A trip to PUGLIA is like experiencing Italy at its finest

In recent years, Puglia has risen to the top of Italy’s tourism rankings, making it a must-see destination. The province in the southern portion of Italy has become very popular among tourists, especially those who have already visited Rome, Florence, and Venice.

Going to Puglia is a must, so they say. All of Italy’s splendor is waiting for you. Puglia’s hilltop towns and maze-like historic city centers show the deep architectural influences of many conquerors over the millennia, making for a setting that is always atmospheric and reliably evoking of emotion.

Puglia is the breadbasket of Italy, generating more olive oil, wine, and durum wheat than any other area. It also has some 500 miles of stunning coastline washed by the Ionian and Adriatic seas, abundant seafood, and endless olive tree groves and rock wall enclosed fruit orchards.

The parade of fortresses, castles, and massive cathedrals; the friendly, outgoing, and helpful locals; and, of course, the delectable food (some even go so far as to say it has the finest food in Italy, which is saying something given Italy’s reputation as a culinary powerhouse).

The land and water are intrinsic to the identity of the people of Puglia.

Everything you consume in Puglia, from the octopus to the province’s most famous indigenous product, rich and buttery burrata, is caught, grown, produced, and sourced within Puglia, and the people take great pleasure in their rich history, vibrant culture, and historic towns.

More time is needed to fully explore Apulia (the Italian spelling) than is typically allotted for a holiday. Some places, however, should not be overlooked. The following is a brief summary of some of the finest locations guaranteed to fill you with joy and awe.


Bari is the capital and biggest city of Puglia, but despite its prominence, the atmosphere in the city’s large historic center is calm, relaxed, and genteel.

Here, residents take leisurely strolls along stone lanes and canyons of magnificent cathedrals, villas, and city walls, all of which are linked by arches and cobblestone passageways.

The Old Town ramparts are a journey in architecture and scenery that should not be overlooked.

Women can be found early in the morning preparing the city’s signature pasta, orecchiette, or little ears, at outdoor tables throughout Bari’s grand but also communal streets.

When a group of strollers moves through a neighborhood, locals congregate in doorways and small squares as well as their favorite stores, bakeries, cafes, and bars to discuss the events of the day.

They are snacking on focaccia from Panificio Fiore, a Bari institution that elevates focaccia to an art form, and their beloved pastry, the custard- or fruit preserve-filled pasticiotto.

Bari welcomes tourists by providing a window into Puglian culture and a sample of the traditional life of this far southern corner of Italy.


Whitewashed Ostuni, perched on a promontory, is a dramatic showpiece from afar, a shining bastion atop the highest point in the region illuminated by the rays of the Puglian sun all year long.

The “White City” is a maze of small cobbled lanes and alleyways crossed by arches, where all of the structures are painted white.

Since the time of the plague, when easily accessible lime was used as a whitewash to sanitize the houses, Ostuni has been white. It has been inhabited since the 2nd century BC and has been ruled by a series of conquerors.

The large terraces in the northeastern part of town are a must-see, as they provide probably the finest panoramic views in all of Puglia.

Try the house speciality, Friselle, a double-baked rusk bread topped with meats, cheeses, seafood, and condiments, while taking in the breathtaking views of the green countryside and blue Adriatic Sea at Avenida 40 Café.


The enigmatic and fascinating city of Matera can’t be compared to any Old West ghost town. It’s a city hewn out of the rock, perched precariously on the edge of a ravine, its grottoes cut into the steep hillsides like a ladder.

The homes are made of rock and are stacked on the hillsides; typically, they have facades built to make them appear like regular dwellings. As early as the Paleolithic period, humans had made their homes in these caves; however, in 1952, the town was abandoned and its inhabitants moved to the newly constructed Matera, a more modern settlement.

The terrible poverty, lack of sanitation, and prevalence of diseases like malaria made living circumstances intolerable. For several decades, nobody lived there because the community had died out. But then there was a revival, albeit a diminished one (it’s still mostly deserted).

As a result of its cultural significance, it was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1993 and will serve as the European Capital of Culture in 2019.

Location filming for the most recent James Bond movie, No Time to Die, took place in this city. Even though it is technically in the province of Basilicata, it is most readily accessible from Puglia, and the closest airport is in Bari.


Alberobello, which has more in common with the Shire from Lord of the Rings than Italy, is still shrouded in mystery, and its origins have not been fully explained by scholars. These cone-shaped homes, called trulli, have steep rock roofs and look like they were plucked straight from a fantasy.

