Forming the high heel of Italy’s boot, Puglia (otherwise known as Apulia) is Italy’s Southern gem. With sun-soaked panoramas and lush green landscapes, this lesser known region is a hidden secret for those in the know. Escaping the rest of the country in its picturesque peninsula, and bearing a conquered past in the hands of the Turks, the Greeks and the Spanish, Puglia has formed its own very unique, very remarkable, and very distinct identity. Read on for tips on where to go, what to see and a practical guide on weather/climate and check out the best in holiday villas in Puglia with Bridgewater.
A well-known farming region where grapes, tomatoes and olives thrive, Puglia is a secreted jewel for food lovers. Through the flavours of Italy’s best food and wine, Puglia tells its story; welcome to the Italian region where food is King and everything else is secondary.
Relatively undiscovered by holidaymakers, flights to the Puglia region are not as frequent as they are to other popular parts of Italy. However, flights to Puglia’s airports are increasing each year and now many airlines service this area including Easyjet, Ryanair, British Airways and Air Berlin.
There are two main airports in Puglia, Bari Karol Wojtyła Airport and Brindisi Salento Airport. Both airports are serviced with flights from all around Europe, and both airports offer bus links and transfers.
The port of Bari also receives ferry passengers from neighbouring Albania, Croatia and some of the Greek islands. For people who are travelling around different areas of Europe, ferry travel is ideal.
There are over 70 train stations across the region of Puglia, the largest being Bari Centrale which transfers over 6,000 passengers every day from all other major locations in the country. Anyone travelling from Rome, Naples, Pisa or Genoa will find the journey convenient and straightforward.
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Top 10 Things To Do – Your Puglia Villa Holiday
Puglia offers the prettiest coastal towns, some of the dreamiest beaches on the planet, and a flavour of the Adriatic and Ionian Seas. Here, food is King and there’s plenty to keep you occupied if you know where to go. Here at Bridgewater’s Idyllic Italy, we are thoroughly in awe of this lesser known region of Italy, and with years of experience here are our top 10 things to do and see. Plan your perfect villa holiday in Italy.
In much of Puglia, you’ll discover rustic charm and one of the most notable areas is Gallipoli Old Town. Walk around the old quarter of Gallipoli (which translates as “beautiful city”) and unearth some of the most incredible stone architecture.
If you’re looking for extravagant architecture and a walk back in time, head to the historic centre of Lecce and visit the Piazza del Duomo, the church of Santi Niccolò e Cataldo and the Roman Amphitheatre.
Bari has superb transport links both nationally and internationally; with its international airport, major Bari Centrale Station and a good bus route, Bari is a great place for a day trip or makes a great base for groups looking to explore the rural areas of the region. Read more.
Directly across the water from Albania, Otranto is a wonderful coastal town which offers pristine beaches, outstanding sea views and some great spots for snorkelling. This historic port is also home to the Cattedrale and Mosaico Pavimentale as well as a beautiful castle.
Gargano is a historical sub-region of the Foggia province in Puglia. It is an area of outstanding natural beauty and most of the upland area is a part of the Gargano National Park – a must-see sight for anyone who enjoys the great outdoors. Find out more.
Go dolphin watching at the Jonian Dolphin Conservation in Taranto. Take a boat excursion with an expert team who will make your whole day enjoyable and educational. Food and drink is usually provided – it’s a great daytime activity for groups or families. Find out more.
The town of Alberobello is simply not to be missed. This unique commune in the Bari province is famed for its trulli constructions. Trulli are traditional dry stone huts which are often recognised for their distinctive conical roofs. These 19th Century buildings were used as field houses or as permanent housing and to this day, trulli still line the streets of Alberobello. The most famous street is Monte Pertica Street.
Capture your own piece of paradise at the blissfully beautiful Grotto della Poesia. This stunning archaeological site is located just a few kilometres from the modern town of Melendugno in the province of Lecce. To avoid the crowds, go early in the morning and don’t forget to bring a towel.
The striking town of Polignano a Mare is a charming stop-off if you’re looking for a little daytrip with wonderful views. Polignano a Mare is set on a craggy ravine with enchanting caves and for history buffs, you’ll be delighted to discover that evidence of settlements from the Huns to the Normans can still be seen today.
The most famous show caves in Italy are the Grotte di Castellana in Bari. These caves date back millions of years, as far as the Upper Cretaceous age. Take a tour of this remarkable cave system; an adventurous activity which is also ideal for young children and families. Find out more.
Puglia is a wonderful holiday destination any time of year; with the glorious climate of the Med, this region of Italy boasts warmth all year round. But the seasons do differ and if you are planning on visiting the region, it’s important to bear in mind that some months could be busier than others.
Spring is warm and sunny with average temperatures at around 20°C. April and May are the most comfortable times to visit if you struggle in hotter climates and tourism isn’t at its peak just yet.
The end of May sees the climate cranking up a notch, with average temperatures around 30°C or higher. July and August are the hottest months in Puglia and also the busiest when it comes to tourist footfall. Sea levels are gloriously warm so this is the ideal time to hit the beaches and go for a swim.
October and November are less busy than the summer months in this Italian region. But the climate remains warm and mild, making it ideal for those who are looking to go hiking.
