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The perfect holiday destination, with over 800km of pristine coastline, vineyards and olive groves, pretty villages and a wonderfully mild climate.
In the far south of Italy, Puglia is a region still unspoilt by mass tourism, despite its wonderful sandy beaches and turquoise seas. It’s famed for its exuberant baroque architecture but don’t expect the smart Renaissance towns of Tuscany; Puglia definitely has a more relaxed atmosphere.
One of the highlights is the village of Alberobello with its strange, conical-roofed dwellings called trulli, throwbacks to ancient construction methods but ingeniously adapted to modern-day living. The countryside of Puglia is littered with masserie, a sort of fortified farm typical to the region. Many of these are now hotels but you can still find working farms and wineries where you can drop in and sample the delicious local produce.
Places to see in Puglia
A beautiful baroque city, often called the ‘Florence of the South’, has much for the visitor, including the cathedral and a Roman amphitheatre.
Situated in the limestone plateau of the Murge, these are some of the largest caves in Italy. Guides will accompany you underground to admire the huge caverns.
The cathedral on the seafront, a wonderful example of Romanesque architecture, and the Swabian Castle are well worth a visit, as is the colourful little fishing harbour.
A small seaside town on the Ionian coast, which has become a popular destination mainly for its fantastic sandy beaches. Stroll through the pretty, narrow streets and watch the sun set from the port, before enjoying a wonderful fish supper in the open air.
Food & Drink
Pugliese dishes are based on cucina povera, simple cuisine using fresh local ingredients such as courgettes, aubergines, artichokes, fennel and capers; in fact, here vegetables are usually the main act rather than the accompaniment. Puglia is the largest producer of olive oil in Italy, so the landscape is covered in beautiful olive groves. The pasta shape you'll come across most often is orecchiette, meaning 'little ears' and which is served with a variety of sauces but the most famous is with turnip tops! Look out for the butcher's shops that sell charcoal grilled meats you can eat on the spot, found especially in the Itria Valley. The delicious desserts use lots of almonds that frown over Puglia, honey, figs and fresh ricotta cheese.
Puglia is an up and coming wine growing area with 25 DOC regions growing many varieties of grapes, such as Primitivo, Malvasia and Sangiovese. In fact, Wine Enthusiast magazine recently put Puglia in the top 10 wine destinations of the world!
Festivals & Events
The Assumption if the Virgin is celebrated on the 15th August. Santa Maria di Leuca, on the tip of the peninsula, celebrates the Festa della Madonna di Leuca on the 15th when their statue is paraded across the harbour in a brightly decorated fishing boat. In Locorotondo in the Itria Valley there’s a spectacular firework display on 16th August to celebrate their patron saint San Rocco.
La Notte della Taranta is a 2 week long music festival that takes place in the towns near Lecce to celebrate the local traditional folk music and its fusion with other music from all over the world. Their traditional dance, the tarantella, known here as the pizzica, is an important part of the festivities.
Otranto Jazz Festival takes place in July with concerts in Lecce and Otranto by international artists and La Notte Bianca di Lecce, also in July, is a night when the town stays up all night to enjoy the entertainment laid on.