Discover what to see in the Valle d’Itria and what to do in this beautiful corner of Puglia between the Adriatic and Ionian seas, renowned for its hilly landscapes, trulli and masserias, historic villages, and more.
First of all, let’s geolocalise the territory. So, the Itria Valley, also known as the “valley of the trulli”, is located in the heart of Puglia, between the provinces of Bari, Brindisi and Taranto, in an area of about 1,200 square kilometres that coincides with the southern part of the Murge plateau.
The towns belonging to the area are Alberobello, Locorotondo and Noci, in the province of Bari; Ceglie Messapica, Cisternino, Martina Franca, Fasano, Ostuni, in the province of Brindisi; Grottaglie and Martina Franca, in the province of Taranto. Specifically, the Itria Valley identifies the countryside between Martina Franca, Locorotondo and Cisternino.
It is in these villages that you will see the famous buildings and houses with white walls. Indeed, white in Apulia is the predominant colour used for various reasons, to keep out the summer heat and to maintain the hygiene attributed to lime from ancient times, when the plague was rampant. Since then, lime has taken on this value that has persisted over time, also as a matter of stylistic homogeneity.
Visiting the Itria Valley means choosing a much-loved destination, for both Italian and foreign tourists, and for many aspects: for its historical and cultural heritage; for the beauty of its villages and its atmosphere; for its immense natural landscapes populated by expanses of vineyards and centuries-old olive groves on red soil; and for the traditions that come alive in the local festivals and fairs.
Not forgetting the typical gastronomy that boasts fine wines, such as Primitivo and Negroamaro, and culinary specialities such as orecchiette, capocollo di Martina Franca, burrata, fresh fish and seafood.
In this guide, we will take you on a tour of discovery of the area, passing through the most fascinating villages, giving advice on what to see in and around the Itria Valley, even for those with little time.
Those who want to stay longer, on the other hand, will be able to take advantage of all the opportunities to choose what to do in the Itria Valley, including excursions, wine and speciality tastings, time travel with historical-cultural visits, discovering local art or the natural beauty of Puglia’s marvellous landscapes.
Itinerary: what to see in the Itria Valley!
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Get ready to experience the most enthralling itinerary to visit the Itria Valley, created considering only the most beautiful villages.
To visit everything, you need at least five days. But you can choose what to see from the many ideas that are all worthwhile, considering our careful selection. Moreover, the villages we recommend in this guide are all very close to each other.
The village has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1996, known for its trulli (around 1,500), the classic traditional Apulian stone and cone-roofed houses, and it is no coincidence that it is considered the capital of trulli.
The trulli itinerary starts in Rione Monti, the district that sits on a small hill; it is the most famous and has the largest number of trulli. Here you can also wander around the shops and craft workshops and taste typical dishes in the local trattorias.
In Rione Monti you can visit the Church of Sant’Antonio, with a Greek cross and the classic conical shape of the trulli, which houses the relics of St. Anthony of Padua.
A short distance away is Rione Aia piccola, a smaller, quieter, residential district with hundreds of cones. You can continue on to Casa Pezzolla, a large house made up of interconnected trulli that houses a museum of regional history, culture and architecture.
Casa D’Amore, in via Monte Nero, is Alberobello’s first limestone structure dating back to 1797, as well as the town’s first officially recognised town hall; Casa-Museo del Trullo Sovrano, the only two-storey structure (14 metres high).
For a marvellous panoramic view of the old town centre, we recommend the Belvedere Santa Lucia.
A small hint at the origin of the trulli: the trulli were created as precarious dwellings, at the behest of the Counts of Conversano, the Acquaviva of Aragon, to avoid paying the tax instituted by the Kingdom of Naples for each new urban settlement. They had not to appear as residences of a town therefore they were built by superimposing stones without using any binder.
The Itria Valley is also home to Locorotondo, whose Latin name “locus rotundus”, Round Place, has reflected its morphology since the year 1000, when the first town was built.
Today, the village is considered one of the most beautiful in Italy, awarded the Orange Flag by the Italian Touring Club, for its characteristic historical centre with its small churches and white houses with “cummerse”, the flat pitched roofs that create that evocative atmosphere you will never forget.
