The Itria Valley is the most popular area in Apulia for British house buyers and tourists alike. Three towns I like to take family to see are Alberobello, Martina Franca and the famous “White City” of Ostuni.
The Itria Valley (in Italian: Valle d’Itria) is an area located in Apulia (in Italian: Puglia) region, in southern Italy. People are initially drawn to this region for the Mediterranean climate and all year-round flights to Bari and Brindisi airports. Once they see the countryside with its gentle rolling hills, red soil, dry stone walls, olive groves and vineyards, dotted with the cone-shaped trulli houses and masserie, they become truly hooked.
The charm doesn’t stop in the countryside; the towns are equally beautiful with their historic centres inviting you in to explore winding streets between houses with architecture varying from medieval to Baroque. As you walk these ancient streets, surprises can be found at every turn, carved doorways, pretty balconies, ornate church facades, craft workshops, cafes and amazing views.
Foreign buyers are enjoying the low house prices on offer in the countryside.
The Itria Valley spreads across three provinces, each having lovely towns. They are in the Province of Bari: Alberobello, Locorotondo, Noci. In the Province of Brindisi: Ceglie Messapica, Cisternino, Fasano, Ostuni, Villa Castelli. In the Province of Taranto: Martina Franca. While Italians prefer to live in the towns, foreign buyers are enjoying the low house prices on offer in the countryside. Within a few minutes’ drive of a town you can find detached properties with land and a pool, where you can relax in the peaceful countryside. Here are three towns that I visited last week, each with their own unique style of architecture.
Martina Franca, Taranto, Puglia
Arriving in Martina Franca after 1 o’clock we were able to park easily in the street opposite the gate that leads to the historic centre (Centro Storico). Parking was free, which in some towns is often the case during the hours the shops are closed. Martina Franca is quite a large town with a population of over 49,000, so the modern part has all the shops and facilities you’ll need for year-round living.
Walking through the Porto Santo Stefano into the historic centre is like entering another world. Immediately to your right is the Ducal Palace which has some rooms open free to the public. The walls and ceilings are covered in colourful frescos. On a June afternoon there was only a handful of people in the palace and the old streets were silent. You can walk around a maze of narrow streets in the shade of the houses and see baroque palaces, metal balconies, porticos, churches and white-washed houses with an unusual triangular top to the facade.
A 70 square metre apartment in the historic centre costs from €130,000. Property for sale outside Martina Franca mainly consists of trulli, villas and lamia (a flat-roofed country building often with vaulted or barrel ceilings). A trullo with an attached villa is a popular combination and you can buy one with three bedrooms for around €160,000. See Martina Franca properties on Rightmove Overseas.
Alberobello, Bari, Puglia
Tourists flock to Alberobello to see so many trulli in one place. The area has been recognised by UNESCO World Heritage for its charming and unique trulli, some of which are now home to pretty gift shops and have elevated terraces out the back, so you can get that perfect selfie with all the rooftops behind. It is a photographer’s dream as you wander the pretty streets with the scent of jasmine and roses growing round the little doorways.
The original trulli were built with stone, and each stone was chipped to fit perfectly, as they were laid dry, without mortar. The walls and pinnacle are whitewashed with lime, but the stone on the cone-shaped roof is left exposed. Symbols painted on the roofs give them an air of mystery and magic, and you can almost imagine them being the homes of little fairy folk.
You will find trulli dotted all around the countryside of the Itria Valley and there are some still waiting to be renovated into cute holiday homes. Trulli for sale near Alberobello start at around €85,000. See Alberobello properties on Rightmove Overseas.
Ostuni, Brindisi, Puglia
Whenever I have family come to stay, I always take them to see Ostuni. The old town is such a charming example of Mediterranean architecture perched on a hill top with views to the sea. In the medieval streets that weave around the hill the houses snuggle together under a crisp sheet of white wash. Looking back at the city from the sea the mass of white houses dazzle in the sun, thus giving Ostuni the nick name “Citta Bianca” (White City).
In the medieval streets that weave around the hill the houses snuggle together under a crisp sheet of white wash.
Starting at Piazza Liberta, where you find most of the cafes and restaurants, you can walk up a pretty street, lined with gift shops, to reach the Cathedral at the top. The Cathedral has a lovely rose window and right opposite, we always stop to take photos in front of the beautiful baroque Scoppa arch that spans the width of the small piazza. Under the arch to the right you’ll find an alleyway with a lovely breeze. At the end of which is a stunning view of the olive groves leading to the sea. Turning right we then explore the little streets heading back towards the piazza for a gelato.
Many people like to live in houses and apartments in the town, close to shops, restaurants, cafes and summer entertainment. Often these properties will have stone star-vaulted ceilings and balconies. If you are lucky you may even have a view to the sea. The beach is just a 10-15 minute drive from the town and has been awarded the Blue Flag.
You can find apartments in Ostuni from €55,000 and trulli to renovate in the countryside from €50,000. Simple country villas start from around €60,000. However, it is worth spending a little more and getting a property that has already been renovated to a high standard. There are some very well-priced properties available, especially when you consider the money and hard work that has gone into renovating them.
If you want a large property with character then you should look at the masserie. These are large fortified farmhouses similar in layout to a Roman villa, but dating back to around 1700. The usual layout has buildings in a “L” shape around a courtyard. On the other two sides are high walls. There is always a big arched gateway into the courtyard, with rarely any other outward doors. Masserie convert into great family homes, B&Bs and hotels. They have such lovely stone features including arches, star-vaulted ceilings, limestone flooring and fireplaces. Even the stable buildings have many of these features and convert well into extra bedrooms.
The Italy Buying Guide walks you through each stage involved in buying property in Italy, and offers invaluable insights from expats and experts who understand the process. The guide will help you to: