Updated: Jan 23
by Frances Reid
I’m willing to bet that any mention of Italy immediately conjures images of Tuscany’s rolling green hills, dotted with wineries. Am I right?
If you stop there though, you’re missing out on one of southern Italy’s best-kept secrets:
Yes, it takes a bit more effort to get there (Puglia is tucked into Italy’s boot heel), but where’s the fun in taking the path others have traveled? No. You, my friend, need an authentic encounter with another of Italy’s daughters. She’s quiet, but her charms are never-ending. I promise you won’t be sorry.
Here are 8 reasons you should start packing your bags, and head to Puglia.
Polignano a Mare
This ancient city, sitting dramatically on top of rugged cliffs, is not just beautiful but filled with reminders of its Roman past. You can take in views of the city from the Ponte Lama Monachile, a remnant of a former Roman road, or take a dip in the cove at the base of the cliffs while watching locals dive into the Adriatic.
Image by: David Yaugo
Trullo, Trullo, Trulli (plural of Trullo, FYI) is just fun to say! You’ll feel a little like you’ve landed in a magical fairy village, but these conical structures played an important role in rural life in Italy, operating either as storehouses or housing farm laborers. Today, these UNESCO World Heritage structures are homes and residences.
You can stay in one overnight, but if you have less time, locals are glad to welcome you into the Trullo lifestyle with workshops, including cooking classes. Learn more about Trulli in this post about the unique history of Puglia.
Puglia is located in an agriculturally-rich part of Italy. From olive oil (they were the first olive oil producers in Italy), to wine, and durum wheat (for delicious pasta). With the sea as its backyard, expect some of the best seafood you’ve EVER had, which you can enjoy in any number of beautiful and authentic restaurants.
I’m just going to leave this here…
You can read more about the many traditional dishes of Puglia here.
Monte Sant’Angelo is another gorgeous village even further off the beaten path in Puglia. With its white-washed houses clinging to the hillside, it offers a slower pace of life where you can just be one of the locals. This town is a must-see for its Sanctuary to the Archangel Michael which has been built into a Grotto. Whether you’re spiritual or not, there is something truly extraordinary about the Shrine.
Sea Caves and Endless Beaches
Puglia is snuggled between the Adriatic and Ionian Sea, and has over 400 miles of coastline. You can charter a boat to explore a quiet cove, with a picnic of course…
or discover a nearly deserted beach and spend a few hours soaking up the “la dolce far niente”, the sweetness of doing nothing.
Gargano’s Umbra Forest
You’re going to need to make space for more pasta, wine, and gelato (trust me on this). The best way to do that is to lose yourself in Gargano’s lush Umbra Forest. Hiking on paths shaded by canopies of ancient trees, it won’t be hard to believe that eons ago, Gargano was an island covered by dense forest.
Rich in biodiversity, you can listen to bird calls or just let the green stillness quiet your soul.
Image by Matteo Falcone
These ancient fishing machines have stood watch over Puglia’s sea ports for centuries, and are now national monuments.
You can experience the ways the sea has provided for the region by learning the traditions of fishermen, and then enjoy the catch in restaurants housed in or close by the Trabucco.
I’ve already said it, but It’s worth repeating…Best.Seafood.EVER!
The truest treasure of Puglia is its residents. There is no better way to experience a culture than through the eyes of the people who are tied to the land (and the sea). Strike up a conversation with a fisherman…
Or take a workshop with a local to embrace their traditions. They’ll welcome your curiosity, and invite you to get swept away by their little slice of paradise.
Experience all that Puglia has to offer without the hassle of planning it yourself, in our Secrets of Southern Italy small group trip!
Creative Edge Travel offers small group and custom trips to the lesser-known areas of Italy. Visit our Upcoming Trips page to see where we’re headed next!