Expect mild temperatures of around 10-15°C in the winter months. For anyone travelling to Puglia in the winter, remember to pack a light jacket for colder days. Rain can also be expected in the winter, although the weather is generally mild.
Regional Food & Wine
Recipes from Italy’s heel are born from the deep agricultural roots of the region. The flat land makes Puglia perfect for farming, allowing the finest, freshest ingredients to grow. Although the region is rich in choice and variety when it comes to farming, the Puglian mentality for cooking is somewhat thrifty; traditional cooks like to create delectable dishes with what is available at hand.
It’s not uncommon to pick fresh veg out of the garden and throw together a pasta dish with the simplest of flavours. A great of example of this is Orecchiette con le Cime di Rapa, using only turnip greens and anchovies.
Typical Dishes of Puglia
Like most areas of Italy, pasta is a staple, with focus on both fresh and dried varieties. Favourite pasta dishes amongst the locals include Tubettini con le Cozze made with mussels, Minestrone di Fave con Cicoria made with fava beans and chicory, and Orecchiette con Sugo alla Ricotta Forte made with tomato and ricotta.
If you’re after something a little more hearty, Cappello da Gendarme is a traditional Lecce speciality which is a pie made from pasta, pork and cheese. Or for some delicious street food around the delightful towns of Puglia, tantalise your taste-buds with some Frisella (crunchy dried bread with olive oil), Taralli (mini pretzel-like crackers), Puccia (a pizza dough sandwich), or some tasty fried polenta.
Seafood and lamb are also huge staples of the local diet but with a rich crop of tomatoes, artichokes, fava beans, courgettes, beans, fennel, peppers, onion, there are also plenty of vegetarian dishes available too.
Wine in Puglia
Puglia is Italy’s biggest producer of wine so travellers who take a special interest in wine regions will delight in the vast choice of tipple here. Producing around 17% of the country’s wine, there are hundreds of delicious varieties to choose from.
Most wines made in Puglia are red and the main towns for wine production are Lecce, Manduria, Martina Franca and Salice Salentino. But don’t be misinformed about Puglia’s past when the region was recognised only for producing low quality reds which were later shipped off to the North. The 21st Century saw a huge change in wine production and today, the region is famed for creating some of the finest and most drinkable wines around.
Dining in Puglia is a treat. The peasant cooking here is legendary and you won’t taste anything quite like it anywhere else in Italy. Food is a vital part of life in Puglia with so little influence from tourism; the food you will come across will be 100% authentic. Here are some of our recommended restaurants in the Puglia region:
Osteria delle Travi “Il Buco” (Bari)
This family run restaurant in Bari serves a mouth-watering Ragu made with the most tender pieces of beef. The antipasti is also a local favourite; expect simple ingredients and fresh flavours such aubergine and courgette dressed with olive oil or simple yet tasty Puglian green peppers.
Osteria Perricci (Monopoli)
This traditional restaurant is a great place for those who want to get to the heart of Puglian cookery. This time honoured establishment doesn’t offer a menu so be ready to have the speciality of the day or let the restaurant owners guide you.
Al Fornello-da Ricci (Ceglie Messapica)
Puglia is heaven for peasant cookery but if you want something a little more refined, head to Al Fornello-da Ricci in Ceglie Messapica for the flavours of traditional Puglian cuisine but delivered with a contemporary edge.
Grotta Palazzese (Polignano a Mare)
For a one of kind dining experience, there really is no other restaurant as magical as Grotta Palazzese. Set in the captivating depths of a stone cavern (complete with sea view), this dining location is truly romantic. Top dishes include lobster and shellfish – a great choice for seafood lovers.
Eating out at Baccosteria is an intimate affair. Seating only 25 people at a time, this restaurant promises a focused and high quality service with the most mouth-watering dishes. Known to the locals as a great seafood hangout, you’ll be sure to taste some of the freshest catches.
Puglia is famed for authentic Italian cuisine (to which there really is no other worthy contender), its vast production of great red wines, and its off-the-beaten-track charm which is profoundly clear when travellers are thrown into the deep end on arrival. This region is still relatively undiscovered for holidaymakers but it’s still bursting with music, food and life. Here are some annual events and festivals not to be missed.
Ilk Carnevale di Putignano (Putignano)
Known as the oldest carnival in the world, this event taking place February and March in Putignano offers four main parades which bring the streets to life.
La Notte Bianca (Lecce)
La Notte Bianca (also celebrated as Nuit Blanche in Paris) is a cultural winter festival which celebrates the short days and dark nights with events which take place after sunset. The whole of Lecce comes to life with art exhibitions, concerts and street celebrations – this is the festival where nobody in Lecce sleeps.
Pizzica Music Festival (Melpignano)
Pizzica is what was once known as “home-grown folk music” and it made a recent comeback with the Pizzica Music Festival which spreads this growing musical trend across the country’s entire heel. Attracting music fans from all around the world every August, this festival defines a Puglian summer.
Negroamaro Wine Festival (Brindisi)
Every June, the locals come together to taste the delicious wines of the Puglia region. This wonderful festival takes place in Brindisi and wine connoisseurs come from all corners of the globe to taste the local wine produce.
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