While the cone houses can be found dispersed throughout the region, the largest collection of them (over 1,500) can be found in Alberobello, which was designated a World Heritage Site in 1996.

The majority of them are souvenir shops, but some are high-end jewelry stores, tea rooms, eateries, and bed and breakfasts.

It is believed that the local feudal lords were able to escape paying taxes by constructing homes out of widely available materials that could be easily demolished and rebuilt whenever necessary. These structures date back to the 14th or 15th century, depending on the scholar.

Whatever the reason, a visit in one is essential for getting to know Alberobello. Some trulli B&Bs are ultra-modern and lavish, while others are more rustic and classic, with exposed brick walls and wicker furnishings in lofted bedrooms.


Gallipoli, Puglia, is one of the most interesting, welcoming, and joyful places to visit due to its historical significance as an island fortress linked to the mainland by a short causeway.

Visitors and residents alike flock to the mazelike alleys and lanes within the high bastions in the evening, when the dozens of small restaurants and stands selling gelato add to the bustling and vivacious atmosphere.

While sipping an Aperol Spritz or another popular aperitif at one of the many bars lining the walls, you can watch the sun set over the Ionian Sea, bathing the circular town in a blaze of orange and golden.

Olives, bruschetta, and Puglia’s ubiquitous taralli, bagel-like but tiny and salty crisp bread snacks, are offered alongside alcoholic beverages. Treasured for its strategic location, the ancient Messapian site was subsequently ruled by a series of conquerors, including the Greeks, Romans, Vandals, Goths, Venetians, Aragonese, and Spanish kings, who all left behind walls, castles, fountains, and churches.

Gallipoli today is unfazed by adversity, and its residents maintain an infectious air of lighthearted elation despite the challenges they face.


This majestic city is basically a living Baroque museum, with its ornate palaces, wrought-iron balconies, 40 churches in the historic district, and cobblestone streets.

There are those who refer to Lecce as “Southern Italy’s Florence.” True to its reputation, Lecce’s historic core is entirely walkable, allowing visitors to be immersed in the city’s art, architecture, culture, and history while also enjoying the city’s lavish luxury in its many open plazas.

There is a maze of narrow streets, charming courtyards, towering bell towers, luxurious villas, exquisite, ornate churches, the remains of a Roman amphitheater and a mostly intact Roman theater, city-enclosing stone walls, and fortresses.

At you from the facades of churches and other structures are griffons, dragons, monkey-like ghosts, saints, historical heroes, and the hierarchy of the church, among many other figures and creatures.

Don’t skip the fascinating Museo Faggiano, which houses artifacts dating back 2,000 years and discovered during plumbing repairs.

With its many museums, art galleries, upscale shops, outdoor cafes, wine bars, restaurants, and gelaterias, Lecce is more than just a living museum; it is also a location for fine living.


Locorotondo, a hamlet in Puglia, is widely regarded as one of Italy’s most picturesque.

Underneath arches and past portals and courtyards, a clock tower, the San Giorgio cathedral, and the Madonna della Grecia Gothic-Romanesque church, and among whitewashed homes with black wrought-iron balconies draped in red bougainvillea, is a labyrinth of stone lanes.

Compared to the sprawling Old Bari, Locorotondo’s historic core feels almost tiny, like you’re strolling through a fairytale albeit a peaceful and beautiful one.

From its lofty vantage point, visitors can take in breathtaking panoramas of the verdant Valley of Itria, its patchwork of vineyards and olive gardens, and the 150 or so neighboring towns and hamlets dotted throughout the landscape, including the distinctive trulli.

This is the kind of town where you can aimlessly wander around, get disoriented, and take in all the sights without worrying about where you are going or what you are doing.

You can enjoy Locorontondo’s famous sparkling white wine or a local Primitivo or Nero Amaro red while dining at one of the excellent eateries like Taverna del Duca.


This deep descent into a riotous network of caves is well worth the detour from the major routes. The Caves of Castellano are widely regarded as Italy’s finest karst grotto (a term used to describe geological formations like caves and sinkholes that have formed as a result of the dissolution of bedrock).

The walking tour begins with a 200-foot descent (an elevator brings you back up at the conclusion) into the main cavern, which is 120 feet tall. From there, a network of caves of various sizes and shapes are connected by tight corridors.

Over the course of eons, water has seeped through the surface, creating a sea of twisting, gnarly rock formations, stalactites, and stalagmites in a kaleidoscope of hues.

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