Discover Puglia: One of Italy’s Most Beautiful Regions!
Fisherman’s port of Monopoli Santa Croce, Baroque church in Lecce
Italy, aka the boot of Europe, is made of twenty regions, including the islands of Sardegna and Sicilia. Every region carries its charm, unique culture, picturesque landscape, and culinary traditions. This year (2016) National Geographic described Puglia as one of the most beautiful regions in the world. Starting at the spur of the boot, Puglia is the heel of the Italian peninsula bathed on the east side by the Adriatic Sea and by the Ionic Sea to the south.
From the USA, Puglia is best reached flying via Rome to Brindisi or Bari. Another option, if you enjoy european trains, is to fly into Bologna (via Amsterdam) stay one night by the train station and the next morning catch a train which in 7 hours will take you to Puglia traveling along the Adriatic Coast, at times literally only 200-300 feet away from the water. The train ride is comfortable both in second or first class and the views are very picturesque. A restaurant car is available on the train but you might just want to pop into a deli in Bologna and buy some meats, cheese, bread, and a bottle of wine (don’t forget a bottle opener, of course). Most likely you will have a table in your seating area, so why not enjoy some real special Italian food! You many not be able to get fancy as the picture below, but you should be able to buy some 12 months old parmesan cheese, mortadella, salame, speck, pancetta, coppa, some olives, and some mozzarella and you are good to go!
Once the train stops in Foggia, you will know that you are in the northern part of Puglia. Due to the long and accessible coastline, the history of this region is fascinating as it was invaded throughout the centuries by many populations that settled in the region creating pockets of micro cultures with unique and often incomprehensible dialects. Centuries ago in early times Puglia was colonized by the Etruscans and the Greeks, who founded the colony of Taranto, then in the 4th century the Romans arrived and started the building of the Via Appia to connect it to Rome. After the fall of the Western Roman Empire in 476 AD Apulia was for a time under the influence of Byzanthium, then was gradually occupied by the Lombards, the Franks and the Saracens. The remains of these civilizations are all still scattered throughout the entire territory.
Polignano a Mare Alberobello
I strongly suggest you spend at the very least a week to 10 days enjoying the various provinces of Puglia as the roads and infrastructure are not as developed in the north and it can take some time to get from one city to another. For instance, to go from Lecce to Alberobello, two of the MUST SEE destinations, the best way is by car and it is a two hours drive. Other must see are Monopoli and Polignano a Mare (very close to each other) two cities in the province of Bari and on the Adriatic sea. If you enjoy wine, you must spend a couple of days, maybe harvesting grapes and enjoying the beaches of the Ionic Sea, in my hometown of Manduria, 45 minutes west of Lecce.
Finally, an experience you should have is to stay a few nights in a old animal farm from the XVI or XVII century that have been saved, restored and converted into a Bed and Breakfast, they are literally sprinkled all over the region, north to south. They often serve organic slow food of the most delicious kind, they have a swimming pool and they are surrounded by either Primitivo grapes or ancient olive trees. Below is an example:
I hope you found this blog and information useful, and I hope it has made you curious and wanting to travel to Puglia soon. Feel free to reach out for a consulting call or to plan a trip with me to my home region Puglia.