Seal of Friendship – Lions Club Martina Franca Valle d’Itria – 12.05.2023

Lions Club Sliema and wives boarded a Ryanair flight on 12 May 2023, to Bari, Puglia, having been invited to complete our Twinning with Lions Club Martina Franca Valle d’Itria during their splendid Charter Gala Dinner the following evening.

After a slight delay, we eventually took off on our one-hour flight to Italy to be greeted with hugs on arrival by Lion Edward Zammit, our great friend, who has gone on to join LC Martina Franca Valle d’Itria, his local club.

Boarding our comfortable vehicle we were whisked off into the countryside, up hill and down dale along narrow tree-lined roads to our welcoming restaurant to enjoy a traditional dinner with local wine.  We watched with interest the fromager, cheesemaker to you and I, skillfully producing a large cheese in 95-degree liquid with his paddle and bucket.  Soon this traditional greeting was ready for us all to taste – yum!  This was followed by more antipasti – local air-dried ham and salami and a dish rooted in the tradition of Puglia known as macco de fave, a much-treasured fava bean puree which was once a peasant dish to have at the end of a long day. Those were only the starters!

After all this nosh, a  short drive south took us to our hotel in Martina Franca with its lush gardens.  Ah – bed!

The following morning we were taken on a guided tour of the 10th-century white town of Martina Franca.

Being of Catholic tradition, the town is named after St Martin of Tours who, it is said, cut his cloak in half to share with a scantily clad beggar.   This legend is apparent on the façade of several of the baroque buildings including the elaborate Basilica where we witnessed a local bride and groom.  The name Franca comes from the fact that the inhabitants were privileged to be exempt from tax.

Later we much enjoyed a splendid gala evening shared with many dignitaries, including high-level Italian Lions, with a fantastic singer and electronic keyboard that seems to issue every sophisticated musical sound known to man.  Our President signed the Twinning Document along with the President of Martina Franca Valle d’Itria.

On Sunday, we boarded our comfortable vehicle to go to Alberobello, a very famous “must see” small town made up of trulli buildings – whitewashed stone huts, still lived in, with conical roofs that have been around for centuries. 

In the words of Unesco which declared Alberobello a World Heritage site in 1996, the easily recognisable trulli (the singular form is trullo) are:

“remarkable examples of drywall (mortarless) construction, a prehistoric building technique still in use in this region. The trulli are made of roughly worked limestone boulders collected from neighbouring fields. Characteristically, they feature pyramidal, domed or conical roofs built up of corbelled limestone slabs.”

They were constructed to avoid paying taxes.  When the tax collector was approaching, they pulled out the keystone of their trullo and it fell down.  On the departure of the “dreaded nasty man” they would reconstruct their little compact house.

After a marvellous meal at Lion Edward Zammit’s favourite restaurant, we made our way to the regional capital and metropolitan city of Bari on the Adriatic Sea with around half of Malta’s population spread over 45 sq km with its Swabian Castle and famous Basicila of its patron St Nicholas, who later become known as Santa Claus.


The city has strong influences from Greece (still in evidence) and Rome and is a major port having been used in the past as a major slave centre.

Modern Bari still has its old town quarters not much changed for many years with narrow alleyways and street pumps for water.

It’s not surprising that Bari’s patron St Nicholas is always represented holding 3 bags/balls of money.  He hailed from an extremely rich family and donated his inherited fortune to the needy.  The legendary allegory of St Nicholas is told of him having 3 bags of gold, throwing them during the hours of darkness through an open window of a poor man whose three daughters, because of their lack of dowry, were destined to be prostitutes and who thanks to St Nicholas could now marry.

The previous day, Monday, was spent taking a taxi to Matera,

 renowned for its ancient rock-cut urban dwellings in the soft limestone that were occupied until well into the 20th century.   There are twelve levels in this city clinging to the edge of a canyon for defence.

There are around 150 churches carved from the calcarenite rock of the region.

A deep ravine divides the territory into two areas and Matera was built so that it was hidden which made it difficult for the water supply.  There are a number of cisterns and water channels.

Wednesday, our last day, found us shopping in the car-free area of Bari – well what else!  How could you round off a perfect break otherwise?


Participants:  Joe Messina, Betty Messina, Vivienne Zammit, Valhmor Zammit, 

Vicky Muscat, Pat Gauci Maistre, Gabriella Fideli, Edward Pellegrini Petit

Stephanie Pellegrini Petit, Victoria Wilson, Norman Wilson



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