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Why Puglia is Italy's Best Kept Secret

The Ultimate Undiscovered Hidden Paradise



PUGLIA, ITALY – Sitting by the seaside, surrounded by gleaming, white-washed buildings and turquoise water, it’s easy to see why thousands of Italians flock to the beach shores of the Puglia region. Despite this fact, Puglia remains largely undiscovered by non-European visitors who generally opt to travel to more famous cities like Rome, Florence, Milan and Venice. Puglia’s strategic location and rich soil have made it the target of numerous conquering civilizations, a fact evident in the diverse cuisine, architecture, and culture. If you’re looking for a truly authentic Italian experience, Puglia is a top destination.



FARM / SEA TO TABLE EATING


Although delicious food is synonymous with Italian cuisine, Pugliese food takes this to the next level. As the main food producing region of the Italian peninsula, Pugliese dishes are at once complex and at the same time extremely simple. A favorite dish remains Spaghetti ai Ricci di Mare (Spaghetti with Sea Urchin Sauce), made with sea urchins from the surrounding shores, tomato sauce, and spaghetti. The sauce imparts an assortment of salty, sweet, creamy and acidic notes to the palate all at the same time. A truly complex yet extremely simple dish.


olive trees in puglia protected by UNESCO
Photo: Old monumental olive trees that date to pre-Roman times

The region is also famous for its olive oil production, producing 40% of Italy’s total olive oil. The olive oil trees in this area are so old that they’re protected by the Italian government through micro-chip and satellite. If anyone tries to cut down one of the trees, the authorities are immediately notified of the exact location of the at-risk tree. Walking through these centuries-old olive oil “masseria” (Pugliese for farm), you are reminded that our experiences are shaped by generations of people giving back to the earth for future generations. It is this approach to life coupled with the appreciation for living in the moment that underlies the Italian way of life.





PHOTO: An iconic restaurant situated in the natural caverns of Polignano a Mare
PHOTO: An iconic restaurant situated in the natural caverns of Polignano a Mare

WHERE TO EAT

Via Narciso, 59, 70044

Polignano a Mare BA, Italy

Iconic restaurant set within the cliffside

Via del Porto, 13/15, 72015

Savelletri BR, Italy

Known for its Spaghetti ai Ricci di Mare (Sea Urchin Spaghetti)

Via Scipione Petrarolo, 7, 72017

Ostuni BR, Italy

Michelin-starred restaurant with amazing views

P.za Gabriele D'Annunzio, 4, 70011

Alberobello BA, Italy

Tapas and wine inside a Trulli traditional stone house

Via G. Barnaba, 7, 70043

Monopoli BA, Italy

Creative and inventive menu with local ingredients


Charming & Rustic Villages


The cities of Lecce and Bari, with the two main airports, act as the main anchors to the Puglia region; however, the real charm of the area lies in the small hillside and coastal towns that provide a taste of charming and rustic village life.


Many towns in Puglia are distinguished by their whitewashed buildings, made possible by the white limestone used in the region’s iconic architecture. While gorgeous to look at, the all-white scenery plays a much more practical role than pure aesthetic purposes. These vibrant walls act as reflectors of the bright Mediterranean sun into the dark and narrow stone passageways, offering natural indirect lighting without the harsh noon heat.


Besides the many inland villages, the other main attraction in Puglia are the incredible beaches which remain the main attraction for Italian vacationers in the summer months. As a region dominated by coastline, Puglia offers many enjoyable and popular beach clubs as well as small hidden beaches perfect for a private dip.


Whether you love wandering around in the small side streets or lounging the day away at the beach, Puglia has plenty to offer.



SMALL HILLTOP TOWNS


OSTUNI

The area around Ostuni has roots that date back to the stone age. Evidence of this rich history is present in the remains of a 20-year old pregnant woman that was buried here 25,000 years ago. The city has been occupied by both Greek and Roman civilizations lending to its unique identity. Nicknamed “The White City,” it is perhaps the best example of the whitewashed architecture of Puglia.


ALBEROBELLO

Listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site for the past 20 years, Alberobello is home to the iconic trulli homes. These conical shaped dwellings are constructed out of local limestone and often have painted Christian symbols on their rooftops. Many of these historical homes have been converted into boutique hotels and charming cafes. Due to the increase in tourism, Alberobello has remained a vibrant city with many local artisans and craftsmen calling the town home.


LOCOROTONDO

Designed in the shape of a large circle with concentric rings, Locorotondo derives its name from the Latin words “locus” and “rotundus,” literally meaning round place. The city consistently ranks as one of the most beautiful cities in Puglia. Locorotondo is also known for its refreshing sparkling white wine - Bianco Locorotondo DOC.



MARTINA FRANCA

Martina Franca is best known for its stunning Baroque architecture. Due to its historical status as the commercial center of the region, the town is dotted with palaces and noble estates. Important sites to visit include: Piazza Maria Immacolata, Palazzo Ducale, Basilica di San Martino, Porta di Santo Stefano and the Palazzo dell’Università.


MATERA

Once labelled as a ghost town, Matera has experienced an influx in international interest due to its unique cave structures, named Sassi. Here, dwellings, passageways and spaces have been carved out of the caves to resemble a swiss cheese labyrinth of corridors and living areas. Matera’s stunning geography has made it a darling of Hollywood films such as Mel Gibson’s Passion of Christ and the James Bond Movie No Time to Die.


TOP BEACH SPOTS


  • Lama Monachile, Polignano a Mare

  • Coccaro Beach, Monopoli

  • Grotta della Poesia, Roca

  • Torre dell'Orso, Lecce

  • Baia dei Turchi, Lecce

  • Maldive del Salento, Marina di Pescoluse

  • Vignanotica Beach, Vieste

  • Tremiti Islands


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