Tag Archives: ostuni

Discovering the Valle d’Itria

Puglia opens up slowly… Long forgotten and not until recently a popular tourist destination, this land in the “heel” of Italy’s map was left alone to get on with the simple things in life, the land and the sea. But what a land! One of sapphire blue sea and deep dusty green ground, filled with olive groves and vineyards, the simple life that is definitely very tasty.

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It is easy to draw parallels between the white washed hill towns of Puglia’s Valle d’Itria to those of okra coloured fortresses in Tuscany. It won’t take long to take in that the land itself defines the differences more than the similarities. From two lands that live off the earth and farming, both produce excellent wines, and olive oils they at the same time live quite different lifestyles. Tuscany is noble, historical, and refined. Puglia is attractive yet unassuming, quiet yet unreserved, very much a land of contrasts. From the sharp white of the towns to the deep colours of its nature, there are even sharp contrasts with the grandness in the architecture, at once severe in its simplicity yet ornate with its casual flounces of baroque details scattered here and there, on a doorway, or an arch. It makes the traveller feel like they have discovered a secret when they round a non descriptive corner only to find a normal everyday house with the most ornate decor around its doorway. Its as if it quietly screams for no attention. Indeed these little towns in Puglia are a Baroque lovers dream. Some excellent examples of the most decorative and ornate worked baroque designs can be found in Puglia due to the type of local stone which allows for more intricate carving without crumbling. Churches are grand, many buildings gush cake frosting type decorating all the way down to their violin curvy style iron balconies. Yet turn the corner and things are much more restraint, and even with the glamour on the piazza, life is simple, muted. Its peaceful. This is farmland and life is uncomplicated.

IMG_6017Baroque details in Ostuni

Ostuni The White City, is one of the larger towns in the area has that swagger of having a bit more sophistication than you would expect. And that too is surprising about Puglia, and especially in Ostuni, this extra bit of flair, or trendiness. Small bars have colourful modern chairs in bright colors, the lounge bar feel spills out like a small puddle onto the street next to a traditional caffe with old men reading the local paper. Not going over the top, but showing that little bit of leg to entice and promise a bit more excitement while not drawing too much attention. And that is Ostuni, a bit of flair among the normalcy of what has been there for hundreds of years.

The focal point of the White City is its tiara shaped Duomo at the very top of town. It sits happily in an oasis of a piazza with a grand archway. Around the corner is a landing that offers astonishing views to the surrounding landscape. For as far as you can see it is olive groves, and in the far distance the glistening sea. The white washed winding streets are attractive with their flower pots and the occasional cactus. The winding road down has some tourists shops next to local artists selling their pastoral paintings. If it wasn’t made locally they aren’t selling it which is a refreshing change. There is nothing left to do but enjoy.

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Martina Franca There is something grand and operatic about the small town of Martina Franca. Beginning with the commanding baroque archway that leads to the main piazza, to the curvaceousness of the buildings, the streets, the balconies… Even one of the main piazza areas is curved. Such commanding presence it screams drama. The best way to see and enjoy is to get lost in the streets, eash one of them prettier than the last.

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Alberobello Of all the towns in the Valle, Alberobello is the most unique. While it has an old town part similar to other towns in the region, it also possesses the magical Truli village, a fairy tale style community of pointed topped houses reminiscent of The Hobbit. Indeed it is said that perhaps Tolkein, author of the Hobbit drew inspiration from these whimsical houses. While now a days walking through the trulli is very much like walking through Disneyland with many houses selling typical tourist plastic, it is still an enchanting place and like no other.

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Cisternino Charming, petite, and laid back Cisternino offers an authentic look into everyday life in Puglia. In the centre of the Valle it offers stunning views to the surrounding land but really here is all about the locals and a typical life. Wander through the quiet streets and perhaps stop for lunch as Cisternino is known for its meat. That and a good Puglia red wine and you will be living like a local.

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Locorotondo The pretty hill town of Locorotondo sits like a shiny white crown a top its mount looking down to sprawling groves below. Less grand than Martina Franca and Ostuni, yet just as attractive and perhaps the most charming of all the towns. Its a perfect place to inspire artistic desire as every street is its own painting or photograph, with picturesque houses and small street cafes surrounded by flowers. Harmonious in its appeal that sums up the feel of its surroundings, of Puglia.

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Rooms with Views: La Sommita Relais

Stylish boutique luxury in the charming White City…

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LA SOMMITA

At the heart of the picturesque ‘White City’ of Ostuni lies the cool chic residence of La Sommita. Perfectly situated behind the cathedral down a quiet arched street the hotel oozes comfortable modern style.

