The Valle d’Itria is a portion of the territory of central Puglia between the metropolitan city of Bari and the provinces of Brindisi and Taranto . Its territory coincides with the southern part of the Murge plateau: strictly speaking it is the karst depression that extends between the towns of Noci, Alberobello, Locorotondo, Cisternino and Martina Franca. The main peculiarity of the valley are the trulli , typical and exclusive cone-shaped stone houses, the farms and the rural landscape generally characterized by the high use of local stone used to build dry stone walls and the bright red soil, typical of southern Puglia
The historic center of Noci is characterized by gnostre , courtyards open onto the alleys, and by strange funnels. In autumn the historic center comes alive with colors and scents of new wine and chestnuts.
The Mother Church of Noci is dedicated to Santa Maria della Natività , it was built in 1316 at the behest of Philip I of Anjou after having escaped a violent storm by taking shelter under a walnut, here the Madonna appeared to him and since then the inhabited area of Noci got this name. It houses numerous works including a fourteenth-century baptismal font, a Madonna with child attributed to Stefano da Putignano and 14 eighteenth-century canvases representing the Via Crucis. Opposite is the Clock Tower or Civic Tower completed in the early decades of the nineteenth century.
A little more than a kilometer from the inhabited center, the church of the same name rises near the Masseria Barsento which was once a convent; this was erected in 591 at the behest of Pope Gregory the Great. The interior has a basilica plan with barrel vaults whose structure is similar to that of the trulli, it should be noted that the construction technique will develop in the area about a millennium later.
In the direction of Gioia del Colle, about 6 kilometers from the city is the Abbey of Santa Maria della Scala , the complex, built in 1930 was built near a previous church of the eleventh century, of which the current one, in Romanesque style Apulian, retains the portal. It is currently inhabited by about twenty Benedictine monks and inside there is an important laboratory for the restoration of ancient books.
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It has been a Unesco World Heritage Site since 1996 with its thousand trulli sprouting between steep streets. The local gastronomy offers sweets of almonds, pettole, cartellate and amaretti.
The Monti district has been declared a National Monument since 1910, it is here that most of the city’s trulli are located, in the district the ancient buildings are mainly used for commercial use and are arranged on 8 parallel streets. The Siamese Trullo is among the oldest in the city, its construction should date back to 1400, the peculiarity of this house is that it is a double trullo, with two cones and two entrances from different roads, the legend linked to this construction tells that it was inhabited by two brothers who, however, fell in love with the same woman, had to share the house as coexistence between the two became impossible.
At the edge of the Monti district there is a very particular building, the Church of S. Antonio , a trullo-shaped cult building. The church of S. Antonio was built in 1927 with a monumental entrance surmounted by a rose window.
The other district consisting of trulli is the Aia Piccola district , this is much more intimate as there are no commercial activities within it. Close to Aia Piccola and Piazza del Popolo there is an agglomeration of trulli called Casa Pezzolla , where the Territory Museum has been set up, where tools of the peasant tradition are exhibited and the use of stone in local society is illustrated.
Among the many buildings, Casa d’Amore stands out, the first house built using mortar, a single-storey trullo building with a small balcony; Casa d’Amore has been a national monument since 1930.
The Basilica dei Santi Medici Cosma e Damiano was built in the eighteenth century near a previous rural church; it is accessed by climbing a staircase and crossing a beautiful bronze portal richly embellished with bas-reliefs. Inside there are numerous paintings, the Madonna di Loreto present on the main altar, and the frescoes on the apse; the church also preserves important relics of the saints to whom it is dedicated.
Behind the Basilica dei Santi Medici, the Trullo Sovrano stands out with its 14 meters in height. The Trullo Sovrano is the largest structure in the country and the only two-storey one, it was built in the mid-1700s and represents the highest point of the dry construction technique. It can currently be visited and is furnished with traditional furniture.
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Where the Murgia slopes down, there is the Valle d’Itria , a green buffer halfway between the Adriatic and the Ionian and Locorotondo overlooks this plain, surrounded by small hills. It stands neat and silent on the top of a hill that surrounds the last Murgian buttresses of the Bari area.
