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Situated in the heel of the boot that is Italy, Puglia is sometimes overlooked in favor of the Amalfi Coast or Sicily, but the country’s south-easternmost region is deserving of your attention. Boasting over 500 miles of coastline, Puglia makes an ideal choice for a beach vacation, while ancient towns such as Lecce, Martina Franca, and Alberobello are rich in both charm and culture. With a history that has been shaped by the Ancient Greeks, the Romans, the Byzantines, the Normans and the Spanish Bourbons, Puglia is a unique and fascinating destination.
Thanks to its location on the Adriatic Sea, Puglia’s climate is warm and sunny for most of the year, with temperatures ranging from 70°F to 90°F from late April to early November. The beaches are busiest in the warmest months of July and August when most Italians take their vacations. The region has two airports, in Bari and Brindisi, which have regular flights to and from cities across Europe.
Although the glitzy Amalfi Coast on Italy’s western shore is better known among tourists, Puglia’s sandy beaches have just as much to offer – if not more. One of the best-known beaches in the region is the amusingly named Punta Prosciutto or ‘ham point’ on the eastern side of the Salento peninsula. With white sands and clear, turquoise water, this informal spot is perfect for a day of sunbathing and swimming with family. A little further down the coast, there’s Porto Selvaggio, a protected nature reserve just outside the pretty baroque town of Nardò. Although it is inaccessible to cars, the Baia di Porto Selvaggio can be reached by a short walk through a fragrant pine forest, and the idyllic bay boasts some of the Mediterranean’s cleanest waters.
Perhaps Puglia’s most famous city, Lecce is a baroque jewel that is sometimes nicknamed ‘The Florence of the South’. In fact, the city’s architecture has acquired its own moniker – barocco leccese – and to see the best of it you’ll want to head to Via Libertini. Start off at the Basilica di San Giovanni Battista, which is intricately decorated with carvings of wreaths, cherubs, and scenes from the Apocalypse. Next stop is the 17th-century Chiesa di Santa Teresa, with its restrained Neoclassical façade and to finish visit the Piazza del Duomo, where the city’s cathedral boasts a tall, tapering bell tower, stained glass windows, and a marble altar decorated with lapis lazuli. After a long day of sightseeing, be sure to wander down the narrow Via Guglielmo Paladini, which is lined with traditional bars serving Italian beers and local wines.
Situated amid the hills of Puglia’s central Valle d’Itria, the small town of Alberobello is famous for one thing: trulli – the distinctive conical houses that look like something out of a fairytale. Although you’ll find trulli scattered around the region, it is the sheer concentration of these curious limestone buildings that have earned Alberobello its UNESCO World Heritage status. Indeed, there are over 1500 trulli densely packed onto the westernmost of the town’s two hills, with most of them dating to the 14th century. For the best vantage point, take the steps to Piazza del Popolo, where you can admire the quaint scene from the Belvedere Trullo lookout.
Of course, almost every region in Italy is famous for its cuisine, but even in a country known for its fabulous food, Puglia stands out. Year-round sunshine and warm temperatures create the perfect conditions for growing vegetables, so expect fresh zucchini, eggplant, tomatoes, and peppers to feature heavily in most dishes. Puglia also boasts its own traditional varieties of pasta, which are made with just flour and water since eggs were considered a luxury in this historically poor region. Orecchiette (‘little ears’) is the best known, but look out for troccoli, cavatelli, curti, gruessi and more, all of which are traditionally topped with local fare such as rapini (a type of broccoli), mussels, ricotta, white beans, wild fennel, and zucchini flowers. Cheese is a particular specialty here – don’t miss the fantastic, fresh burrata di Andria, which is usually drizzled with fragrant olive oil, or pampanella, which derives some of its flavor from the fig leaves in which it is wrapped. For dessert, try pasticciotto, a traditional pastry from Lecce, alongside a caffe leccese – a shot of espresso served on ice and mixed with sweet almond milk.
If you’ve been tempted by the charm of Puglia, take a look at our selection of vacation rentals in the region.
Otherwise known as la citta bianca or ‘the white city’ thanks to the whitewashed houses clustered on the hilltop, Ostuni itself is a beautiful medieval city with panoramic views of the Adriatic Sea and the surrounding countryside. Outside of the city, the area is host to some of Puglia’s best beaches, including Lido Morelli and Costa Merlata. OurOstuni rentals can accommodate up to 20 guests, and there’s even a chance to experience the region’s famous trulli – one of our villas is built around a cluster of eleven of the conical structures which have been restored to create a unique vacation rental.
Situated just outside the attractive town of Taranto, ourMarina di Pulsano villas are modern and luxurious, with swimming pools and plenty of outdoor space to enjoy the glorious Italian sunshine.
One of the most remarkable vacation rentals in Puglia, thisMesagne villa is brimming with character and history. Surrounded by olive groves, the property is a restored 16th-century masseria, or fortified farmhouse, complete with a wealth of period features, including vaulted ceilings, stone arches, imposing fireplaces and frescoed ceilings. The elegant accommodation has plenty of room for 12 guests and the tasteful design is modern yet respectful of the villa’s heritage.