Providing the heel to Italy's boot and the easternmost tip of the peninsula, Puglia is avid travelers’ best kept secret, with its centuries-old historic cathedrals, warm turquoise waters and breath of sophistication and serenity. Framed by the Adriatic to the east and the Ionian Sea to the west, this tranquil destination is sure to seduce all your senses with warm Italian hospitality, rich history and mouth-watering delicacies. This splendid coastline, dotted with some of Italy's finest sandy beaches, azure seas and verdant fields of untamed, raw beauty will leave you in no regret for the crowds of French Riviera and the chic of Capri. Benvenuti!
If you are looking for an authentic Italian experience and unique vacation in a locale that’s so far escaped the hype of tourist crowds and persevered its almost-untouched nature, then you will fall in love with Puglia with eyes wide open. Covering some 7,551 square miles, it is Italy's 7th largest region and we’re sure you love every beautiful mile of it.
The best way to start your love affair with this Italian beauty is to go straight to its heart–the region known as Valle d'Itria. Its historical and picturesque towns include Alberobello, Martina Franca, and Ostuni nestled in between, and occasionally on top of, gently rolling Arcadian hills carpeted with olive groves and vineyards. Beautiful beaches, charming restaurants offering local delicacies, and scenic vistas will greet you to this area. Valle d'Itria is as close as it gets to Capri-like glamour here in Puglia and is frequented by A-listers like Justin Timberlake and Jessica Biel, who organized their grand wedding in the only luxury resort in the region, Borgo Egnazia. Stop by this secluded celebrity haunt and relax in its award-winning and world-famous Vair Spa. Choose from an array of their services and be pampered by five-star therapists who will make sure that your spa experience is unparalleled and complete with a glass of fine Italian wine in hand.
For a true Puglian experience, stop by one of the many local bakeries to have your morning infusion of cornetto, saccottino and cappuccino. Soak up the Mediterranean sun at one of the beautiful beaches such as Piloni or Lido Morelli near Ostuni, the White City, and expect to order your seaside drinks en Italiano. From there, take a short westerly sunset drive to Alberobello in your cabriolet. Enjoy the scenic views along the coast and Mediterranean breeze in your hair and don’t forget to bring your vintage camera to capture photos of the little conical stone houses called trulli, which have been made a UNESCO World Heritage Site. While in Valle d'Itria, spend a day in Cisternino, a charming little hilltop town just eleven miles from Alberobello and take a moment to enjoy serene Mediterranean day in a magical little central piazza. When you’re ready to treat your taste buds, take a short walk to in the centro storico (historic center) to find restaurant Cibus, a traditional local haunt where house-made bread, pasta, and cheese offer an authentic Italian experience. Be sure to get one of the alfresco tables nestled in an alley and order a scoop of gelato made from local figs that have been soaked in liqueur for three years.
Continuing your journey further south from Valle d'Itria by car, you’ll find yourself at the beginning of the Salento plain, the region by many considered to be the best expression of the Puglian character. Take advantage of this nearly tourist-less area and start exploring Salento in the ancient town of Otranto. Don’t miss to visit its eleventh-century Cathedral of Santa Maria Annunziata, and head a mile south to the ruins of the Basilian abbey of San Nicola di Casole—on a clear day, you can see Albania and Corfu in the distance. If you prefer sandy dunes and warm, tranquil Ionian Sea over Ostuni’s near-the-city beaches, you should definitely pay a visit to the west coast of the Salento peninsula – it should take less than two-hour car drive to make it from Otranto to Ionic part of the peninsula via scenic roads lined by olive trees. Torre Lapillo Bay and Punta Prosciutto Beach will both do the trick if you’re searching for white sand and translucent waters. The landscape becomes more Moorish as you approach the ancient port of Gallipoli, a fisherman’s town tangled in a web of narrow alleys and romantic piazzas. For true local flavor, stop by the fish market and buy clams and mussels from Pescheria La Lampara near the port, which boast deeper and richer taste than almost anywhere else in the world.
This coast is also easily navigable by sea. Rent a yacht in Salento and continue past Paleolithic grottoes and coves of snow-white sand and turquoise sea until you reach the cape of Santa Maria di Leuca, the very bottom of Italy's stiletto and brilliant blue bay where the Adriatic and Ionian seas meet. For adventurous afternoons, see antelucan caves, rich in stalactites and stalagmites and surrounded by the crystal clear sea. Tre Porte Grotto, so called because it has three arches at sight on the sea, preserves remains of a Neanderthal man and African fauna and can be accessed either from the sea or from land.
Now that you’ve had the taste of Puglia, we know you’ll only want to come back. And we need to admit it – we knew from the beginning that this journey would not be an affair, but rather a love to last a lifetime. Arrivederci amici – for now!
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