Situated in the heel of Italy, Puglia is a land bursting with antiquity, architecture and agriculture. From its fertile, fragrant olive groves to the glistening white palaces of Lecce and from the glorious beaches to the curious conical trulli houses of Alberobello, Puglia is an absolute treasure trove. Until recently, the region was largely unknown outside Italy, but increasingly visitors are making a beeline for this wonderful peninsula. So lets have a look at what Puglia, Italy’s heel, has to offer.
Puglia’s History in a Nutshell
Puglia’s ancient origins are a mix of invaders, imperialists and Italians. The Greeks came first, colonizing Puglia’s feudal agricultural heartland as early as the 8th century BC. Next came the ancient Romans, the started building several ports and their famous straight roads to open up trade and communication with the rest of their quickly expanding empire.
But it wasn’t until the 11th and 12th centuries that Puglia’s grand architectural heritage kicked off. And the next 500 years would see the construction of some of the most iconic and greatest churches, castles and palaces anywhere in Italy.
Lecce, the “Florence of the South”
Lecce is unquestionably one of Puglia’s architectural treasures due to its outstanding Roman amphitheater, Baroque palaces and countless churches; hence the nickname “the Florence of the South”. Most of the buildings are constructed from a local sandstone called pietra leccese, literally Lecce stone, giving the city a warm, golden hue. But unlike Florence’s marble, which is crisp and polished, the local sandstone is soft making it easy to carve into extremely intricate and ornate decorations that harden with age.
And Lecce’s sculptors really knew how to carve! So the city’s sumptuous facades pop with flowers, shells, sea creatures, fruits, garlands and all manner of exotic, extravagant decorations. To make a little sense of this wonderfully theatrical city why not take a guided tour of the historic centre. Your guide will transport you back in time to the 1600s, highlighting some of the prime examples of Lecce’s Baroque style and deciphering their more dramatic flourishes. Are you ready to be amazed?
Puglia is filled with something for all. If you prefer your architecture on a slightly more manageable scale put Alberobello, meaning “beautiful tree”, on your must-see list for Puglia, Italy.
The little town is part of the UNESCO Worlds Heritage Site for its trulli. With only approximately 11,000 inhabitants it still draws visitors from all over the world to see its unique houses. Known locally as trulli, the whitewashed houses are built with dry-stone walls and conical roofs and were originally used by farmers as huts. Over the years, however, the huts became houses, as several trulli were combined to add extra rooms to accommodate farming families. And today their design continues to delight locals and tourists alike with many still occupied whilst others are used as bed and breakfasts or holiday homes.
Why not delve a little deeper into Alberobello life with a half-day tour around the charming trulli-lined lanes, combined with a spot of local Puglian hospitality at a local masseria country house. Perfetto!
Wine Tasting in Puglia, Italy
Once you’ve savored Puglia’s architecture, why not let the region’s wineries tempt you to a glass or three of the local tipple with a private Puglian wine tasting.
In fact, you may be surprised just how much Puglia has to offer. For example, did you know that Puglia is the largest regional producer of wine in Italy producing around 17% of the total Italian output? Or that Puglia’s grapes have been exported to northern Italy and France for years, to create some of their quality blends? But don’t panic, Puglia also produces its own wines with 4 DOCGs, the highest denomination of wine quality, and 29 DOCs guaranteeing premier production methods of its own. That’s more than any other region in the south so I hope you’re thirsty!
Your guide will lead you through a taste-test of 6 amazing wines from the sweet Moscato dessert wine, to the deep red Salice Salentino made from Negroamaro grapes and finally on to the Primitivo, better known as a Zinfandel outside Italy. There’s no better way to explore the best wines in Puglia Italy as there is something for practically every palate! Cin cin!
Discovering Puglia By Bike
Alternatively, if you being outdoor and active, why not explore with an e-bike tour of the Puglian countryside? This full day’s cycling will combine local country houses with coastal paths and even the old pilgrim crusader route to the port of Brindisi in the south. But there’s no need to worry, you don’t need to be an Olympic cyclist to join in, as the area is pretty flat and the bikes are power-assisted, giving you that extra boost just when you need it!
Your guide will show you round Savalletri di Fasano, a little town known for its typical masserie houses before you strike out for the coastal road separating the Adriatic’s wonderful sapphire sea from the verdant olive groves inland. The idyllic shoreline route leads on to Monopoli, sheltering behind old fortified seafront walls, where you’ll discover a beautiful Baroque cathedral and the Carlo V castle, built by early Spanish colonizers. It’s a perfect, peaceful way to immerse yourself in all the different sides to Puglia Italy before you cycle back along the wonderful coast road home. Puglian paradise!
Are You Packed For Puglia?
Puglia is a delightfully unspoiled region of Italy with plenty to offer Italophiles as a vacation destination. And it’s been attracting visitors for millennial, from the Greeks to the Romans to the Normans, long before local feudal rule took over in the Middle Ages. So whether you fancy strolling through the streets and lanes of Lecce admiring the gloriously over the top architecture, or prefer a gentle bike ride along the coast or are imagining taking Puglia’s wines for a taste-test, there is guaranteed to be something to suit everyone. The toughest part is always deciding where to start but our travel experts are on hand to help you design the perfect Puglian package – why not give them a call! In the meantime, leave us a comment to tell us what is top of your wish list for Puglia Italy. Happy travels, buon viaggio!