The Remarkable Italy and its Smaller Charms
Italy is truly a remarkable and outstanding place under the sun. While all tourists and travellers around the world are familiar with its top-visit cities and areas, today we help you explore Italy’s hidden gems and all those small and charming towns dotted around the map of this incredibly sunny and friendly country!
Alberobello – The Diamond of Puglia
Alberobello – a city so enchanting that it’s hard to remember in which country or on which planet you are. Bringing you back to reality – you are in sunny Italy! The historic part of the city consists of conical whitewashed houses (Trulli). The style Trulli is invented in the region when locals needed houses that are easy to dismantle. The idea is to hide their homes from tax inspectors sent by the king of Naples. These dry stone huts are built of limestone slabs arranged on top of each other to form pyramidal, domed or cone-shaped roofs.
Despite the absence of mortar, the structure is surprisingly stable. These strange, mysterious sights of the southernmost Italian region are not found anywhere else in the country. Because of this particularity, the city is one of the sites on UNESCO’s List of World Cultural and Natural Heritage for Italy. Their primitive form gives the impression that they are ancient but, in fact, the oldest date back to the 18th century.
Today there are about 1500 Trulli in Alberobello. The originality of Alberobello undoubtedly lies in the Trulli, but if you still want to visit a museum, you can visit the Museo del Territorio Casa Pezzolla where tools and objects are related to the traditions and folklore of the Trulli.
Bari – The Capital of Puglia
Bari is a port city is located on the Adriatic Sea and is the second most important economic, educational and port centre in southern Italy. The town is fascinating and definitely has a lot to offer to a keen traveller. Old Bari or Bari Vecchia enchants you with its narrow winding streets that will turn you into a discoverer of Bari’s treasures.
The most precious ones are Basilica di San Nicola, Bari Cathedral and Castello Normanno – Svevo. The castle was built in the 12th century and was demolished and rebuilt again. Today, exhibitions are often organised there. To the south is the modern Murat quarter, with a network of perpendicular streets and a romantic seaside alley along the sea.
You can go shopping on the Via Manzoni and Corso Cavour shopping streets. Walking along Corso Cavour, you will come across the Opera – Teatro Petruzzelli – one of the most magnificent in Italy after those in Milan and Naples. And since you are in Italy, indulge in active culinary tourism. Include in your menu pasta, pizza, snacks, spicy taralli and the unique Pane di Altamura (Altamura bread), which you can try only in Bari. Pay close attention to the wines in Bari. The local wines of Gravina, Locorotondo and Gioia del Colle are emblematic. Dessert wines of the Aleatico variety are a wonderful finish to any fine dinner.
Lecce – Florence of the Baroque
Lecce will conquer you with elegance, antiquity and southern mood. It is one of Baroque’s most preserved cities in the country. It earned the nickname “Florence of the Baroque” because of the beautiful facades of many palaces, churches and ordinary residential houses. Lecce keeps the traditions of the Italian South, which can be seen in the behaviour and the intimate conversations led by the local citizens. Here you will often see street musicians performing traditional folk music pizzica.
Piazza Sant’Oronzo is the heart of the city and one of its most elegant parts. Different architectural styles have been blended over the years, in a full harmony. From the Roman Amphitheatre to the Colonna di Sant’Oronzo, which was brought to this place especially in honour of the saint. The impressive Piazza Vittorio Emanuele II leads through several small squares and ornate buildings to the Piazza del Duomo – or to the square of the main church of Lecce.
When you enter the square, there are balconies with statues of saints. Explore the Basilica di Santa Croce along with the former monastery. Historical Museum of the City of Lecce offers a walk through the centuries plus spectacular views of the Roman amphitheatre. Lecce is also known for its craftsmen who make figures and objects from Papier Mâché. This ancient art has a museum where you will learn more about it, and you will see all the souvenirs offered in the shops around the city.
Matera – The Subterranean City
Matera is a unique combination of cultural tradition and civilization that has been preserved to us ever since the Age of Neolithic. It is located in the province of Basilicata, southern Italy. This ancient city was built on a rocky hill. There are a lot of natural caves, where the first houses were built. It transforms the natural landscape of the city into strange architectural forms. The dwellings have been carved one over another in the rock for a long time and quite chaotic, and at one point they began to look like a real maze.
Among the most popular landmarks of Matera are the rock churches, which are characteristic of the southern Italy region. Most of them are built by monks who have escaped persecution in Byzantium in the 8th-9th centuries. On the walls of the churches, you can still see faded frescoes in Byzantine style. One of the best churches in Matera is not built in rock – Chiesa di San Pietro Caveoso was built on a ridge above the gorge.
Above it, there are two more churches – Chiesa di Santa Maria di Idris and Chiesa di San Giovanni in Monterrone – which are connected with a tunnel. The main historical museum to learn more about Matera is the Museo Archeologico Nazionale Domenico Ridola, where objects from different parts of Basilica can be seen from the prehistoric times to the Roman epoch. In Matera is based the sculpture gallery Museo della Scultura Contemporanea Matera with works from the 19th century to the present. When visiting these places, you should know that it is normal for them to be closed for several hours in the middle of the day.
Ostuni – The White City
Being only 8 km away from the east coast, Ostuni impresses with its medieval architecture, white stone, Mediterranean breeze and azure beaches. Ostuni is proud with its magnificent olives, delicious almonds and good wine. The charming jewel contains thousands of narrow streets, romantic winding stairways, beautiful alleys, arches, landmarks and a lot of history. Ostuni is one of the tourist centres in this part of hospitable Italy.
The town is dotted with numerous hotels, each of which offers wonderful conditions for relaxation. Here you can enjoy Mediterranean cuisine and fine Italian wine, making the atmosphere even more complete and cosy. The greatest pride of this ancient city is the sea, which is considered to be the purest in Italy. That’s why this traditional agricultural area become a famous sea tourism centre in Italy over the last 50 years. Today most remarkable places for a visit are the Ostuni Cathedral, the Bishop’s Palace and the many preserved palaces of aristocratic families.