Not to be missed is Piazza Vittorio Emanuele, a 19th century square with historic buildings and the most important and special churches, such as the Mother Church of San Giorgio, with its 35-metre-high dome.
Not far away is the Church of San Nicola, with a beautiful frescoed ceiling; the oldest in Locorotondo is the Church of Madonna della Greca, recognisable by its façade with a large stone rose window.
Near the Mother Church of San Giorgio you can visit Palazzo Morelli, impossible to miss due to its beauty, which would attract even the most distracted gaze.
From Locorotondo you can admire the entire Itria Valley, reaching the Lungovalle-Via Nardelli-Lungomare viewpoint from Via Nardelli. You won’t find the sea here, of course, but plenty of nature…
Strolling through the historic centre, in the maze of streets and alleyways, you can discover typical craft shops and small trattorias where you can eat local specialities. But above all, you can taste the local wine in the village cellars. In fact, Locorotondo is renowned for the production of fine wines, such as Locorotondo DOP.
What better place to see in the Itria Valley than Ostuni? Also known as the “White City of Salento” for its white-painted houses, it is located on three hills, about 8 kilometres from the Adriatic coast, embraced by expanses of olive trees.
Once you enter the heart of the town, the typical scenery becomes enchanting again: whitewashed houses, narrow and intricate alleys hiding special corners, medieval arches and flights of steps, small restaurants and craft shops.
Ostuni’s main attractions include the Ostuni Cathedral, the Obelisk of Sant’Oronzo, and the Coastal Dunes Park.
For those who love belvederes, reaching the highest part of the town offers spectacular views of the sea and the surrounding countryside.
We recommend following the itinerary of the giants to discover the area’s centuries-old olive trees, imposing centuries-old trees.
Another beautiful village to visit in Valle d’Itria, even in half a day as it is very small, is Cisternino, known as the “swinging village” for its swings.
Since 2021, in fact, colourful swings have appeared in corners and alleys, near shops, with aphorisms printed on them and dedicated to historical and iconic figures such as Frida Kahlo, Rino Gaetano, Leonardo da Vinci, Federico Fellini, Sophia Loren…
Here, too, the houses are all in white, and the small streets intertwine to create labyrinths with an evocative atmosphere, flowing into the small village squares. If the smell of grilled meat comes to you as you walk, know that it is the traditional “bombette”, a local gastronomic speciality. Another local speciality is crocheted doilies.
A tour of the village will take you to discover its five neighbourhoods.
Don’t miss Piazza Vittorio Emanuele with its very tall Clock Tower and, of course, the Chiesa Madre di San Nicola, for the value of its works of art, a 16th century baptismal font and the Madonna and Child carved in stone.
5. Martina Franca
In the province of Taranto there is Martina Franca, known for its beautiful Baroque buildings, to the point that the expression “Martinese Baroque” has been coined to refer to the town’s typical Baroque style.
Not to be missed in Martina Franca, the old town centre with its trulli, churches, including the Basilica di San Martino in the town’s main square, recognisable by its Baroque façade and interiors decorated with stucco and frescoes, and the noble palaces such as Palazzo Ducale, which also houses the Museo del Bosco delle Pianelle and the Museo di Filippo I D’Angiò.
If you like archaeoly, don’t miss a visit to the Grotta di Monte Fellone, which houses some findings dating back to the Neolithic period.
On the slope of one of the hills of the Murge rises Grottaglie, one of the most populous villages in the Valley, famous for its wine and ceramics. This last characteristic has earned it the name of “City of Ceramics”, for the centuries-old tradition of this art, to which an entire district is dedicated, where you can find the workshops of master potters and the Museum of Ceramics.
Here is what to see in Grottaglie:
- the historic centre with its narrow streets, ancient palazzi, historic churches and typical white houses decorated with murals. Grottaglie is known for its colourful murals that decorate the facades of houses with scenes of daily life, landscapes and characters.
- the Quartiere delle Ceramiche (Ceramics Quarter) with laboratories and workshops of ceramists working pottery
- the Ceramics Museum in the Episcopio Castle with the history and evolution of local ceramics.
- the 13th century Episcopio Castle, now home to the Ceramics Museum.
- Church of San Francesco de Geronimo and that of the Madonna del Carmine, built on an ancient cave.
