Located at the heel of Italy’s boot, Puglia’s positioning at the crossroads of the Ionian and Adratic/Aegean seas was strategic for invaders. Over the centuries, the Greeks, Saracens, Normans, Turks and Roman conquered it- all leaving their imprint of their cultures. The blend of influences results in an array of architecture and flavors that makes Puglia one of the most interesting regions to discover.
You can savor simple, local cuisine that is often referred to as cucina povera, or cooking of the poor. Stroll through old town Bari, the capital of the region, early in the morning to see local women making “orecchiette,” pasta, small disc shaped shells that hold rich, ripe tomato sauce. During the summer months, the sun ripens local tomatoes, olives, grapes, wild fennel, chicory and artichokes to perfection. Nothing is quite as unique to Puglia as the region’s nearly 60 million olive trees, making it the largest producer of olive oil. It is not surprising that a drizzle tops every dish.
The region’s food specialties are almost as diverse as its towns. A stroll through Ostuni could be a step back into ancient Greece. You will lose yourself in the maze-like city of narrowing streets lined with white washed buildings overlooking the Adriatic Sea. Marvel at the world famous “trulli” along the narrow streets of Alberobello. These conical homes – all 1,500 of them - can only be found in this town. Baroque-era churches and a maze of narrow streets have dubbed Lecce the “Florence of the South”. Surrounded by the attractive countryside and small towns, Lecce boasts a centro storico with distinct architecture: elaborate stone churches and piazzas, courtyards and gardens ensure that a journey through this city transports visitors to the past. Walking the winding streets of Cisternino and follow the scent of roasting meat coming from one of the many butcher shops. In Pogliano a Mare, immerse yourself in the offerings of Puglia’s most picturesque seaside town. Dine at the Grotta Palazzese, a luxury restaurant carved out of limestone rock that boasts magnificent views of the blue-green Adriatic sea. After visiting all of these towns, make time to bask in the bright sun along the coastline at one of Puglia’s dramatic, yet serene beaches. Indulge in its local wine that come from ancient vines. The Pugliese people learned to make wine from the Phoenicians. Primitivo, a clone of the Zinfandel grape, and Negroamaro are all local grapes. Bold and rich wines similar to the sun and colors of the sea.
Food, wine and small towns infused with a multitude of cultures make Puglia a recipe for a wonderful stay.