Experience a multitude of emotions in a region of overwhelming beauty, blessed by a great climate and diverse nature, full of history and traditions and culinary delights.
Puglia (“poo-lia”), the heel of the boot, is the south-easternmost region in Italy and her history is inextricably linked with those of other Mediterranean countries and influenced by the invaders who came from far and wide including the ancient Greeks, Romans, the Byzantine, the Normans, Emperor Fredrick II and the Spanish Bourbons, the French; they all left their imprint in some tangible way.
A humble countryside with imposing castles, including noble palaces and ancient cathedrals, with olive groves, old stone ‘trulli’ and white baroque buildings, stunning caves, see the ones in Castellana Grotte and historic masserie or if you would prefer old farmhouses with smiley and proud people.
Puglia is a land of flavours and fragrances where bakers, dairymen and farmers turn fruits of the land into products and regional dishes that owe their rich tastes and smells to their simplicity and age old traditions.
The characteristic and iconic ‘trulli’, rural conical stone structures surmounted by pagan or religious symbols, are scattered among olive groves and prickly pear cacti in and around the Itria valley. With Alberobello as capital, there, where Cisternino, Martina Franca and Locorotondo compete for pure beauty and endless photographic opportunities.
Ostuni, known as “the white city”, stands out as a fortress with its whitewashed houses and sea breezes sweeping throughout its steep inclines and sculpted portals, Polignano a Mare and Monopoli, with Savelletri di Fasano expressing proud and photogenic perspectives over the sea, Lecce, a magnificent historic Baroque city, has a breathtaking mix of flamboyant motifs, floral patterns with fantastical and mythological figures. Otranto and Gallipoli reminding us of our Greek foregoing, painful and faithful past.
Somewhat isolated, in the middle of the western Murgia where “Stupor Mundi” Frederick II left his marks, Castel del Monte is the impressive second UNESCO site of the region and crown of the many castles he built around Puglia, see those in Trani, Barletta, Brindisi and Oria.
Further up, in the spur of the boot, an ancient and thick forest “la Foresta Umbra” (Forest of Shadows) breaking the flatness of the region offers unusual encounters of a different northern nature, including one of the most popular Catholic pilgrimages (“San Giovanni Rotondo” home of Padre Pio): it’s the Gargano peninsula; just across the shorelines of this province (Foggia) amongst trabocchi and old characteristic towns over the Adriatic the “Tremiti island” are beautiful little jewels.
Down at the most southern tip of the heel, the Caribbean of the Mediterranean, Salento is the most remote but the most beaten part of Puglia. Ghost towns and empty old Greek settlements in the winter sparkle with life and traditions in the summer. It’s all about pizzica (local folk dance) and beautiful beaches, simple cuisine and fresh seafood, bold red wines and rosoli (home-made liqueurs).
Bari as largest city in the region proudly holds the rests of Saint Nicholas, better known as Santa Claus, and the longest seaside promenade in the country, Taranto, strategic sovereign of Magna Grecia, known as the city of the two seas, today hosts one of the most important archaeological collections in Italy as well some of the most sought-after vineyards of Primitivo di Manduria (the father of the Californian Zinfandel) in its countryside.