Guide to Apulia
A region that it is referred to in the plural
The Apulia region has such a diverse history, culture, landscape and character that it is referred to in the plural: the Italians call the region “Le Puglie”.
The central-southern part of Apulia is just waiting to be discovered. Enchanting rural landscapes, ancient manor houses, traditional Trulli houses and dry stone walls characterise the vast area of the Valle d’Itria, between the provinces of Brindisi, Bari and Taranto. Here, immersed among infinite expanses of vineyards and olive groves, the stone trulli houses with their cone shaped roofs lend a most original atmosphere to this inland area of Apulia with its charming villages, with first and foremost, Alberobello, listed among Unesco’s World Heritage sites. Other towns worth visiting in the “Valle dei Trulli” include Locorotondo, Cisternino, Martina Franca and Ostuni, also known as the white city. Further south lies the Salento, the southernmost part of Apulia that boasts some of Italy’s best beaches, particularly for families. Along the coast, wide sandy beaches alternate with cliffs, coves and bays framed by green expanses of Mediterranean maquis. Don’t miss the baroque town of Lecce, the capital of the Salento, Otranto, particularly loved by underwater divers, Santa Maria di Leuca, where the Adriatic and Ionian seas meet, and Gallipoli, a fascinating locality on the Ionian coast.
The landscape in the area around the northern province of Foggia is particularly varied, featuring the Preappennino mountain range and the Tavoliere delle Puglie plain alongside the Gargano mountains, their green peaks rising in stark contrast to the golden corn fields and the deep blue of the Adriatic. A fascinating piece of land that enchanted even the Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II (1194-1250), a man of excellent education and extraordinary intellectual curiosity, known in his time as the ”wonder of the world”. Of the many buildings he left behind, two are of particular significance: the medieval Lucera castle and Castel del Monte with its octagonal structure loaded with mysterious symbolism. Modern travellers love Apulia especially for its variety. The fantastic blue sea lined with long sandy beaches is a constant companion along the panorama road from the coast to the Gargano mountains. The route also offers plenty of interesting encounters with medieval villages: Vieste with its impressive castle, Peschici built high up on an out-jutting ledge, Pietramontecorvino with its houses carved out of the local rock or the little town of Rodi Garganico – always swathed in the scent of the nearby citrus groves. Anyone longing for a treat with massages and spa treatments should not miss the thermal springs at Margherita di Savoia. The town is famous far and wide for its sea water saltworks – the largest salt gardens in Europe, not only used for spa treatments but also providing a habitat for many rare bird species, including pink flamingos, little egrets, pied avocets and cormorants. There are two lakes in the direct vicinity of the sea – the Lago di Varano and the Lago di Lesina – their beauty a charming sight for every visitor. There are also a number of significant religious sites around Foggia, first and foremost the large church in San Giovanno Rotondo, dedicated to Saint Pio of Pietralcina and Monte Sant’Angelo. Archangel Michael is said to have appeared in a grotto there, and this holy place has attracted crowds of pilgrims from all over the world for over 1500 years.
For the pleasures of the palate local produce is a must. Cold-pressed extra virgin olive oil from the towns of Carpino and Chieuti, wines such as San Severo DOC and Daunia IGT, lamb kebabs from the Locorotondo area, tender goat’s meat from the Gargano mountains and Podolica beef from Murgia. Simple, genuine cuisine is what characterises cooking in Apulia. From Canestrato cheese and Altamura bread to traditional homemade pasta made with a variety of vegetables to please all tastes. And for those who prefer fish, this region with its 800 km of coastline, offers numerous opportunities to try all kinds of fresh fish dishes.