The fifth day of the trip took us out of the Salento and into the Itria Valley of Puglia. The most striking thing about this itinerary was that we were headed to an area known for the trulli, the conical-shaped homes and buildings that are unique to this area. The first town was Locorotondo, which was fabulous, and then we stayed in Alberobello, full of trulli, and enjoyed another outstanding dinner of local specialties.
Getting to Locorotondo was a big ride: 33 miles with one stop in the town of Ceglie Messapica, which required climbing a big hill. After Ostuni, I felt ready for anything.
Our trip leader Cristiano took us to a pastry shop where we had our usual coffees and cappuccini but also ate these delectable cookies made with no flour, just almonds, eggs and jam. They are traditional Cegliese cookies and they made up for that ridiculously steep climb to get into town.
Then we were back on the road to Locorotondo. We’re riding on this nearly carless road, with the usual panoramic sights of white stone walls, grape vines and olive trees on both sides and then the conical roofs began to appear. I’ve been all over Italy – north in the Dolomites, south in Sicily – and I’d never seen something like the trulli. I was a bit awestruck.
The buildings’ roofs are all dry stone. History says because of high taxation on property at the time, the residents built the trulli like that so they could be dismantled quickly when the tax collectors came around. They date back to the seventeenth century.
As we rode along, it was photo op after photo op. Then we saw Locorotondo in the distance, this striking town up on a hill, its whitewashed buildings shining in the sunshine. And then it hit me: we were going to that beautiful town way up on a hill. Just another day with another big climb to another beautiful town in Puglia. It was awesome.
Locorotondo was so charming and reminded me of Ostuni. My fellow cyclist Melanie and I ate a local dish for lunch: a panzerotti, which is like a stuffed pizza, and we shared a frittata. Then we walked around the town, snapping photos right and left of picturesque alleys, streets, staircases and balconies with flower pots.
Alberobello was a short distance away, but getting there was a bit tricky. The Garmin took us through the labryrinth of streets, (of course we took wrong turns) and through streets filled with tourists. “Permesso!” I’d shout, which is the Italian way of asking for permission to pass through. No one moved. So rather than risk running into people, we simply hopped off the bikes and walked to the hotel.
This also happened to be the weekend of the Feast of Saints Cosmos and Damian of Alberobello, the city’s patron saints. What a treat. The main piazza was being transformed with a brilliant light display when we arrived. We awoke to fireworks the next morning (yes, morning) and people from all over began coming into town. Many were going to mass in the Duomo, one every hour, starting overnight at 4 a.m.
As for dinner, once again Cristiano made sure it was an “experience” instead of just dinner. We ate at a restaurant called La Cantina where you watch the chef make the dinner. It’s a big open kitchen and all the guests are welcome to walk up the counter and watch Chef Francesco in action. It was such a fun evening.
We feasted on focaccia with cherry tomatoes, olives, sweet fried onions, eggplant and then two pastas, orrechiette with broccoli rabe and just a touch of anchovies and a cavatelli dish with sausage, tomatoes and pumpkin. Everything was just delicious.
After dinner, we walked around the town and you could sense everyone was getting ready for the big celebration. I’m glad we were there for it.
MORE FROM LOCOROTONDO:
Next: Polignano a Mare and Alberbello celebrates.
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Elena e Umberto Angilella