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Relatively small with welcoming intimacy, it looks very much part of the surroundings of white washed baroque homes. Public spaces are small, relaxed, but fashionable. The decor is very Puglia chic with minimal clutter and natural accents of greenery and cacti. Rooms are stylish but uncluttered, white with neutral colour palette, and light wood furnishings, while polished bathrooms have Bulgari bath products and contemporary fittings.

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 The property also houses one of the best restaurants in the city, Cielo, featuring a modern and innovative menu inspired from traditional Pugliese cuisine. Excellent wine selection, most of them local, and a stunning setting in a vaulted dining room. The airy and light breakfast room was more informal but boasted an impressive buffet selection with hot dishes prepared upon request, and the watermelon juice was a unique treat.

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Also on the premises is a spa and wellness centre and during the warmer months, an outdoor bar in the garden. There are several seating areas throughout the hotel where one can have a drink, read, or just relax as if you were in a private home. There is also extensive terrace space for which to take in the view of the sea in the distance. At night there were delightful little macaroons left by the bed homemade in the Cielo restaurant which were a very personal touch.

Overall a lovely polished hotel with imaginative features made for a thoroughly enjoyable stay.

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Pros Great design that was both modern and harmonious with its surroundings make it both comfortable and tasteful. The location is the best in the city and has a fabulous restaurant.

Cons: My split level suite had the bed and bathtub on the top floor but the toilet downstairs making it a trek from the bed to the bathroom.

Service: As you would expect very professional and courteous. A bit reserved but everything done well. Bed and rooms were made up right away which is always much appreciated. The restaurant service was exceptionally good, friendly and eager to please.

Rooms: I stayed in a small suite. Beds were very comfortable and the bathroom fixtures were slick and on trend. The Bulgari White Tea bath products were the perfect touch. The sitting area of the suite was a bit sparse and as said previously the bathroom and toilet were downstairs near the sitting area and the bed and sleeping area upstairs. Mini bar with usual fixings but there was also a bottle of local wine on offer. View was of quaint streets below.

Extras: The turn down service macaroons were really a treat!

La Sommita Relais – Via Scipione Petrarolo, 7, 72017 Ostuni BR, Italy

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24 hours in Ostuni, Puglia

Puglia’s White City shines like a jewel up on its little hill. And at first glance it feels a bit laid back with its picturesque white streets and potted plants. But as you wind up an down this sleepy town you start to realise it is quite grand which gives way to many delightful surprises.

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More than anything else Ostuni is a pretty little place. White washed houses with flowers and green leaves down narrow streets and courtyards make for lovely photos. It its almost where the Greek islands meet Italian style with the sea in the distance, and olive groves between the town and the water. Baroque accents dresses up the simplicity of everyday houses and makes them almost regal. Then there is a bit of a hip element to it with colourful modern chairs on the street outside tiny cafes, and airy music piped like soothing waves down the street. It reminds you that this is Italy after all and people can still be stylish even in a small hill town. Start at the theatrical yet compact cathedral and its piazza at the very top of town, and take your pick of small streets to meander down and discover. Just take time along the way to step off the main road to the many picturesque side streets. Ostuni is a town of elegance seen round every corner.

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Stay –

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La Sommita Relais  This fashionable boutique hotel is perfectly situated directly behind the Duomo. Gorgeous settings reflecting Puglia design with modern comforts, the hotel at the top of the town has great views toward the sea and is central to most things in town.

Eat

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Cielo Located inside the Sommita hotel this is probably the most elegant restaurant in Ostuni and one of the best. Exceptional food and wine list showcase the best that Puglia food and wine has to offer. The chef takes all of Puglia’s ingredients and presents them in modern cuisine. A foodie’s delight.

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Osteria del Tempo Perso For something a bit more traditional head to this cozy candlelit restaurant. Serving typical food of the region this place ticks all the boxes and even has a table filled with grappa which should not be missed.

Drink –

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Caffe in front of the Cathedral Makes for a delightful view of the church while sipping either a morning espresso or an evening aperitivo.

See –

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The Cathedral, or Duomo at the top of Ostuni is whimsical and approachable. The piazza too makes for a lovely place to sit and relax with its views of both the cathedral and the Palazzo del Seminario with its ornate arch.

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Baroque Architecture Some of the best examples of baroque architecture and detail can be seen in Puglia. Ostuni has some wonderful examples scattered throughout its streets and buildings.

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The Streets Take a walking tour or just lose yourself down the streets to really capture the essence of this breezy town.

Ostuni is about an hour’s drive from Bari in the Brindisi province of Puglia in the attractive Valle d’Itria countryside.