An Introduction to Puglia, Italy
Puglia is located in southeastern Italy, and it is affectionately called the “heel of the boot” for its position.
Puglia is bordered by the Adriatic Sea to the east and the Ionian Sea to the southeast, making it the best destination for those who love the beach. However, Puglia is much more than this: uncontaminated nature, small towns full of art and history, and amazing local culinary traditions.
Not surprisingly, Puglia is one of the most popular destinations in Italy.
Must See & Do in Puglia
Bari is Puglia’s capital city, but tourists usually overlook it. There are plenty of things you can do here: visiting a church, enjoying a day at the beach, and tasting the typical “focaccia barese”.
Trani is another underrated but gorgeous town in Puglia. The best places to visit are the Cathedral, built in the local pink limestone, and the Jewish quarter with its synagogues.
Puglia is most famous for the crystal-clear waters you can enjoy from rocky cliffs or sandy beaches (depending on whether you are on the Adriatic or Ionian coast). The Gargano area, in the northern part of the region, has beautiful sandy beaches.
Vieste is unmissable with its characteristic Pizzomunno, a giant rock in the middle of the sea that has become the city’s symbol. Another must-see is the city of Peschici, popular for its beaches (Spiaggia della Zaina is spectacular!) and the nightlife.
Off the coast of Gargano are the stunning Tremiti Islands, which are part of the Gargano National Park and a protected natural marine reserve. Of the four islands, only two are inhabited.
Puglia might be known for its beaches and towns, but there are immense areas of pristine nature that are perfect if you love trekking and walking. The Alta Murgia National Park is a fantastic spot to visit. Inside the park, there is the magnificent Castel del Monte, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Salento is the most renowned destination in Puglia. Gallipoli is probably the most touristic place in the area, and rightly so. Called “the pearl of the Ionian”, Gallipoli is famous for its spectacular beaches and its legendary nightlife.
Santa Maria di Leuca is another must-visit city in Salento. Santa Maria di Leuca is famous for its Basilica and its marvelous sea caves – don’t miss the chance to visit the Grotta della Poesia.
The city is also one of the best places to learn how to dance the pizzica, the traditional folk dance similar to the most known tarantella.
Puglia’s most distinctive characteristic is the trulli, traditional white, cone-shaped houses. To admire the best trulli, you should visit the town of Alberobello.
Secret Gems of Puglia
The Bauxite Cave is an incredible natural spot near the town of Otranto. Until the 1970s, the Cave was used for the extraction of bauxite. The presence of this mineral turned the soil a deep red color, and the water that infiltrated the quarry crater created a wonderful emerald green lake. However, the lake is not suitable for swimming.
The place is a real natural wonder, and you will feel like you’re in one of the great American Parks!
Food & Drink of Puglia
Puglia’s sunny and warm weather fosters the growth of valuable raw materials such as extra virgin olive oil, the magic touch that gives Puglia’s cuisine its distinctive taste.
Olive oil is the essential element in friselle and focaccia. Friselle are sort of crunchy crackers traditionally topped with cherry tomatoes, garlic, salt, and olive oil. Focaccia is the queen of Puglia’s street food. You can find various ingredients on top of focaccia, from veggies to cheese to meat, and – of course – a generous drop of extra virgin olive oil.
Another food item Puglia is renowned for throughout Italy is bread, with the Pane di Altamura having gained the prestigious dop designation. Cheeses are another staple of Puglia’s cuisine. Burrata, stracciatella, and caciocavallo are the perfect ingredients to add to every dish.
As for pasta, Puglia is worldwide famous for the shape called “orecchiette”. The typical sauce? Cime di rapa (turnip tops) sautéed in olive oil, garlic, and chili.
The central presence of the sea in Puglia is evident in its cuisine. “Frutti di mare”, like sea urchins, octopus, mussels, scallops, and squid, are served raw in Bari or most commonly enjoyed as a pasta sauce.
Puglia’s climate is perfect for the cultivation of grapes. The region is well-known for its rich and fruity red wines. So must-try are Nero di Troia and Negroamaro.