Never heard of Cisternino Puglia? No, neither had I before my last trip to Puglia, yet this low-key gem should be on every Puglia bucket list. Find out why you should visit on your next Puglia itinerary.
Unassuming, unpretentious and extremely local, Cisternino is one of Puglia’s best-kept secrets. With a laid-back atmosphere, more locals than tourists and a siesta time that seems to last an eternity, Cisternino Puglia is the place to come for a truly authentic southern Italian experience.
Located high on a hill, looking out over the trulli-filled Valle d’Itria, the white town of Cisternino has plenty to keep you busy for an afternoon, with the beautiful, narrow, labyrinth streets of the historic centre, local tavernas serving up the best Puglian dishes and some sublime views, its the perfect town to slow down, take it easy and live like a local.
Keep reading for our short guide to Cisternino Puglia and find out how to weave this little gem into your itinerary.
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WHAT TO DO IN CISTERNINO PUGLIA
Cisternino Puglia is small, really small, village-like in fact and while it is one of the most ‘local’ and non-touristic towns in the Itria Valley, most of what it has to offer can be seen in half a day.
If you are visiting as part of a Puglia road trip, you might just have a few hours to spend here but if you do give it a little more time and even spend the night, some truly Southern Italian hospitality and experiences await.
Explore the Historic Center of Cisternino Puglia
Cisternino’s historic centre or Centro Storico is a maze of narrow alleyways that are flanked by whitewashed, multi-story houses decked in laundry hanging from balconies and pretty flower pots in doorways.
Enter the historic center through anyone of the arched streets, Porta Piccola is the most famous one on the north side. It’s so easy to get lost and I highly encourage you to do just that. The most picturesque spots are often found just wandering around and that is certainly the case with Cisternino. Eventually, the meandering streets will spit you out into a quiet piazza where you can get your bearings again.
If you’d like to find out more about the town, why not take a guided walking tour of Cisternino instead? Check out this private 2-hour guided walking tour of Cisternino.
Visit the Chiesa di San Nicola di Patara
With a simple, unassuming, Neo-classical exterior, the Church of San Nicola di Patara is Cisternino’s principal church yet you wouldn’t notice it as such. Blending in with its surroundings it’s as unassuming as the town itself.
Head up the stairs and inside and you’ll find a simple Romanesque interior and two side chapels. Another thing to note inside is the Madonna and Child sculpture by local sculptor Stefano Putignano from 1517. It’s certainly worth a visit and a wander before settling down to aperitifs and dinner.
See the Torre Normanno
Right next to San Nicola di Patara church you’ll find the symbol of Cisternino, the Torre Normanno. It’s an ancient Norman Swabian tower dating back to the 12th-14th Centuries. It’s split into three main rooms where you can learn a little more about Cisternino and its history.
Unfortunately, we didn’t manage to visit as it was closed for the time we were there. I hope you’ll have better luck than we did.
Admire the views from Villa Comunale Guiseppe Garibaldi
Probably one of the most beautiful spots to spend time in Cisternino, this hilltop public garden also has some of the best views in town.
From Saint Nicolas Church all you need to do is cross the road to reach the marvellous green park filled with shade-giving trees, a war memorial in the center and well-manicured lawns. Here you’ll see locals meeting for chats and relaxing on shaded benches. Apart from people watching, the park also makes a prime spot for a good rest so find a free bench yourself and just relax.
Walk to the end of the garden and you will see some of the best views from town, the entire southern part of the Itria Valley opens up before you with it its hundreds of olive trees and white, trullo-studded landscape and villages. Make sure to have your camera ready!
Walk the Ponte della Madonnina
Not really much of a bridge, the Ponte della Madonnina is more of a raised promenade rising up from the main road. It’s a pretty little part of town with picturesque buildings on either side, stunning Itria Valley views and a host of good restaurants and bars to try. A great spot for a little wander.
Have a Spritz at a hilltop bar
With its privileged hilltop location and stunning countryside views, one of the best things to do in Cisternino Puglia is well, to take advantage of this. On Cisternino’s main thoroughfare, right opposite Ponte Della Madonnina, you’ll see a beautiful little vine-covered terrace with a bar on each side. One of these bars is Cremeria History Vignola mentioned in the ‘where to eat’ section below.
Which bar you choose doesn’t really matter, just head to the best table, order a spritz and just admire the incredible views of the Itria Valley. For the best views and light make sure to snag a table for golden hour. This has to be one of my personal favourite moments of our whole time in Cisternino.