Fasano, halfway between the province of Bari and the Salento region, is the ideal destination if you are looking for a complete holiday, between history, nature and the sea. In fact, although there is no direct outlet to the sea, the area embraces stretches of coastline that have been awarded the Blue Flag.
We recommend a visit to the historic centre, famous for its narrow streets so narrow that, it is said, they do not even let the sunshine through.
As you stroll along, you will come across the many small churches, including the mother church of San Giovanni Battista with its characteristic façade in local tuff. The town’s meeting point is Piazza Ciaia, overlooked by aristocratic palazzi, the Clock Tower and Palazzo Balì, the town hall.
Not to be missed is the Egnazia Archaeological Park, an archaeological site dating back to the Bronze Age and one of the most important in Apulia.
Also worth visiting is the Torre Guaceto Natural Reserve, a marine reserve and protected area where you can admire the local flora and fauna, snorkel, trek or enjoy the beach.
Fasano is also home to Italy’s first zoo-safari and one of the largest in Europe (140 hectares) – Zoosafari Fasanolandia. The visit is perfect for families with children.
Time permitting, it is worth paying a visit to Selva di Fasano, a hamlet known for its enchanting villas, the most famous of which is the Minareto, an Oriental-style mansion dating from 1912 and a tower from which it takes its name. From the top of the hill, you can enjoy a panoramic view of the plain of olive trees and Mediterranean maquis, stretching all the way to the sea.
Don’t miss the Madonna del Carmelo Church and the Trullo del Signore, an imposing trullo located on Viale Toledo, the main street.
8. Castellana Caves
The Grotte di Castellana, karstic caves with stalactite and stalagmite formations, are among the most beautiful and important in Italy and are located at the gateway to the Valle d’Itria, a few kilometres from the towns of Alberobello and Cisternino.
They can be visited with a guided excursion to a depth of about 70 metres along a 3 km route.
9. Ceglie Messapica
It is one of the oldest towns in Apulia, whose foundation seems to date back to the Messapi people.
We begin our tour from the historic centre, where we stroll through the narrow streets with their typical white houses. Don’t miss Piazza del Plebiscito with its Clock Tower and the Ducal Castle, in an elevated position, a former medieval defensive structure.
Since it is a very old village, it is not surprising that there are several archaeological sites in the area, specchie, necropolis, karstic caves with remains dating back to the Messapian period.
The “specchie” are megalithic constructions typical of the Salento region, made of stacked stones without the use of mortar (a technique known as “a secco”). They are generally circular or elliptical in shape, and seem to have originated as landmarks/surveillance points in the area, or as burial places.
Various excursions can be made in the area, such as those to the Grotte di Montevicoli (about 1.5 km from the centre of Ceglie Messapica) and the Grotta di San Michele.
Between Bari and Taranto lies Noci, a small village perched on a hill in the Murge region.
Its historic centre is definitely a must-see for its artistic and architectural wealth. Worth visiting is the beautiful Chiesa Matrice, Santa Maria della Natività, dating back to the 14th century, with a striking late-Gothic façade. But the symbol of the town is the Clock Tower (or Civic Tower).
Wandering around the historical centre, the eye will certainly fall on the small open courtyards that overlook the small alleys. These are called “gnostre”.
Visiting Itria Valley and Surroundings
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If you have time to spare, you can continue with a tour of the surroundings of the Itria Valley.
Thirty-nine minutes (37.4 km) from the area is Polignano a Mare, a town perched on sheer cliffs overlooking the Adriatic Sea, with a beautiful historic centre and natural sea caves dotted along the coastline.
Just 32.1 km away is Monopoli, another famous seaside town along a 13 km stretch of coastline with an expanse of white beaches and hidden coves, considered the natural outlet to the sea.
Just 1 hour 15 min (75.5 km) away is Matera, known as a city rich in history and culture, but most famous for its houses called “Sassi”, carved into the rock, a UNESCO heritage site.
The nearest beaches
The Valle d’Itria is an inland region that, as mentioned above, does not overlook the sea. However, extending from one part of the region to the other, it reaches the coast, and in a short time, from here, it is possible to reach some of the beaches on the Adriatic coast.
