful of those using it as a place of worship.
Complete your trip to Alberobello with a visit to small and atmospheric Trullo Antichi Sapori shop which has been selling quality local cheeses, salami, wines, olive oils, pasta, etc.
The shop which has been operating since 1930 is made up of three trullo cones in which every nook and cranny has been filled with local produce for sale.
To get a feel for what it would have been like to live in a trullo in the early part of the 20th century you can see the kitchen corner typical of the time and view a bedroom in one of the cones which has been furnished with a wrought iron bed with a hand made bedspread, as would have been worked by the women of house. The room is viewed via a strategically placed mirror.
The owner, Maria or her assistant, who speaks excellent English, will be happy to show you around give you a taste of some of the local produce and wines.
All their items can be shipped overseas.
For direct flights from the UK to Bari and Brindisi, Puglia's main airports check the links below.
Ryanair flies to both Bari and Brindisi throughout the year from Stansted
British Airways flies to Bari from Gatwick April through to October
Easyjet flies to Bari or Brindisi from Gatwick throughout the year
Other Italian airports within easy reach of Puglia include Pescara and Naples (about 3 hours).
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