When it comes to travel there’s always someplace new on the horizon. Places like Sri Lanka, Madagascar and Montenegro are quickly emerging as some of the hottest destinations, but there is one place off the beaten path that continues to gain momentum that is truly exciting — Puglia — located on Southern Italy’s sun-drenched Adriatic coast.
Quickly becoming the ‘IT’ destination among travel connoisseurs,’ Puglia is hotter than ever with its emerging contemporary resort hotels, Apulian cuisine, pristine beaches and picturesque villages. Solidifying this notion, last October celebrities Justin Timberlake and Jessica Biel chose this stunning Mediterranean backdrop to exchange their wedding vows.
Puglia is an enclave that sits on the sunbaked high heel of Italy’s boot, perfectly situated on five hundred miles of Adriatic and Ionian coastline — mountains in the north, plains in the south — its stark, unspoiled beauty is home to some of the brightest blue seas, historic little towns, diverse architecture, mouth-watering food, colorful folk traditions, and the loveliest people in all of Italy.
Numerous invasions through the centuries by the Greek, Roman, Turkish and Spanish have created a rich and varied treasure trove of ancient relics and artifacts that Puglia humbly displays. The region’s brilliantly whitewashed towns are a reminder that Turkey, Greece and North Africa are neighbours.
Puglia’s agricultural heritage and everchanging landscape provide the ingredients for a variety of culinary treats. Try the sumptuous burrata, a fresh mozzarella casing filled with shredded pieces of mozzarella and salted cream, or indulge your sweet tooth with a pettola, a fried dough ball drizzled in Vincotto (cooked wine). This region also produces 40% of Italy’s olive oil, the perfect companion to Puglia’s delicious bread that is always baked in wood-burning ovens.
With its spectacular coastline and long fishing tradition, Puglia serves up a superb selection of fresh local fish: red prawns, mussels, anchovies and sea bass are featured in the many restaurants that line the beach towns of Gallipoli, Otranto and Taranto.
In the region’s mountainous interior of Cisternino and Valle d’Itria, meat reigns supreme. Visit the rosticceria butchers and enjoy a fabulous glass of wine; reds are especially good, as your meat is cooked in a wood-burning oven or hot charcoal grill.
With a rich and ancient culture, brilliant seas, delicious food, and mix of Baroque and Greek architecture, Puglia is quickly becoming Italy’s new Tuscany and definitely a place worth visiting on your next trip.
From Lecce’s baroque churches and old palazzos to Gallipoli and Otranto’s rustic seaside villages to the UNESCO protected conical trulli of Alberobello, Puglia offers a wide range of places to see and things to explore. Other great day trips include Castro, Porto Selvaggio, Cisternino, Locorotondo, Martina Franca, Polignano a Mare and Ostuni. So pack a bag, rent a car and start exploring!
WHERE TO STAY:
Overlooking the Adriatic Sea, Borgo Egnazia is a stunning seaside resort in the heart of Apulia nestled among olive and jasmine trees. A golf course, spa, and private beach club ensure your every need is catered to. This was also the location for Justin Timberlake and Jessica Biel’s marriage!
Restored from the abandoned and decaying ancient caves in the village of Matera, Le Grotte Della Civita is located in a UNESCO World Heritage Site and provides guests with a place to escape the chaos of life and go back to a simpler time when a warm bath, great meal and good glass of wine were all the comforts they needed.
WHERE TO EAT:
For over 30 years the award-winning Osteria del Tempo Perso has been serving delicious Apulian specialities in the old town of Ostuni, the so called white town. Only a few metres away from the cathedral, it is perfectly inserted in this ancient location thanks to its traditions and its ancient rooms.
is a beautiful restaurant/bar overlooking Polignano a Mare’s old town. Go in the evening and witness one of the most spectacular sunsets in the region followed by an after dinner walk to a pebble cove to enjoy the view of the caves and the old town built into them.
GETTING TO PUGLIA
Puglia is easily accessible by plane, train, or automobile. The closest airport is the Aeroporto di Bari Karol Wojtyla (named after Pope John Paul II), which offers connecting flights through Rome, Milan, and other Italian cities all year long. For a magnificent view, drive along the coastal highway SS89 dir/B and lose yourself among the regions unspoilt scenery.
• Bari is the capital city of Puglia.
• There are 200 types of pasta in Puglia.
• The baroque town of Lecce is nicknamed 'The Florence of the South.'
• Visit Alberobello, a town made up entirely of white washed, circular houses with conical roofs called Trulli (remininscent of a smurf village).