Puglia, or Apulia as it is also known, is an undiscovered region in Southern Italy in the heel of Italy's boot, rich in heritage and culture with picturesque historical towns, castles, churches and architectural masterpieces, breathtaking scenery, beautiful coastlines, traditional food, wines and olive oils. With a Mediterranean climate and long hot summers it is an ideal place to visit all year round. There are so many things to experience and discover that a holiday in Puglia will be truly memorable.
Puglia is world famous for its Trulli, circular dwellings with conical shaped roofs dating back to before 16th century. They have become a national monument and are protected by UNESCO. Alberobello the capital town ofthe Trulli is now a world heritage site and is home to over 1500 Trulli. There are many other fascinating towns to visit in the area, all with charming historical centres. Experience the winding streets of Ostuni "the White City", the charm of Cisternino; the baroque architecture of Martina Franca; the famous cuisine of Ceglie Messapica; the magical caves of Castellana Grotte; the breathtaking cliffs of Polignano a Mare; the Roman ruins at Egnazia near Fasano; the marine nature park at Torre Guaceto and other fabulous beaches; the colourful history of the major ports of Brindisi and Bari; the stunning beauty of Lecce "the Florence of the South"
Blessed with an average 300 days of sunshine per year, Puglia has a wonderful climate. The hilltop towns in the Valle d Itria always enjoy a breeze, even in the hottest months of the year and the humidity is generally minimal. It is a lovely dry heat that warms your very bones, either whilst sitting in a piazza enjoying an ice cream, or on the beach soaking up some rays before taking a dip in the crystal clear waters of the Adriatic Sea. Rainfall is scarce and generally concentrated in the winter months. Since there are no mountains in Puglia, the temperature is fairly constant from the coast to the inland areas. Clement weather in the autumn often permits swimming in the sea late into October.
Puglia is a paradise for lovers of food. The sunny climate creates perfect conditions for the cultivation of magnificent olives, legendary grapes and some of the most flavoursome vegetables you will ever taste. The region has a rich agricultural tradition and as a result the recipes use simple, locally grown ingredients to fabulous ends. Orrechiette pasta is the signature pasta of the area a delicious, heavy pasta, hand-made in little ear shapes. Not to be missed is the mouth-watering burrata cheese, a type of mozzarella so fresh and delicate that it has to be eaten on the day it is made. Also of note are the smoked caciocavallo and scamorza cheeses, delectable with a spoonful of onion chutney or honey.
With so many miles of coastline, Puglia does not lack great seafood. Mussels, prawns and clams abound in the many seafood restaurants and you are sure to find exquisite dishes of bream, cod and sea bass. Around February is the time of the ricci or sea anemones, treasured for the delicate red flesh and eaten either raw or cooked in a classic pasta dish using up to 50 anemones. Meat eaters need not worry, Italians love their red meat and Puglia is no exception. Lamb, young beef (vitello)and rabbit are especially common here and there is no shortage of flavoursome sausages and cured meats.
This region has a long history of wine making and is one of highest producing regions of Italy. One of the oldest grapes in Europe the Greco is grown here and used to great effect in the excellent Greco del Tufo white wine. But it is perhaps for its red wine that Puglia is becoming increasingly well-known. The primitivo grapes, particularly grown in the southern central area around Manduria has for years produced the full bodied, award winning Primitivo di Manduria . Also of note is the Salice Salentino a DOC wine using primarily the negroamaro grape. Wine is very reasonably priced here and quality has improved significantly in recent years. You can confidently order the house wine in almost any restaurant and be assured a very pleasant tipple at excellent value for money. Beware the strength though! Puglian wines are amongst the strongest in Italy, with on average a 14% alcohol content.
Puglia is well-known in Italy for offering the some of the best beaches and clearest waters on the mainland. With over 750km of coastline, there is no shortage of beaches and each one has its own special charm. On the Adriatic coast, the shoreline alternates between rocky coves and small sandy bays. From the imposing cliffs of Polignano to the gentle sand dunes south of Torre Canne, there is something to suit everyone. Fishing enthusiast may prefer the peace and tranquillity of the rocky coves, while sun worshippers will probably head for the sandy beaches either those furnished with sun loungers and equipped with small beach bars, or those more tranquil inlets where you bring your towel and maybe a picnic to enjoy a relaxing day by the sea away from the crowds.
In 2007 the 17km stretch of coast belonging to the territory of Ostuni was awarded Blue Flag status for the fourth year running. This status attests to the purity of the water along this part of the Puglian coast and is an internationally recognised guarantee of the quality of the sea water. South of Otranto, the most easterly point of the Italian peninsula, the coast becomes rocky again, offering spectacular views toward Greece and Corfu. From here the Ionian Coast begins and on the west side of Puglia you can find wide beaches of pure white sand, some stretching unbroken for 18km.
Occupied by the ancient Greeks in the 7th century BC, Puglia has been colonised by extremely diverse cultures, from Romans, to the Byzantines, the Normans and the Bourbons. With crucial ports that served as gateways to the Holy Land for armies embarking on The Crusades, it has long seen an eclectic mix of eastern and western tradition. Evidence of this can still be seen in the Greek and Arabic architecture of the medieval hilltop towns, nestling alongside Norman churches and baroque cathedrals. Many of the towns and villages retain their old local dialects some of which have more in common with Greek than Italian. Just take a gentle wander around the historical centres of any town and you will see the rich outcome of centuries of civilization in Puglia.
J & K