Land of Creativity

Masseria Galeone

In recent years Valle d’Itria has become quite a popular site for tourists, youngsters, families and  sophisticated travelers looking for a variegated offer. Not more than a decade ago this region was unknown to the most while nowadays its popularity stands with the most trendy tourist location of Italy.

Valle d'Itria - Filari di uva
Valle d’Itria – ph. Marcello M.

Driving uphill from the Adriatic or the Ionian sea the coastal scene gradually leaves space to a countryside scenery  where the fertile brown-redish  soil provides the perfect habitat for olive trees and vineyards. Little by little the landscape changes into a cosy rural area and Trulli make their first appearance imprinting a unique character  to an area that extends little far beyond the towns of  Locorotondo, CisterninoMartina Franca and Alberobello. The scenery inside this perimeter is quite different from the surroundings:  Crossing this imaginary border is like stepping into a land of pure creativity with architectural forms of no equals, unique traditions and passions revealed in any local  expression.

Everywhere there is evidence that full respect for the environment has been going on for centuries in a sort of ideal self-sustaining  interaction between men and  a blessed land capable of supplying supreme products,  vineyards for making the finest wines, olives to be squeezed into premium oil,   healthy fruits and vegetables to feed  animals fit and grown in wide open spaces to make the best  meats, milk and eggs.

Inhabitants of Valle d’Itria had set their permanent homes inside the safe old town walls, while outside in the open country space they built structures big enough to provide shelter for the tools they used in the agriculture, for the animals and for themselves during the warm season.Those simple buildings, named Trulli or Casedd (litterally “small houses”), were built  following the simple rule of placing the biggest stones, broken out of the calcareous rocks laying underneath the fertile clays, to make a circular solid basement and the lighter flat stones in the upper part in gradually smaller circles to create a conic roof.

Such an easy and straightforward way of building spread out among nearby towns but remained contained in the territory of the Valle d’Itria reaching its maximum development in the town of Alberobello where the town itself was entirely built utilising such original criteria. The result was a spectacular and world-unique aggregation of trulli that, other than an inhabited settlement, resembles a fairy tale ambiance.

It is evident that natives of such area without suffering any influence from nearby towns expressed their genuine creativity into original architectural shapes and facade embellishments, inspired by practicality an essentiality. The vivid creativity of the natives took also expression in original and accurate food preparation often supported by all family members with great dedication. Traditionally, during summer, families prepared, in-house,  food and condiments to cover most of the winter consumption: wine, olive oil, tomato sauce, dry fruits, under-oil  preserved vegetables and salami meat.

Who had the privilege of possessing a cantina (the place where the wine grapes where squeezed into mosto)  called for the help of the closest family members including children and women. All of them had their own work to do: women normally cut the grapes, children had to carry them in light weights, while men had to do the squeezing at the torchio, a sort of giant press that was loaded from the top and actuated by a long lever that was stroked back and forth. The same cooperation was in place for other food preparation and the rule was that whatever had been produced would have been  equally divided between those who had contributed with work.

Such inclination to productivity, originality and creativity took form in various ways and perfectly matched   a sort of ideal living model, plain and practical that is also expressed in the  architectural forms of  the buildings, essential and elegant and evident in the old towns of Valle d’Itria:  a sort of pure minimalism in tune with the life style of their natives fully respectful of their land and devoted to the Saints who are believed to protect their land.