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If you're staying in or around Cisternino because it's a cheap alternative to Ostuni, make sure you don't miss a trip to the town's historic centre. Although not as famous as Ostuni, it's a pretty place to wander. It's also far quieter - we had it almost to ourselves.
Cisternino is a hill town like Ostuni with similar white-washed houses but it is not on the tourist map in the same way and has a distinct feel because of that. The oldest part of Cisternino is the crown of the hill. Take a walk in the small park for views over the countryside, dotted with trulli and cacti, and the town walls.
The buildings of the old centre are still inhabited, both as homes and businesses, and it feels very much an authentic small Italian town, albeit more picturesque than most. The heart is the main piazza, a little livelier than the rest of this part of town, but still very peaceful. The streets leading off it, however, are silent much of the time, leaving the impression that the churches and balconies have been deserted.
Written Aug 10, 2008
Address: Cisternino, Salento, Puglia
Cisternino is part of the Itria Valley, the area where Puglia's famous conical buildings, the trulli, can be seen. It's not the most famous site, however, and what's most interesting is seeing the trulli outside a tourist setting. In their natural habitat, you could say.
This is because on the outskirts of Cisternino on scrubland, and in the tiny villages around, you will see abandoned trulli which haven't been done up for tourists and are living out their natural lifespan, crumbling to pieces having long-outlived their usefullness.
Trulli as symbols of the region are making an impact, though. In Casalini di Cisternino, a frazione of Cisternino, I saw a modern church with a trullo-style roof on the same small street as a much older, authentic one which seemed to be serving as an animal sty. Along the road some disintegrate while others are lovingly renovated.
The odd juxtaposition of the traditional trulli with modern buildings and construction sites is one of the most memorable things about Cisternino. On the edge of town in particular I was struck by the falling-down trulli alongside barbed wire, weeds and graffitti. Although there are a number of cheerful tourist houses with traditional symbols, Cisternino is not a town famed and visited for its trulli and they are largely a rather melancholy site. Worth seeing though, as they give a glimpse into presumably how trulli all over the valley would look if visitors had never taken an interest in them.
Written Aug 4, 2008
Address: Cisternino - all around the comune
This restaurant is a very traditional type of restaurant in this part of Apulia: it's basically a butchery with cooker and a barbecue. You go directly to the meat display, choose the piece you like and they will roast it for you the way you like it.
Then you sit at you table and can order cheese, dried meat, olives, pasta. They also serve a nice wine.
Not many tourists here, as it is mainly a restaurant for the locals, so that you're sure you'll find what the locals want: good meat and good wine!
Favorite Dish: Grilled meat.
Written May 5, 2012
Address: Via Tarantini 9 - Cisternino (BR)
Phone: 030 4446400
The hotel I stayed at in Cisternono, La Terrazza del Quadrifoglio, has this rather nice restaurant attached. We went the first night for convenience, the second because the food was really very good. It's very popular with local people too and was full of both guests and locals on both nights, with a relaxed family atmosphere.
There isn't a menu and dishes vary according to what's available. Pizza is always on, however, and La Terrazza'a restaurant seems to serve as a take-out place for the village. The other dishes are classics like spaghetti alle vongole or local favourites such as oriechette with Puglian cheese. Everything we ate was fresh and the portions large.
You can sit in or out, but outside is nicest. A really friendly place to spend the evening and I hope to return one day.
Favorite Dish: On our first night we opted for the starters. We weren't told what they were and what arrived was a succession of plates and bowls - a selection of local cheeses, courgettes and aubergine in oil and served several different ways, other vegetables, meat, bread, olives... Then a hot plate arrived loaded with aubergine parmigiana, fritters, prawn wrapped in bacon. Amazinf. And we didn't end up eating anything else.
Updated Jul 28, 2008
If you're basing your plans on rail travel be aware that the train station called Cisternino is not in the town of the same name. Indeed, it couldn't be said to be in a town at all.
On arrival it is obvious that you are not in, or proximate to, a town of any size. Worse, there are no signs indicating where the town is. After setting off in one direction, we finally stopped a van to ask: Casalini di Cisternino, the location of our hotel, was over 12 kilometres away up a hill. Cisternino proper was also kilometres away. In the summer months it is far too hot to walk these distances, particularly as you are walking on the road.
There are buses but they are infrequent and there are several different routes; we were not able to discover which stop would get us the correct bus. Finally, we walked back to the station where we found the number of a taxi firm and a couple who drove us to the nearest town where we got mobile credit and called the taxi firm. EUR 30 to Casalini, though less to Cisternino itself I suspect. We were lucky as the station was unmanned and few people get on or off at Cisternino.
After travelling around the area more, I believe that getting a bus is often easier if you can find timetables and stops. Our hotel, when we finally arrived, was very helpful in that respect and had copies of the timetable for guests. As another local town of interest, Ostuni, also has its railway station located outside the town, I would certainly suggest the bus for anyone wishing to go between the two who doesn't have a car.
Updated Aug 2, 2008