Day trip 4 itinerary
Our fourth day trip took us to Alberobello and Locorotondo. There were two towns on our Puglia itinerary that were sure to be the highlights of our trip. Alberobello was one of them and I was excited!
We arrived in Alberobello (literal translation is “beautiful tree”) at 10am and the car park was at half capacity but cars were starting to queue. It was obvious that Alberobello was a tourist hotspot.
We parked here but if that car park had been full, we would have parked here. Both of these car parks are a short walk from the Trulli district and are easy to access from the main road (coming from the direction of Locorotondo).
Protip: There are public (fee) toilets between the car parks and the “Zona Trulli” (Trulli zone).
Parking in Alberobello was the most expensive of the towns we visited and there were officers patrolling the car parks and issuing fines to cars with expired parking tickets so consider yourself warned.
My extremely abbreviated history of Alberobello is that the Trulli (stone huts with conical roofs) date back to the mid-14th century. Back then, a guy allowed peasant families to settle and cultivate the land. They paid rent on the land by “paying” him with 10 percent of their crops.
Some years later, another guy came along and allowed the families to build structures but they had to be dry dwellings, constructed without mortar so that they could be easily demolished if need be (something about avoiding paying tax to the Spanish). The peasant families discovered that the round shape and domed roof was the most solid design.
When built, the roofs were adorned with different pinnacles to represent the architect’s signature. There are a few different pinnacles in the photos below.
In addition to pinnacles, many Trulli have white markings/symbols painted on their roofs. I didn’t count the number of different symbols but there were many variations and I understand that each marking has a different meaning. One example is to bring good luck. Another example is to keep demons away.
Unlike most of the towns we visited, Alberobello is not built on top of a big ant hill nor is it is located in a flat area. The best way to describe it is that it is built in a small valley. The main road runs through the valley and the two Trulli districts are on the two slopes of the valley.
With ~1,600 Trulli, Alberobello is known as the cultural capital of Trulli and has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1996. It’s a Disney-like town, similar to Bruges in Belgium.
There are two official Trulli districts in Alberobello: Rione Monti and Rione Aia Piccola. Unofficially, I would classify the districts as commercial and residential. The commercial district (shops, restaurants, cafes) has ~1,000 Trulli and the residential district has ~600 Trulli.
We began our journey in the commercial district for no other reason than we were drawn to that side of the valley, probably because of the hanging hats. I don’t know. I was just happy to be there, not only because it’s pretty but because there were public toilets and businesses that were open.
Alberobello was not crawling with tourists but there were more tourists in Alberobello than there were in all of the other towns we visited combined. It felt a little like the olden days when people would stand in popular places for long periods of time taking selfies and I would shoot laser-eyed stares at them, hoping to get them to move out of the way (it doesn’t work).
The commercial district is an expansive area. We walked around for 45 minutes and only saw a small section of it. As time went on, more and more tourists started to flood the streets and soon enough it became too cumbersome to take photos without people getting in my way so we left the commercial district and spent the remainder of our time in the residential district.
What surprised me most about the residential district is that most of the Trulli were B&B/apartment rentals and not actual Alberobello resident residences. The residential district is less popular and, therefore, quieter than the commercial district.
In total, we spent just under two hours in Alberobello and I feel that was just the right amount of time considering we did not pop into any shops, wine bars, or cafes. Alberobello is a must-stop on any Puglian itinerary, just be sure to arrive before 10am so that you can enjoy the beauty of the Trulli before the crowds arrive.
Our next stop was Locorotondo which was a 15-minute drive from Alberobello. I think we were the only tourists in Locorotondo and it was a nice change of scenery from the crowds at Alberobello.
There are two easy-to-access car parks in Locorotondo; both are close to the centro storico. The first car park is across the road from the gates to the centro storico, however, it is closed on Fridays because of the outdoor market. The second car park is a seven-minute uphill walk from the centro storico and is the better of the two car parks if you are living your best van life.
We strolled around for a bit and eventually found a wine bar next to a small square. I’d hoped this would happen because Locorotondo is known for its wine. We sat at a table in the square, shared a puccia, and drank a glass of wine.
This was exactly how I expected to spend our time in Puglia but unfortunately, experiences like that one were few and far between.
Locorotondo was my favorite town of the trip and that’s probably because of our little one-hour wine bar pitstop in the sunshine.
I enjoy people watching and one of the best ways to people watch is by sitting in an uncomfortable metal café-style chair in a square of a town built hundreds of years ago whilst drinking local wine and listening to church bells echoing through the narrow alleys.
We enjoyed Locorotondo so much that we ate lunch in Locorotondo the following day. It’s a pretty town, don’t miss it.
Day trip 5 itinerary
Our fifth day trip took us to the quaint town of Cisternino followed by lunch in Locorotondo and back to our masseria to take cover from the massive thunderstorm that rolled through the region.
Protip: If you are short on time, it’s entirely possible to leisurely visit Alberobello, Locorotondo, and Cisternino in one day (and not feel like you are “traveling like Americans”).
Cisternino was the closest big town to our masseria. The drive was about 15 minutes and the days of abiding by the maximum speed limit were long gone.
Cisternino is on top of a very steep hill, the steepest of the towns we’d visited but once you are in the centro storico, it’s totally flat. We parked in a tiny car park off of one of the main roads leading to the centro storico here.
Note: This car park is patrolled by officers who will issue tickets so consider yourself warned. If the car park is full, there is a larger car park vertically below it, carved into the side of the hill.
Ostuni, Locorotondo, and Cisternino were the only three towns we visited twice during our holiday. Our timing to Cisternino on our first visit was such that we were able to enjoy a cappuccino alongside a handful of locals on a street decorated with hearts.
Disappointedly, this was the only time during our holiday that we drank espresso with the exception of breakfast at our masserias.
With the espresso stop ticked off of our list, we ventured further into the centro storico and snapped some photos. Although the centro storicos were starting to blend together, Cisternino’s felt different. It felt lived in. There was laundry hanging outside to dry and we even encountered a resident coming out of his house during our walkabout.
After an hour or so in Cisternino, we hopped back in our beloved Golf Polo and drove to Locorotondo for a very long lunch. We spent the rest of the day at our masseria, hunkering down in our heated Trullo and watching buckets of rain dump out of the sky.
We returned to Cisternino the following evening for dinner. The town is known for its grilled meat with some butcher shops turning into restaurants in the evenings. The grilled meat restaurants get very busy; some take reservations and others have queues lining the alleys before the doors open so do your homework.
Our grilled meat restaurant experience was a bit of an adventure. Our masseria told us that her recommended restaurant did not take reservations so we arrived before the typical dinner rush to [hopefully] get a table and, upon arrival, we were told that they were fully booked.
The sweet restaurant owner did not speak English so she asked the Italians seated at the table next to where we were standing if they spoke English. They said yes and then they translated for her/us. It’s the little moments like this that restore my faith in humanity.
Long story short, the restaurant could accommodate us but we had to be out within 1.5 hours so that the table could be turned and used for a later reservation. We were more than happy with that offer, took our seats, ordered wine, and then accidentally ate grilled donkey. Donkey. No. Just don’t. No.