I was utterly fascinated by Cisternino and its white alleys, hidden courtyards, houses with outside stairways, balconies in bloom and above all tavolini all’aperto, small al fresco tables. Despite the small historical center, you have to know that its form is quite labyrinthine. I personally went along the same alleys more than once, and I heard more than one tourist uttering: that’s a maze! It is also called the kasbah of Valle d’Itria, the valley in which it is located. But what to see in Cisternino?
What to see in Cisternino?
Villa Comunale, the small garden with a panoramic terrace. You will notice the mani withe trulli structures all around.
Ponte della Madonnina
It’s not actually a bridge. Ok, the form is that, but there’s nothing below. It simply follows the lay of the land. It’s rather peculiar. You can walk the bridge from one of the two sides, or you can climb the stairs in the middle. It’s a pedestrian bridge, full of lovely palaces, food and drink spots and a couple of shops.
Church of San Nicola (14th century). It is also called Chiesa Madre, a denomination more common in the South of Italy. It simply defines the main church of the village.
Torre Normanno Sveva
The Norman-Swabian Tower faces the Chiesa Madre. The name refers to Frederick II of Swabia, who apparently decided to build it. Once lookout tower, then headquarter of the municipality offices, it now hosts exhibits and weddings. It is just one of the few towers left in Cisternino, that once was surrounded by defence walls, built in the Middle Ages and counting 12 towers.
The core of the town is Piazza Vittorio Emanuele, or Piazza dell’Orologio (Clock). All around, the districts: Bère Vecchie, Scheledd, L’Isule, U Pantène e U Bùrie. I warmly suggest you to explore as much as you can of this enchanting village. It’s full of surprises.
Torre Amati, Torre Capece and Chiesa Nuova
Other two towers, both cylindrical, are the Amati Tower and the Capece Tower. The first is located along the Madonnina Bridge. The second is a little further going past the Church of San Nicola, along via Manzoni. On the corner you will notice the Chiesa Nuova.
via Umberto I and San Cataldo
Via Umberto I is a lovely alley, full of elegant, white palaces, food spots and interesting shops and going up to the baroque church of San Cataldo and then turning left so to reach the Porta Piccola.
Porta Piccola means Small Door. In fact it’s a small arch nestled amongst white houses. So it may go unnoticed. But you will notice two signs: the red one on the left is that of the Borghi più belli d’Italia (most beautiful villages in Italy), the brown one on the right is the indication for the Centro Storico (historical center). Above that the sign in local dialect meaning Porta Piccola (Porta Piccènne). Just past the door and look up, that’s the Palazzo del Governatore (Governor’s Palace).
Chiesa di Santa Lucia
The small Santa Lucia church (17th century) is very different from traditional churches. In fact, at first sight it may seem a regular house… except there’s a round fresco depicting the Saint above the door and a tiny bell on top of the roof.
Where to eat in Cisternino
The delicious Fornelli
But the distinguishing mark of Cisternino are the Fornelli. Their name literally means stoves, but they are actually “hash houses”, where you can go in, choose your meat cut or preparation and then sit at a table (inside or outside along the street) and wait for it to be ready. In the meantime you can order other dishes. In Cisternino you can find many of these Fornelli, even if the village is small. You can imagine the perfume along the streets! Probably not recommended for vegetarians and vegans. Sorry.
Matteo and I followed the recommendation by a local and tried Al Vecchio Fornello. Right choice. We had a pleasant lunch sitting along a narrow street, at the corner of the main piazza. I loved the friendly and joyful atmosphere. The meat was delicious. We chose a mix of bombette (little bombs), which is a local speciality: fresh pork rolls stuffed with different fillings (cheese, cold cuts, whatever the butcher decides to put in). Plus a sausage and a salad. We were so full! To think that the butcher had insisted to make us order more things. Luckily we didn’t give in.
Le chicche di zia Rosa
Another place I can recommend is Le Chicche di Zia Rosa (Aunt Rosa tidbits), located at the opposite corner (diagonally). 😀 We chose it for dinner and we were really satisfied.
The mixed appetizers were scrumptious and I loved my orecchiette(meaning little ears, local kind of pasta) with tomato sauce, bufala mozzarella and basil gravy.
I was enraptured by Cisternino, so I basically forced Matteo to explore every corner and every alley. I wanted to take pics and not to miss anything.
Honestly, that was one of my favourite destinations of my holiday and I’d go back immediately… for a couple of bombette in the piazza. How lovely!