Atop a wind-swept hill, just a few winding, country kilometers outside of Ostuni, La Città Bianca, in the Valle d’Itria of the Alto Salento, a sub-region of Puglia in southeastern Italy, is where Orna, my darlin’ from Dublin, and I hang our hats.
Together, we built Villa Allegra, our little bright-white house with Santorini-blue shutters, bookended by two groves of promising young olive trees, along with an assortment of fruit trees — apricot, cherry, fig, loquat, pear and persimmon — and several rows of artichokes, just over five years ago.
As lo staff (the staff), I’m charged with pulling and strimming weeds, rototilling, irrigating, pruning and fertilizing all the plant life, mowing the grass, harvesting and, well, tending to just about everything that’s not under the roof. Occasionally, I seek professional help because, in the words of Orna, I’m the “reluctant olive farmer.”
With the exception of the occasional private prop plane buzzing by over head, or the sound of a jetliner cruising high above the clouds at 35k feet, not to mention the seasonal clatter that farmers make while tending to their olive groves, vineyards and fields of zero-kilometer crop, I can honestly say that we’ve settled nicely into our quiet-as-a-mouse hilltop hideaway, far from the madding crowd, and have no desire to leave anytime soon.
When we’re not occupied with all the agrarian chores, we like to put away our wellies and lace up our hiking boots and go for long treks down along the coast, known as the Marina di Ostuni, or around our picturesque ‘hood tucked inside the Valle d’Itria, where the earth is the color of terracotta and the sky, more days than not, is painted in varied shades of blue.
And, to liven up our treks, we make it a point to go in search of abandoned trulli (trullo is singular), those iconic, centuries-old, conical roof farming homes and pajaru, the flattop or oval roof versions, that dot the rural landscape around our slice of paradise.
We’re about to head out and explore some more, so if you’d care to join us just lace up your boots, grab a walking stick and follow the leader.