Saturday, December 20, 2008

Trulli, Alberobello, and Valle d'Itria

Leaving Matera, we headed towards the valley known for trulli – conical stone-roofed houses that were traditional for centuries. Without a detailed map, we looped around the industrial outskirts of Bari and along the coast, before heading inland through agricultural areas full of lettuces (butter and red), parsley, what looked like pac choi greens, and endless olive groves.
The soil is rocky (an understatement); piles of excavated stones make up stone walls, smaller stones provide a rocky mulch for young olive trees, and other stones were piled up near remnant holm oaks.

We stopped at the Grotto de Castellana, the largest caverns in Italy, maybe in Europe. We’d never been in such extensive limestone caves; I vaguely recall visiting Carlsbad Caverns, in New Mexico, USA as a child, and thinking they were expansive.

We passed several garden centers. Now that we're able to get online again, I can check to see if my ‘small seed lots permit’ has been approved. I would really like to bring some seeds home for some unusual Italian vegetable varieties.

The countryside through Arborbello (a main trulli town), Locarando, Cisternino, and Ostuni was pastoral, and nice; Southern Italy seems to alternate between wonderful towns and landscapes, and ‘modern’ block apartments and industrial development. Arborbello is supposedly overrun by tourists, but not this time of the year. We had the trulli area designated by UNESCO to ourselves, basically,

But always, there seem to be pockets of growing things; olive groves are everywhere, intermixed with vegetables.

The smaller Puglia hill towns (Locarando and Cisternino) were a delight, with atmospheric pathways and attractive buildings. Parks provided views into the countryside, a patchwork of agricultural fields and olive orchards. Not a hotel to be found, at least this time of year, so we ended up in a small hotel in Ostuni, a much larger town spread across three hills.

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