Buy some Puglian wine at Il Cucco
One of the best enotecas or wine shops in town, Ill Cucco is definitely worth a look if you’re a wine fan. They stock some really amazing local wines as well as a variety of wines from all around Puglia. The staff are really helpful, friendly and speak English and are happy to recommend some bottles based on your preferences.
If you prefer to taste some wine right there, Ill Cucco also does wine tastings and is also a restaurant so grab a table, and order some wine and some antipasti for the perfect evening in Cisternino.
WHERE TO STAY IN CISTERNINO PUGLIA
Most of the best places to stay in Cisternino are actually in the countryside immediately surrounding it. They make a fabulous base for exploring not only Cisternino but all the other towns in the Itria Valley such as Ostuni, Locorotondo, Alberobello and Martina Franca.
Borgo Canonica – For a chance to stay in the most beautiful trullo home around, make sure to look into this fantastic property. With their conical roofs, low ceilings and exposed stone, this particular property is the perfect choice for the design-focused traveller. Staying here will make you want to buy your own trullo and never leave. Check rates and availability here.
Casa del Maestro – A great budget choice for those looking for something local, unassuming yet comfortable. The little house has the perfect location right in the middle of Cisternino and is great for those that want to stay in town. Check rates and availability here.
Il Campanile – A charming little split-level apartment ideal for short stays in town. It’s equipped with a kitchen, living area and bathroom with a bed upstairs. It has a great combination of local architecture and modern decor. Check rates and availability here.
Masseria Peppeturro – For a chance to stay in a trullo and Masseria (Puglian farmhouse mansion) this Masseria has everything one might need for a peaceful stay from beautiful rooms to fine swimming pool. It’s located a little out of town so you’ll need a car to get here. Check rates and availability here.
WHERE TO EAT
Vattelappesca Restaurant & Wine – Located on Ponte della Madonnina, this small restaurant is one of the best in Cisternino. Serving up some local Puglia dishes and specializing in pasta and seafood primarily, it’s the perfect spot for a glass of cold white wine, seafood or pasta as the sunsets over the Valle d’Itria. It’s not on the budget side but well worth the spend.
Micro– For all veggies and plant-based eaters you’ll be pleased to know there is a restaurant in Cisternino to cater to your needs. Located on the northern side of the historic center, this conscious eatery serves a lovely array of dishes including sandwiches, Asian-inspired dishes, soups and local classics.
Cremeria History Vignola– Located on a hilltop terrace on Via San Quirico, it’s one of the best spots in town for sunset drinks with a view. Order a spritz, snag the best table you can find and enjoy your drink with a picturesque view of the whole of the Itria Valley.
Sandrino – Located right on the main Piazza Vittorio Emanuele II, this local place is the spot for gelato to cool off in the afternoon heat. Make sure to also check out the clock tower from 1850 right on the plaza too.
TOP TIPS FOR VISITING CISTERNINO PUGLIA
↠ Cisternino is a very small and manageable town and is easily visited for an afternoon, especially if you’re doing a Puglia road trip and visiting many other towns in the Itria Valley. We visited for just the afternoon and while we didn’t have too much time to dig in deep we definitely managed to get a sense of the place.
↠ Siesta time is taken very seriously in Cisternino and everything shuts down from the hours of 2.30 pm until about 6 pm. This includes all restaurants and even small delis and stores. Make sure to try to visit in the morning to get the most out of your visit or come at about 4 or 5 pm and stay for the evening
↠ As Cisternino is not very busy compared to some other towns in the Itria Valley like Ostuni or Locorotondo, parking is readily available on the street and you might even be lucky enough to find a free spot.
↠ The outskirts of Cisternino are quite bland and nondescript- I recommend focusing on the centro storico.
↠ You’ll need a car to visit Cisternino and to explore the other Itria Valley towns. While buses do run, they are quite limited and you’ll have to work your itinerary around them. The towns are not connected by train (Cisternino station is actually a 15-minute drive from the town itself).
You can rent a car easily at Bari or Brindisi airports and this is the best thing to do. I personally use Auto Europe to rent a car in Italy as they and Rental Cars seem to always have the best rates, especially in the summer high season. Find a rental car with Auto Europe here.
Check out these top tours in the area to extend your trip.
Ready to plan your trip to Cisternino Puglia? Let me know your questions and comments below, I’d love to hear from you.
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