The trendiest Puglia meets the taste of tradition in Cisternino

Piazza dell'orologio a CisterninoCisternino is an Italian casbah of Itria Valley, in Apulia. Jumped to the headlines for being one of the “immune” places to the Mayan prophecy, Cisternino is ‘the end of the world’ for its extraordinary and genuine charm.

It is no coincidence if this place is among the most beautiful villages in Italy but also orange flagged by Touring Club and ‘slow town’. Since 1979, moreover, it is an international Bhole Baba ashram center, for prayer and meditation.

Located in the triangle Bari, Brindisi, Taranto, Cisternino is located in the province of Brindisi, although until 1927 it was part of the land of Bari, of which it preserves the root of its dialect.

Of Messapic origins, the village has experienced many vicissitudes throughout history. With the Romans it became Sturninum, and was probably destroyed in 216 BC during the conquests of Hannibal in Apulia. The origin of its name is attributed to the Basilian monks who came from the East in the eighth century. Having found the ruins of ancient Sturninum, to identify the area on which they built their abbey they used to say “San Nicolò Cis-Sturninum”, that is, on this side of Sturninum.

The spontaneous cistranese architecture is a wonderful mix of public and private spaces.

Low whitewashed houses, narrow alleys, arches, hidden courtyards, steep stairs and doorways with flower-decked balconies are wonderful pieces of a mosaic with oriental charm.

In the maze of streets and alleys of its historic neighborhoods (Bère Vècchie, Scheledd, u Pantène e L’Isule) stand out the Mother Church of St. Nicholas of Patara (built in the XIV century in the same area where once stood the monks’s abbey) with the neoclassical facade and the interior in Apulian-Romanesque style, and a beautiful Madonna with Goldfinch by Stefano da Putignano, the “Civic” or “Great Gate” Norman tower (XIII cent.), main entrance of the city in medieval times; the Angevin cylindrical towers, one attached to Palazzo Amati and the other to Palazzo Ricci-Capece, the Clock Tower (XIX cent.) in airy piazza Vittorio Emanuele, the Bishop’s and the Governor’s Palaces of the sixteenth century, not to mention the Church of St. Cataldo in Baroque style (XVIII cent.) and that of San Quirico and Giuditta (XVII sec.), the town’s patrons.

All around the Itria Valley and its beautiful trulli scattered in a myriad of hills, karst ups and downs and secular olive trees with a human face, a really lovely landscape that has won over many foreigners. This portion of Puglia, nicknamed Trullishire, is a favorite destination for discerning and refined travelers who appreciate its many culinary delights.

Orecchiette with tomato sauce and aged ricotta, dairy products, friselles with tomato and fine extra virgin olive oil are just some of the specialties of a varied menu.

Cisternino, in fact, is famous for its “ready stoves”, butchers with a wood stove and a dining room, where you can taste the meat along with a good glass of wine. According to some, this tradition stems from the peasants who, paid by the day, went to buy meat. On those occasions, the butchers often turned into cooks by cooking part of it in their ovens, right at the moment.

Over time, the stove recipes have gone through a natural evolution. Today it is more than just prepare the cheapest cuts of meat such as offal and the classic gnummareddi (lamb offal), the turcineddhi (heart of lamb and goat rolls) or the liver rolls (liver with flavorings).

You can also enjoy the sausage at knife point and the bomblets, capocollo pork rolls with a mixture of minced meat or cheese, parsley, salt and pepper wrapped in bacon or breaded.There’s something for all tastes. One of the historical stoves is Uncle Peter, behind Piazza Dell’Orologio. Here, in the front room you choose the meat at the butcher counter. While waiting, you may enjoy an appetizer of cheese, cold cuts and the typical olives of the area, small and with a sour taste, along with the primitive wine of the house.

Among the products of local crafts stand out wicker baskets and rosaries that only here, are made with the olives kernels. Nearby, there is a church built in 1100, Madonna of Hibernia, a cult of the cistranesi and a symbol of fertility; the Pomona Gardens with over 700 fruit trees in the Figazzano district; Ostuni, the white city and also Alberobello (link ) which, with its trulli, is a Unesco World Heritage since 1996.

Cisternino, la passeggiata

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