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Trulli, Madly, Deeply

What is it that makes trulli so endearing? They're quirky, of course, round instead of our usual straight-sided buildings. They're curious – what is the purpose of that little top knot on the tiled conical roof? No one seems to know. And obviously, being so tiny, they're cute. They certainly charm the Brits and the Germans who can't wait to turn them into holiday homes despite the fearsome rules and regulations governing any restoration project.

Originally, they were used as agricultural stores or as temporary shelters for farm workers. Now they're about as bijou as it gets. Some are quite extensive, bubbling organically into a honeycomb of interconnected rooms. And their setting isn't bad either – the lovely rural landscape of Puglia. Down in the heel of Italy's boot and still relatively undeveloped, they're surrounded by fields full of poppies, olive trees and vineyards. These local grapes produce the renowned Primitivo wine, unique to this region.

Puglia's coast is pretty spectacular, too. Polignano a Mare is a case in point. It celebrates its magnificent cliffs in a slightly unusual way – in the annual diving competition that consists of hurling yourself off the balconied cliffs and taking a leap of faith down into that deep blue sea. Around 45,000 people come to watch though the locals enjoy their sport all through the summer. All across the clifftops, houses pile on top of one another craning for a glimpse of that blue water. It's all mildly dilapidated in a charming Montalbano kind of way (it's pretty close to Sicily, after all).

Polignano has a few other things going for it – including very fine local ice cream and focaccia. But one thing has made its name for all time. A song. Volare (it means, literally, "to fly") was a massive international hit by local singer, Domenico Modugno. It won Eurovision in 1958 and was subsequently covered by everyone from Dean Martin to David Bowie. You might imagine the flying idea (especially given words like ​nel blu dipinto di blu or "in the blue that is painted blue") had something to do with all that diving off the cliffs and into the sea. But no. The writer, Franco Migliacci, was inspired by a wine-induced dream after looking at a couple of Chagall pictures. He then started writing a song about a man who dreams of painting himself blue and being able to fly. What can you say to that? Oh yes, I know...

Volare, oh, oh... Cantare, oh, oh, oh, oh... Nel blu dipinto di blu... felice di stare lassù....

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