Puglia - Head over heel in love
Sun-bleached landscapes, rich and unique cucina povera and fascinating ancient relics typify the lush region of Puglia. Once a target of conquering invaders, the region is now a favourite destination for holidaymakers.
By Stefanie Di Trocchio
In the world’s most famous boot the region of Puglia, also known as Apulia, is nestled in the heel. Bordered on two sides by the Ionian and Adriatic seas, Puglia stretches from the border of Molise in the north to Capo Santa Maria di Leuca in the south. There you’ll find some excellent examples of Baroque architecture, ancient archaeological treasures, stunning beaches and fascinating cities.
With searing summer heat, the best time to visit Puglia is June or September when the tempo is more bearable and the crowds have dispersed.
Beginning in Italy’s heel, the province of Lecce is nestled in the southernmost tip of the boot. Over 75 percent of the province’s borders are coastline, making it a very popular holiday destination.
The main city in the province, also called Lecce, is known as Florence of the South because of the city’s many Mediterranean Baroque buildings. The city has a lively vibe, thanks to a thriving university culture, and has a great mix of fashion boutiques, restaurants and bars.
Southeast of the city of Lecce, overlooking a gorgeous harbour on the Adriatic coast, is the city of Otranto. Once Italy’s main eastern port, the city suffered many traumatic assaults. These days, it’s a lovely coastal stop.
West of the province of Lecce, the province of Taranto has over 140 kilometres of stunning coastline with sheer cliffs, sandy beaches and clear sea. Inland, ancient villages and evidence of early rock dwellings are found throughout the whole area.
Further along in Puglia, the province of Brindisi was established in the 1920s from the ancient Terra d’Otranto. The 80-kilometre coastline, featuring many small bays, makes it a paradise for tourists. Variously hilly and flat, the landscape is characterised by trulli, typical of southern Puglia.
Further west from the province of Brindisi, the former province of Bari was decreed the Metropolitan City of Bari from 1 January 2015. The capital, also called Bari, has a historic old town. The atmosphere is lively and the warren of laneways is ripe for exploration. Main city sights include the Basilica di San Nicola and Bari Cathedral.
Just south of the city of Bari, and perched precariously on the edge of limestone cliffs, is the small and picturesque seaside town of Polignano a Mare. It’s reportedly where singer/songwriter Domenico Modugno got his inspiration for the famous song Nel Blu Dipinto di Blu (Volare).
The most famous town in the province of Bari is Alberobello. Designated as a UNESCO World Heritage site since 1996, the Zona dei Trulli, on the western hill of town, contains around 1500 white-tipped trulli buildings.
The Province of Barletta-Andria-Trani is relatively new – its establishment took effect only six years ago in 2009. Driving through the province affords exploration of remains of ancient civilisations, medieval fortresses and antique crafts.
The final province to explore in our tour of Puglia is Foggia, which can be divided into two parts: a plain called Tavoliere, also known as the “granary of Italy” and the area near the spur of Italy’s boot called Gargano. The Tremiti Islands, off the coast, are a favourite destination for summer vacationers.
The province’s eponymous capital is located around 35 kilometres inland, and the province of Foggia is also home to San Giovanni Rotondo, the hometown of Italy’s favourite saint, Padre Pio.
To read the full article, see the September/October 2015 issue of Italianicious magazine.