Puglia the Italy’s Beautiful South
A relaxing corner of Italy that’s largely ignored by tourists, Puglia is where Italians come to unwind and enjoy the many unhurried pleasures this region has to offer.
A region of idyllic towns, azure seas and quiet, starry evenings. Here’s Travelisto’s guide to making the most of your time in Italy’s Beautiful South:
There is so much you can see and do in Puglia, but what if you have only five days to do it? No problem, Travelisto have got the perfect itinerary to get you in the mood, here you will find the main areas in Puglia and we can work out the perfect holiday for you!
Bustling Bari is the south seaport city and centre of commerce. It’s the capital of Puglia, a busy merchant harbour, and the home of St. Nicholas. While the majority of the city 330,000 inhabitants live in the grid-planned new town, the historic centre is vibrant and charming and worth a visit.
The old centre sits on a stout peninsula that sticks out into the Adriatic Sea. It has a pretty piazza on one side and an imposing castle anchoring it on the other. In between, there are little piazzas, old palazzi, shops, cafes and restaurants tucked away in the interesting alleyways, along with the city main monuments.
Make sure you visit the imposing Romanesque Basilica of San Nicola and the vast Piazza Ferrarese with its gleaming pavement, elegant archways and stately palm trees.
With stunning architectural surprises around every corner, Lecce is a mini Baroque masterpiece. The 2nd century Roman amphitheatre, Piazza del Duomo and the many alluring narrow streets all form a fascinating first destination on a trip to Puglia. The compact centre makes it an easy place to navigate and perfect for an afternoon of wandering in the sun.
The Basilica di Santa Croce has one of the finest and most intricate Baroque facades in Italy while the Church of Saints Niccolo’ and Cataldo is an enthralling Norman church built in 1180. Embellished with statues and other decorative art in the early 1700s, the church is now curiously beautiful mix of Norman pragmatism and Italianate bombast.
Ostuni shines on its prominent hilltop overlooking the olive groves of the trulli country and the azure sea where the Salento region begins. It is named the white city and is one the most charming towns in Puglia. It preserves its medieval character and looks like a circular fairyland spiralling around the hill.
The compact centre retains its historic atmosphere with its network of narrow lanes meandering through whitewashed buildings, past impressive palaces, and opening into piazzas.
Visit the 15 th -century Gothic-Romanesque Cathedral, made from pale limestone and looking over the city in a way that reminds visitors of Santorini. The heart of the city is the Piazza della Liberta, a charming public space that’s perfect for relaxing with a coffee or a glass of wine and watching the world go by.
The cape of Otranto is the eastern-most point of Italy, which made the city of the same name a gateway to Orient. A historic Roman port, it was a bridge between the east and west and a hugely important merchant harbour.
The city centre is a complex web of alleyways and white-washed homes. It is dominated by the pentagonal-shaped castle that retains three watch towers. The views from the old centre are sweeping and breath-taking. Don’t miss the Romanesque cathedral, built in the 1100s and containing a sprawling mosaic floor that is one of the largest in Europe.
Straddling the Mediterranean and Adriatic seas, its golden beaches are exceptionally popular in July and August when the town is busy with locals. A visit in May or September could be an ideal time to relax in Otranto.
The Puglian countryside is filled with olive groves, vineyards and vast fields of wheat growing in the sun. Perhaps the area’s best-known town is Alberobello, a UNESCO World
Heritage Site thanks to its proliferation of trulli. These whitewashed stone houses, made from unmortared limestone, dot the valley in lonesome or tiny pockets, but there are huge numbers in Alberobello, where the conical roofs seem like a diminutive mountain range.
The symbols painted on the roofs relate to the family who lives there.
From Alberobello, it’s a ten-minute drive to Locorotondo, which perches on a low hill bounded by a circular road (the name means ‘round place’). It’s easy to navigate the town’s compact core, ambling over streets paved with smooth ivory sandstones and lined with whitewashed buildings and buckets of bright-red geraniums.
You’ll find a similar historic area at the next town, Cisternino, where you’re more likely to be one of just a few visitors. Talk to your Travel Designer and time your visit here for lunch, so you can indulge in the town’s signature dish — bombette Pugliesi.
Many of Cisternino’s butchers serve this popular street food of cheese wrapped in well- seasoned pork and then grilled. The shops have small, simple restaurants attached, where you sit down at red-and-white-checked tablecloths and sip local house wine that’s served in terracotta carafes.
A 45-minute drive from Otranto, Presicce is a sun-faded town that’s almost at the end of the peninsula. This was once a major hub for production of lampante, a crude olive oil primarily used for heating rather than eating.
To protect the valuable liquid, the locals came up with a creative solution — mills were built in underground caverns and tunnels, where the workers and their livestock lived and toiled for months on end.
Abandoned once petroleum products were introduced, the mills have only recently been rediscovered and you can only visit with a local guide.
Today they’re lit by electric bulbs, but back during their heyday the dank caves were illuminated by light filtering down through narrow shafts that also served as chutes for the olives. Inside, you can see the small, mean living quarters, which sat cheek by jowl with the stables for the donkeys who turned the huge, heavy stone mill.
Matera in Basilicata
Europe’s Capital of Culture in 2019, Matera is quirky and gorgeous. Ancient cave dwellings that were inhabited here until the middle of the 20th century but they’re not the only reasons for visiting this beautiful and unique part of the world. Matera also boasts a wonderful artistic and cultural heritage, delightful cuisine and a warm awareness of hospitality.
Wandering around the narrow lanes of Matera, you will come across many lively street stalls displaying a rich array of Matera’s colourful whistles, papier-mâché objects, and the traditional terracotta cuckoos, symbols of fertility. And if you’re in the area in Spring, we recommend you check out the programme for the annual jazz festival, Gezziamoci, which attracts international artists from all over the world.
Of course, don’t miss the wonderful local cuisine, with its delicious oven-baked bread, delectable cheeses, and a enormous variety of home-made pasta best eaten with a bottle or two of Matera’s local wines.