When I came to this city for the first time I felt like Alice in Wonderland and I remembered the Queens’s words: “When I was your age, why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.” For me, coming to Alborobelo was exactly one of those impossible things. This city does not resemble any city I have seen so far. Small houses from a fairy-tale, only the Smurfs missing in the picture.
The name of the city comes from the Greek word for a dome, and these picturesque houses of unique architecture are built of limestone without binding materials, so they can be easily torn down and quickly built again. In this fairy tale tax collectors play the role of an evil wizard. Legend says that trulli houses date from the 17th century and that they appeared as a result of civil disobedience of the local population to high taxes. Southern ingenuity in tax evasion and builders’ imagination helped create this city, one of the most unusual places on the planet.
Alborobelo has one Japanese to thank for its world fame. This man, amazed by the city’s appearance and the story behind the emergence of trulli houses, sent a photo to UNESCO… The rest is history.
The Castellana Caves, the magical work of nature
Stunning landscapes of Puglia are to be seen in Castellana Grotte, another interesting little town in which time has stopped. One of the biggest attractions in Italy is to be found precisely here, a limestone cave, 3000 m long, decorated with magical nature’s jewelry: stalactites and stalagmites.
San Giovanni Rotondo, the symbol of southern Italian identity
Another wonderful city found its place in the heart of the Gargano National Park– San Giovanni Rotono, one of the most important shrines in Italy, dedicated to Saint Padre Pio, the symbol of southern Italian identity and the picturesque little town called Monte Saint Angelo, where the well-known place of pilgrimage is found, the cave-chapel dedicated to Saint Archangel Michael.
Castel del Monte, the jewel of Puglia
Another jewel of Puglia, Castel del Monte, an octagonal castle with eight towers, is very well preserved and it is one of the most sophisticated edifices from the Middle Ages. “Castel del Monte is of outstanding universal value in its formal perfection and its harmonious blending of cultural elements from Northern Europe, the Muslim world and classical antiquity. It is a unique masterpiece of medieval military architecture reflecting the humanism of its founder: Frederick II of Hoenstaufen.” With these words, in 1966, the UNESCO Committee for the World Patrimony included this castle, built about 1240, in the World Heritage List.
Mysterious Otranto found its place on the Strait of Otranto, where the Adriatic Sea meets the Ionian Sea and where Italy is the nearest to the Balkans. Surrounded with the turquoise sea and the Aragonese Fortress, the so called “Diamond’s Head”, this ancient town treasures its history in the magnificent cathedral bearing the same symbolism as the Skull Tower in Niš. The remains of 800 martyrs from Otranto killed by the Turks in 1480 because they had refused to convert to Islam lie in the small chapel in the cathedral; the Pope canonized them in 2013.
The cathedral was built in the Romanesque style with Byzantine elements, and magnificent floor mosaics with the biblical motifs attract special attention. The traces of Byzantium are also visible on Saint Peter’s Church with spectacular byzantine frescoes.
“Reality is more beautiful than imagination” I thought when I saw enchanting Lecce, the most beautiful city in the region, with lace facades, the Florence of the South… It seemed familiar, nostalgic, as if I found myself in Fellini’s cult movie “The Sweet Life”, and all that in the rhythm of Al Bano’s “Happiness”.
As the sun goes down the Lecce Baroque fantasy plays in fragile stone, local tufa which absorbs the sun rays and transforms them into a flickering honey and amber colored flash. One can simply wander the streets, admiring magnificent churches, mysterious palaces, squares, fountains, gorgeous facades, balconies and absorb life which flows gently carrying the luggage full of knowledge, long history and tradition.
Puglia – Walking on sunshine
Puglia is the largest producers of olive oil and Italy’s biggest wine cellar. Some of the best Italian wines, such as Primitivo di Manduria and Negroamaro, are produced here.
White City or Belgrade, which is the name of the small town of Ostuni in Italian, resembles many picturesque places in Kikladi.
Baroque Martina Franca, archaic Monopoli, picturesque Polignano a Mare are just some of the towns-treasuries which should be visited in this hidden corner of heaven. Charming Puglia is where the Italians mostly go for the summer, and it is obvious why after you take just one look at any of the beautiful beaches on the Salentine Peninsula. Because of pearly sand and crystal clear turquoise water this region is also called the Maldives of Italy.
I was making plans how to get to ancient Matera, from neighboring Basilicata, one of the oldest cities in Europe, a mystical little town carved into rocks, the construction from late prehistory. It must be unbelievable to live in houses where your ancestors lived 9,000 years ago, but I will leave that for another time.
Trailer for romantic musical comedy, Walking on sunshine: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7wSzBGZwWD4
Author: Rada Sević
Translation: Marija Đurđević