Nearby

Nearby

You can happily spend a relaxed week  exploring Ostuni on foot, enjoying its strange mix of architectural  styles and sampling the delights of its many cafes, bars and  restaurants.

Closer to Ostuni are some delightful  small hill towns (Ceglie Messapica, Carovigno) with beautiful  old buildings in their centres - do not be put off by the ugly  high-rise structures around their perimeters. If you persist you will  find fantastic treasures beyond these cement monstrosities: park in  the modern areas and walk to the centro storico where the  streets are often very narrow and difficult to negotiate with a car.

If you want the ultimate hands-on  safari experience, a visit to Zoosafari, in Fasano, is the  must-do family outing. Remember to bring nuts for the monkey train  and breadsticks for the camels and giraffes. This is Italy and the  animals are there for feeding.

Perhaps most interesting is Alberobello, famous for its thousands of trulli - the  world famous circular stone houses with cone-shaped roofs made of dry  stones (without cement!). These fascinating buildings are dotted all  over the countryside round Ostuni and look like hobbit houses. There  is even a trullo church.

Not far from Alberobello are the Grotte  di Castellana, the amazing underground caves and passages full of  magical stalagmites and stalagtites. Don't be put off by the  touristy shops and long queues in summer months - the caves are  spectacular and worth a wait.

Also worth a visit is Cisternino,  with its delightful centro storico, and Locorotondo,  built in a circular formation, hence its name, where streets spiral  up to a magnificent church which can be seen for miles around.  In  the modern area, the local cantina sociale, a vast wine  factory, sells the very good local wine. Best is the white wine,  which costs about 8 euros for 5 litres.

In July and August all these small  towns have their own festivals, when thousands of people descend on  them to see the decorated streets and sample the local food until the  early hours of the morning. Martina Franca, another town not  far from Ostuni, holds an international arts festival every year in  late July/early August - if you want tickets you need to go online  to www.euro-festival.net and look for the Festival della Valle d'Itria. You would need to  book some months ahead: they stage little known operas which get  booked up early.