Harmoniously rounded as the toponym itself suggests, Locorotondo owes its name to the morphology assumed by the first inhabited center, built around the year 1000.
On the top of the hill on which Locorotondo stands is the Villa Comunale , an obligatory stop in order to admire the expanse of centuries-old olive trees and trulli that make up the Valle d’Itria. From the Villa you can easily reach the majestic Mother Church of San Giorgio Martire , dedicated to the city patron saint and built between 1790 and 1825 with the bell tower almost 50 meters high. The Greek cross interior houses works by the Neapolitan painter Federico Maldarelli and a beautiful wooden choir from a church previously built on the same site.
Taking via Cavour you come to the Church of S. Maria della Greca , with its beautiful Romanesque shapes. The church is the oldest in Locorotondo , although we only have news of its last construction, dating back to 1480 by Pirro Orsini del Balzo, Prince of Taranto. The façade is gabled with lateral sloping, on the entrance portal there is a rose window which replaced the previous medieval one that was destroyed in the twentieth century. The paintings preserved inside are all from the sixteenth century.
The surrounding countryside certainly deserves a nice walk, dotted with trulli, the agglomerations built around the so-called jazzili are very interesting: groups of single-family trulli with common services such as the cistern, the farmyard and a small chapel.
5 kilometers from the city, near the Selva di Fasano is the populous district of San Marco , here there is the homonymous rural church built in 1678, with a Latin cross with a bell gable and a roof covered with stones, made with a technique similar to that used for the roofs of the trulli.
Martina Franca is a fourteenth-century town which rises in the middle of the Itria Valley and which falls within the municipal territory of the Bosco delle Pianelle . Frequented since the Neolithic, it was founded by the Prince of Taranto Philip I of Anjou. The city is known for its Baroque architecture and the Valle d’Itria music festival.
The city center is represented by Piazza XX Settembre, overlooked by the Villa Comunale , once the garden of the convent of the Graces. Beside the villa stands the fifteenth-century Church of S. Antonio ; with the neoclassical facade built in 1835, it preserves two sculptures by Stefano da Putignano.
Crossing an arch you reach the historic center where the Palazzo Ducale stands, which currently houses the Town Hall, built in 1668 on a pre-existing castle. The high baroque façade with two floors divided by a long balcony is striking. The completely frescoed rooms of the Myth, the Bible and Arcadia are of considerable importance. Palazzo Ducale also houses the Museo del Bosco delle Pianelle.
Taking Corso Vittorio Emanuele, another Baroque facade stands out before your eyes, it is the Basilica of S. Martino, construction of the mid-1700s, on which stands the beautiful portal surmounted by the sculpted group of S. Matino and the poor. The interior is a Latin cross with a single nave, richly decorated, very beautiful the high altar on the sides of which there are two marble statues of Charity and Maternity.
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Cisternino , one of the most beautiful villages in Italy , stands on a green hill and is characterized by an architecture resulting from a spontaneous settlement, with typical white terraced houses and external stairs. It is advisable to stop for an aperitif in Piazza dell’Orologio.
Entering the city it is worth stopping at the Municipal Villa , from whose belvedere it is possible to wander over the Valle d’Itria. On the opposite side of via Manzoni there is the Mother Church of San Nicola, of Romanesque origin, the building was built on an early Christian church previously used by the Basilian monks.
The current façade in neoclassical style was built in 1848, the interior has three naves divided by columns, one of the most famous sculptures of the Apulian Renaissance is kept here: the Madonna with Child and offering , also known as Madonna del Cardellino , made by Stefano da Putignano in 1517. The church houses numerous works of art such as the frescoes on the left aisle or the beautiful statue of San Nicola.
In front of the church rises the Norman-Swabian Tower , built between the 11th and 12th centuries, it is also called the Great Tower because it was the largest of the city defensive system. The tower is about 18 meters high and considering that it has no slits and machicolations, it is conceivable that it was a lookout or signal tower. A little further on is another tower, cylindrical in shape and belonging to the defensive system of the Aragonese period.
In the nineteenth-century main square, the Clock Tower , the city’s symbol, and the place chosen by the summer nightlife, makes a fine show.
(source Puglia.com )