Situated in the center of Puglia, at the heel of Italy’s boot, is the Itria Valley or Valle D’Itria, which stretches across Bari, Brindisi, and Taranto. Despite its name, Itria is not a real valley. It is a karst depression, a deep formation of limestone canyons, characterized by numerous caves, including the famous Grotte di Castellana (Castellana Caves), at which children often marvel. Flanked by two seas—the Adriac sea to the East and the Ionian Sea to the Southeast—Puglia (Apulia in English) is known for its olive groves, vineyards, thriving arts scene, historic highlights, and curious architecture.
Perhaps the most notable symbol of the region is the Trullo, or a fairytale-like dwelling with a whitewashed cone-shaped corbel-vaulted roof (represented by our logo). These Trulli line the valley, particularly in the small town of Alberobello and are often punctuated by peaceful Masserie, or manor houses that once belonged to the ancient bourgeoisie.
Facing the Ionian sea next to the Murgia plateau is the historic town of Taranto. Composed of three peninsulas and one island, Taranto is just as rich with archeology as it is with wonder. Greek pottery and temple ruins from this area, such as Basilican vessels and the remains of a Doric Temple are still visible. There is the Aragonese Castle from the 15th Century, which still stands along the Little Sea. There is the Piazza Fontana, the church of San Domenico, the Madonna della Salute Sanctuary, and many old palazzi, that date back to the time of the Byzantines.
Every summer the beautiful baroque “free” town Martina Franca (Province Taranto) plays host to the Festival della Valle d’Itria. Founded in 1975 and performed on a specially constructed stage in the outdoor courtyard of the Palazzo Ducale, the annual festival showcases original versions of rarely performed works (such as Verdi’s original 1857 version of Simon Boccanegra).
For those seeking less known pockets of Puglia, an ideal day trip is to head south down to Lecce, which is often called the Florence of the South. Here, ornate, hand-carved Baroque palazzos and churches turn gold in the afternoon sun.