Exploring Italy's more off-the-beaten track regions will make your next trip a delicious and magical adventure of discovery, and Puglia should be on top of this list! Along the so-called boot of Italy, you'll find pleasures around every corner such as 500 miles of coastline with long beaches, Primitivo wineries, and very old olive groves that produce more olive oil than any other region in the country.
In several towns like Alberobello, (a UNESCO World Heritage site), you'll find the distinctive, cone-shaped trulli (pictured above), houses that were built from limestone using prehistoric techniques and still used today for homes, hotels and restaurants including Il Poeta Contadino, recognized in 2019 by the Michelin guide for its wine list.
In Andria, you must see the hilltop octagon-shaped Castello del Monte (also a UNESCO World Heritage site). This unusual castle was built around 1240 by Emperor Federico II of Puglia and is a splendid example of medieval architecture. Italians chose it as the image for its 1 cent Euro coins.
Definitely don't miss Matera, which is just over the regional border into Basilicata and is Europe's City of Culture for 2019. From the Paleolithic period until the 1950's, residents lived in caves called sassi, which were carved into the mountainside and are now protected as a UNESCO World Heritage site. Matera is one of the oldest continuously inhabited settlements in human history, and although the sassi were once the shame of Italy for the poverty they represented, today some caves have been restored as hotels for a truly unique stay in this town built almost entirely from cream-colored limestone.
Article excerpt below by Elaine Srnka originally appeared in the January 2016 issue of Virtuoso Life.
WHEN TO GO
Puglia is a year-round destination, with hot summers, mild winters, and lots of sunny days. Says hotel owner Aldo Melpignano, “I personally love Puglia in the winter, when the weather is perfect for daytime outdoor activities and cozy evenings by the fireplace. In May the colors are beautiful. Summer is for hanging out at the beach, but it’s more crowded. The fall is fun, when you can harvest grapes and olives.”
Fly into Bari or Brindisi from any major European capital, or take a train from Rome. Once you’re there, advisors recommend renting a car because Puglia offers so many day trips.Consider Puglia for a pre- or post-cruise tour: Many Mediterranean itineraries call on Bari, and an extended stay allows you more time to explore. Puglia is perfect for a bike tour, which your advisor can arrange.
The Melpignano family welcomes visitors over the age of 12 to their elegant residence-turned-hotel, Masseria San Domenico, a gem with a spa, a huge pool, an outstanding restaurant, and 40 traditionally decorated guest rooms. The historic masseria (farmhouse) boasts a watchtower built in the fifteenth century and used by the Knights of Malta.
Masseria San Domenico’s more modern sister, Borgo Egnazia, was meticulously designed and decorated to highlight local materials and, more important, the local way of life. The 183 accommodations range from guest rooms to townhouses and spacious villas.
Owner Francis Ford Coppola curates every detail at the nine-room Palazzo Margherita. The living area doubles as a screening room, where you can eat pizza and drink wine while watching one of his favorite Italian films. The bar is for hotel guests only, but the restaurant is a local favorite. Opt to eat in the kitchen, and take a complimentary pasta-making class.
Contact me when you're ready to pack your bags for Puglia!