Things to do in Puglia, southern Italy
Puglias arguably 'main' airport is located in the region’s capital, Bari, but there is also Brindisi, plus the region is accessible from Naples. To get around the region itself, it is perhaps a wise idea to hire a rental car, however Trenitalia provides reliable regional rail links, and FSE trains are a great option for a more scenic route around the countryside. Visit Alberobello - a Unesco heritage site
And so you arrive in this wonderful world of culture. But please keep in mind that this is not Venice, nor Rome, nor Milan. Traditional English tea may be hard to come by, fluent English speakers even rarer. That is one of the beauties of this region; you know you’re in Italy. So long as you show commitment to your surroundings, you’ll be able to enjoy that wonderful world of culture to the full.
The town of Otranto isn’t a bad place to begin your adventure. At the south-eastern extreme of Puglia and indeed of Italy, Otranto boasts an example of character. As you enter its Norman Cathedral, you’ll find an 800 year old Tree of Life mosaic, depicting all sorts of biblical wonders from the fall of Adam and Eve to a surprise appearance of King Arthur. Even the staunchest of atheists would struggle not to be seduced by this triumph of ambition and creativity.
Little Lecce is an endless catalogue of culture and exuberance. It boasts one of the most exciting churches in Italy, the Church of the Holy Cross, with an entablature of vegetables, grotesque figures and animals such as mermaids and wolves. Lecce cathedral has a true masterpiece of Baroque art from 1659, its Roman Amphitheatre could once hold 25,000 spectators, the castle of Charles V charms with its delicate ornaments. As you come to the end of your time in Lecce, you will start to appreciate why it truly is the ‘Florence of the South’.
And what about the Caves of Castellana? It is one of the few wonders of Puglia not created by its people. It is for once not a triumph of the region’s people but of the region itself. Formed throughout the last Millennia via a constant leakage through the limestone ground, you can absorb the little lakes, the stalactites, the incredible colours and the ‘‘White Cave’’, safe in the knowledge that this is the best there is. It is one of those few times in life where you have to take a full tour, and not waste this wonderful opportunity of exploration.
And we must, of course, not forget the Trulli of Alberobello
. You may think you’re in Disney; you may be surprised that this city of dry stone dwellings still has occupants; you won’t be surprised that it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Some of these dome shaped ancient miniature limestone buildings have gardens, many have ovens receding into the wall, Trullo Siamese is said to have had Siamese occupants. All of these classic examples of vernacular architecture, however, are part of a fairytale. And as you stroll around in the sunshine, taking in this extraordinary world, you can appreciate how these buildings represent the survival of prehistoric building techniques into the 21st century.
That’s what Puglia is about, defying the changing world around it. When fast-food giants McDonalds came to the town of Altamura, the locals refused to abandon their roots. They couldn’t handle the thought of an alternative to their home-inspired local breads. And the Hamburger Company left town, mindful that Puglia refuses to surrender its natural charm.
Indeed, when looking for food, you would be foolish to look for anything other than small, family restaurants where you’ll experience Puglia at its purest and most homely. Generations of hardship mean that the locals can prepare the most extraordinary of dishes with the most modest of vegetables, not to mention their own vegetable, barattiere, a cross between a cucumber and a melon. And we must not forget seafood. Restaurants at the seafront in Otranto, Brindisi, and Taranto will serve up just-caught fish. All restaurants will treat you to classic local desserts such as sweetened ricotta cheese. And the whole Puglia will treat all its visitors, all year round, with warmth and kindness, with regular events such as the carnival of Putignano, perhaps the oldest carnival in the world, or La Focara per Sant’Antonio Abate where guests are encouraged to take home bonfire ashes with them for good luck.
Puglia is an exceptional region for a holiday, for its people treasure it like nothing else. In the 1960 film ‘Rocco e i suoi fratelli’, Rocco becomes a legendary Milan boxer, with he world at his feet. But he remembers his humble origins, and is determined to return. ‘Ours is the land of the Olive Trees’ he says...
For more information on a holiday stay in Puglia please see our list of villas below.
This beautifully restored trullo with heated fenced pool is located in picturesque countryside near the attractive towns of Alberobello and Martina Franca.
Price Range:£1370 - £3270
Puglia traditional rental - Ninibello is a lovely restored Trullo set on a peaceful hillside near the town of Cisternino with delightful views of the surrounding countryside.
Price Range:£1890 - £2940
Puglia exclusive luxury villa holiday – Villa Traiana is a magnificent three-storey villa nestled between
the foothills of the Appenines and the azure Adriatic sea, along the beautiful coast
of Southern Italy.
Price Range:£6295 - £13620
Great value trullo rental in southern Italy:
04 May - 28 Jun: was £1,895, now just £1,620 per week!
This is a charming, traditional local house known as a trullo, with wonderful grounds and large private pool designed to make the most of outdoor life in the excellent climate and landscape of Puglia.
Price Range:£1405 - £2445