- Rosa Marina beach near Ostuni
- Torre Canne beach in the hamlet of Fasano
- Monopoli beaches with the Lama Monachile beach
- Beaches of Torre Guaceto
- Beaches of Polignano a Mare
- Costa Merlata
As for the Ionian coast, the beaches of Taranto and those of Salento are a little further away, but can be reached in about an hour’s drive. Among the most beautiful are those of Porto Cesareo, Gallipoli and Punta Prosciutto.
What to do in Itria Valley
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This is the time to find out what to do in this territory full of initiatives. Everything depends on interests, personal passions, and the desire to share a few moments with those who accompany us on holiday.
So, for shopping enthusiasts, in the villages mentioned you can wander among shops and craft workshops where materials such as ceramics, stone, wood and leather are worked.
Those who want to taste the culinary specialities can find plenty of them in the street food spots, in the places where you can have aperitifs, in the typical local trattorias or in the wine cellars and wine bars.
The Itria Valley, but the entire hilly territory of the Murge, offers many opportunities for excursions by boat, in nature, including walks, trekking, bicycle tours and horseback riding.
In the previous paragraphs, dedicated to villages, we have seen the excursions that can be made in Martina Franca and Fasano. There are also several natural parks in the Ceglie Messapica area, such as the Inserti Wood, the Sant’Anna Natural Area and the Contrada Montecchie Provincial Park.
Local food and wine
We are in Apulia, a land renowned for its food and wine delights, which is why we can certainly dedicate a stop to sampling the local specialities.
For true fans of Apulian flavours, we recommend the immersive experiences of wine and typical product tastings, as well as the more fun and exciting cookery courses, which teach how to transform ingredients into finished dishes that can also be remade at home.
What to taste in Valle d’Itria?
Here we go, starting with desserts. Among the most classic are the almond pastries, the Biscotto di Ceglie, the “Sasanelli”, the “Tette delle Monache” (or Sospiri pugliesi), the “Pasticciotto” – originally from Lecce and also widespread in the Itria Valley – and the “Spumoni di Alberobello”.
We continue with typical products such as cheeses, the capocollo di Martina Franca, a Slow Food presidium, a typical sausage made with seasoned pork meat, flavoured with spices and herbs, and then subjected to a seasoning process; extra virgin olive oil and local wines: Valle d’Itria IGT wine, Locorotondo DOC, Martina Franca DOC, Ostuni DOC, Aleatico di Puglia DOC.
Dishes not to be missed include orecchiette (small ears of pasta), fava beans with chicory, and bombette (pork roulades stuffed with cheese, bacon, herbs and spices then roasted or grilled).
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Here are some of the most popular events held in the Itria Valley:
- Festival della Valle d’Itria – Martina Franca (June)
- Costa dei Trulli Festival – Monopoli (August)
- Ceglie Food Festival – Ceglie Messapica (August)
- Sagra della Bombetta e della Bruschetta al Tartufo (August) / Sagra dell’Olio e del Vino (August) / Sagra delle Orecchiette (August) / Sagra della Trippa e Festival dei Sapori (August) / Sagra dell’Uva e Festival dei Sapori (September) – Cisternino
- Sagra del Vino Novello (November) / the Itria Valley Fireworks Festival (August) / Sagra Gnumeredde Suffuchete (August) / Sagra della Cialledd (August) – Locorotondo
- Festival of Frisella and Wine – Putignano (July)
How to get to Itria Valley
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You can get to Itria Valley by car, train, or plane.
By car, you can drive along the A14 motorway and then take the Bari Nord or Taranto exit, depending on your destination. From here, you can follow the signs to the various municipalities in the Itria Valley, such as Alberobello, Locorotondo or Martina Franca.
By train, you can take a train line to reach your destination station, between Alberobello, Martina Franca station or Ostuni station.
If you choose to fly, you can land at Bari-Palese Airport – Bari-Karol Wojtyła Airport – or at Brindisi Airport. From the airport you can rent a car or take a train to reach the Itria Valley.
Now that you know what to see in the Itria Valley, all that’s left to do is wish you a pleasant trip to Puglia! 😍
Cover photo: ricardo-gomez-angel, unsplash
Featured photo: matteo-galeazzi, unsplash