PUGLIA

Puglia, often known as Apulia, forms part of the heel of the ‘boot’ of Italy, see the map below. With a population of about 4 million, Puglia is one of the least-known parts of Italy, but in recent years it has become increasingly popular with foreign visitors, both for holiday stays, and for permanent residence.

The capital of Puglia is Bari, and there are international airports both at Bari itself and at Brindisi.

In history, Puglia was occupied successively in whole or in part by the Greeks, the Romans, the Normans, the Austrians, the Venetians, the Turks and the French. It became part of modern Italy in 1861. All these occupations have left a rich heritage of architectural and cultural treasures; every town has its points of interest. Many of the towns have a walled ‘centro storico’, with a fortified defence against marauding bands or aggression from neighbouring ducal towns.

Martina Franca, in the centre of the peninsula, has just such a centro storico, which is pedestrianized, and full of well-preserved ancient noble palaces and churches, many in a style known as ‘barocco martino’. The town is equidistant between beaches on the east and west, and is connected by rail to Bari and Taranto.

Martina Franca sits in the middle of the ‘Valle d’Itria’, a particularly beautiful area in which the prevailing style of local building was the trullo.

Trullis (C) 2005, Niels Elgaard Larsen
Trullis (C) 2005, Niels Elgaard Larsen
Puglia is predominantly agricultural. Between the fortified towns, local farms gathered around a ‘masseria’, a larger building serving as a religious and trading centre, as well as being defensible against at least minor incursions. Many of these masserias have now become elaborate villas.

Although modern Italian is taught in school in Puglia, and everyone can speak it, the mostly rural population prefers to speak in dialect. Sometimes these dialects are surprisingly varied, even between neighbouring towns. The dialect in Martina Franca is North African in origin, while in Locorotondo, just seven kilometers away, they speak a Greek-based dialect.

The basilica of Martina Franca, (C) Freddyballo
The basilica of Martina Franca, (C) Freddyballo