When Brent and I decided to do a work exchange in the Italian province of Puglia (also known as Apulia), I hadn’t even heard of it before. I’m so grateful that we decided to take a chance by visiting the “heel” of the Italy boot. Puglia is largely overlooked by most visitors to Italy, but it turned out to be an enchanting region where Italian culture is strong, and tourism is much more economical in comparison to other parts of the country. Here are just a few of the reasons why I fell in love with Puglia, and why you probably will too.
Puglia’s landscape is virtually defined by olive trees, which are surprisingly beautiful. Many are 100s of years old, with dark, twisted trunks that have thickened with age.
Puglia is the largest producer of olive oil in Italy, which didn’t impress me at first because I’ve never thought of olives as the kind of food that I could be “wow’d” by. That was before I tried Puglian olives. They completely changed my entire relationship with olives. Our host family owned several acres of olive trees, and we were nearly constantly munching on juicy olives, or drowning our dinners in fresh olive oil.
Puglia is also Italy’s largest producer of wine. The vast fields of grape vines, in combination with the groves of olive trees, give Puglia’s landscape a kind of agricultural beauty.
Historically, most of Puglia’s grapes were used to add “substance” to wines produced in other parts of Italy and France. Recently, however, Puglia is becoming known for producing its own quality wines. Speaking from the perspective of a non-wine expert (but a dedicated fan), Puglia was the place where some of the best wines I have ever tasted passed my lips. Puglia is particularly well-known for Primitivo, which is an Italian Zinfandel, or red grape. Plus, the prices were fantastic. During our trip to Puglia, we regularly bought 2L jugs of white, red or rose wine from a local shop for just 2 Euros.
Puglia is home to a number of medieval hilltop towns, including Ostuni, which is known as La Citta Bianca, or the white town. The old town is a captivating maze of cobblestone streets, and Mediterranean white-washed houses overlooking the coast. It’s a small town, making it the perfect place to get lost wandering in. The only downside was that after Brent and I found a fantastic pizzeria that served homemade stuffed crust pizzas, it was nearly impossible to find it again.
Further south down the coast are the stunning baroque buildings of Lecce.
Trulli are unique 14th century buildings found only in Puglia. We were lucky enough to actually stay in a trullo that had been renovated by our host family. Over 1500 of these odd, squat buildings can be found in the town of Alberobello, which is a UNESCO world-heritage site.
Beyond the food, the wine, and the sights, I think it’s really the people that make Puglia more delightful than a fluffy kitten. It lives up to every pleasing Italian stereotype. If the Italy of your dreams is the kind of place where the family-owned shops don’t have opening and closing hours, old men play bocce ball in the street after work, and little Italian grannies hang laundry out to dry in the sun, then Puglia is the place to find it.
*This post was written by me, and brought to you by Destinia.com
Would you consider visiting Puglia? What is your favourite place in Italy?