When we asked Martina, our savvy Europe expert, where she wants to send every traveler (and visit again and again herself) her answer was immediate and unwavering: Puglia, Italy. Here’s why:
“Fresh, locally grown, made with love.”
Order platefuls of chewy, orecchiette pasta made hours before. Pair with mussels from the sea, fresh ricotta and the region’s iconic, just-out-of-the-oven bread. Martina says, “Puglia is worth visiting just to taste the burrata,” a shell of mozzarella filled with cream that spills out when you cut into it, typically drizzled with olive oil and served alone on a plate with a spoon for scooping up the cream.
“It makes you want to hit it at a run and go hiking, cycling, and stroll endlessly through olive groves filled with trees more than two-thousand years old.”
The most dramatic landscape is along the Salentine Peninsula. The land here is flat and meets expansive, clear blue sky. This is also olive growing territory, with countless groves fenced in by lacey stone walls washed out by the sun. Martina recommends hiking along the red sea cliffs and cutting your way down to natural beaches and inviting turquoise shores rimmed by terracotta-roofed villages.
“Learn about the timeless indulgences that are at the heart of the culture, many of them edible.”
Puglia is the place to visit to try your hand at cheese making. Many of the region’s cheeses are made daily and meant to be eaten right away, so you can try and taste even if you’re on a shorter visit. You can learn the heirloom recipe for your favorite burrata or pampanella in a traditional kitchen. Or, visit a winery and learn about the vines unique to the region as well as taste the varietals. One of Martina’s favorite vineyards is the expansive, 33 hectare Masseria Li Veli estate.
“Fascinating historical monuments are strewn across this stretch of the Italian coast. Roman and Greek ruins, truilli houses, UNESCO World Heritage Sites, and examples of castles from different centuries barely scratch the surface of what you’ll see.”
The UNESCO World Heritage Site of Alberobello tops lists for its unique trulli houses. Look out from any vantage point and you will see row upon row of these little white homes with conical roofs made from local limestone boulders. Visit Gallipoli to see a 13th-century Byzantine castle or Taranto which houses a 15th-century castle, picturesque historic center and ruins of a 6th-century B.C.E Greek temple. The list goes on.
“Beach towns stretch from the Adriatic to the Ionian Sea and the Gulf of Taranto. There’s one for everybody.”
When many travelers are flocking to the Amalfi Coast and Sicily, you’ll find your own piece of quiet at one of Puglia’s historically-rich beachside towns. From Manfredonia with its medieval castle and easy access to other towns in the Gargano promontory in Northern Puglia to Greek-settled Otranto, there is a stretch of beach, great food, and plenty of culture to go around.
“My favorite hotels in Puglia capture the essence of the place.”
Pick from authentic, private, gorgeously renovated trullis, luxurious estates with limestone pools, and boutique properties with exquisite dining. Whatever your taste, Martina will help you plan your ideal stay in Italy.
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