We Stumble Upon Martina Franca
It’s the highest point in the Valle d’Itria, an impossibly beautiful collection of towns and countryside in southern Italy. It’s also our new (old) home. During our initial flirtation with expatriate life 17 years ago, our meanderings led us to this part of Italy that recalls a way of life fast disappearing.
After a year in Umbria, we packed the children up and headed south. Brian had always wanted to see the trulli, cone-shaped mortarless stone dwellings that dot the landscape in the middle of the heel of Italy’s boot. This region, called variously Puglia, Le Puglie and Apulia in English, boasts 400 kilometers of coastline and the most robust wine and olive oil production in Italy.
As we rolled into the jewel-like town of Locorotondo well past the lunch hour with three hungry children, we stumbled upon a little trattoria that set us on our path. We just didn’t know it then. The memory of the perfection of that meal and our delight in discovering it is still bright.
A quick stay became a two-month sojourn. We covered the countryside from Alberobello to the north to Ceglie Messapica in the south and every hamlet in between. Then what we thought was a missing zero in the lira-based real estate postings turned out to be the real price of property, so we began our hunt in earnest. We saw it all, even those properties that some enterprising relatives thought they might just offload without letting the great uncle who lived there know until the last possible moment–our moving day, maybe?
I recommend real estate searches if you really want to know a place. We stopped farmers in the midst of setting out tomato plants to ask if they knew of any hot properties for sale and were invited in by their wives for espresso, gelato, aperitivi, digestivi, figs, duck eggs, cherries and more to properly discuss the possibilities. Advice and directions were offered freely, even rides to consult with more informed relatives across the valley. We could have lived off the kindness for a year.
Without much money and far more passion that sense, we bought five acres of land with a hundred or so olive trees and a tumbling down stone structure called a trullo before we could come up for air. It didn’t feel like drowning, though, and it still doesn’t. The sensation is much more like a deep infusion of pure oxygen, which is probably why we’ve come here for good.