The sun drenched land of Puglia ( Apulia) lies along the “heel” of Italy’s boot.
Stretching from the province of Foggia in the North, all the way down to the Salento peninsular in the South – where the 3 seas of the Adriatic, Aegean and the Ionian meet off the rocky headland under the church above Santa Maria Di Leuca. Puglia has over 800 kms of stunning coastline.
The Karst limestone of the Murgia uplands and the cliffs around the out-thrusting Gargano peninsular and Tremiti Islands, give way to sandy beaches with low rocky coves as the coast runs south into and around the Salento, sometimes nicknamed Italy’s third “Island” after Sicily and Sardinia.
History is layered upon layer in this Mediterranean land, dating from the early megalithic monuments of Menhirs and Dolmens, Magna Grecia with its Ancient Greek colonies, and through the dead cities of Ignazia and Canne della Battaglia, site of the epic Roman defeat at Cannae by the Carthaginians under Hannibal during the Punic wars.
Throughout this much contested territory, Romans were followed by Goths and Lombards, Byzantines and Saracens, Normans were supplanted by Frederick Barbarossa of the Holy Roman Empire.
Later ages saw Aragonese Spanish and Venetian fight Turk for control of this landscape till the the Puglia of the Bourbon Kingdom was finally incorporated into the unification of Italy in !861.
Each culture and civilization has left its own record, forming threads of the rich tapestry that makes up Puglia and its inhabitants today. Their architecture, cuisine and customs intertwine in this beautiful and exotic destination, each leaving after them, imposing fortresses, grand palaces and Masseria, castles, cathedrals, churches and coastal towers. Walled towns and villages cling to hilltops, built there originally for protection and security.
Today vast olive groves that produce 70% of Italy s olive oil, cover much of the flat plains and shade innumerable access paths that wind for countless miles to the delight of touring cyclists.
Extensive vineyards of the excellent Primitivo and Negromare grapes result in Puglia alone producing more wine than Germany and almost 10% of total EU output. Autumn harvest time, finds trailers groaning as they transport the weight of their precious load to the local Cantina, in which the grapes are transformed into the rich, ruby wines, characteristically strong and redolent with the aromas of the recent but now fading summer.
The porous underlying rock strata, apart from creating fabulous cave systems such as Castellana Grotte and the sea-washed Grotta Zinzulusa, holds vast amounts of ground water irrigating abundant yields of aubergines, tomatoes, courgettes and fennel, the fertile rich red soils supply much of Italy and further beyond with fresh vegetables, salads and an overwhelming diversity of fruit.
In springtime, it is still possible in places to watch farmers tilling the fields with horses between the emerging crops of artichokes and chicory, in the traditional fashion they learned from their fathers and grandfathers.
In chains of coastal villages, traditional gaily painted wooden boats can be seen in countless small harbours. Take the time to pause and watch patient fishermen untangling their nets with their grandsons helping “Nonno” as they sort out the days rainbow-tinted catch of prawns, squid, octopus, crab and fish.
Together with the rich harvest of the land, the seas abundance combine to produce “Terra e Mare” of the renowned “La Tavola Pugliese” – oftentimes claimed to be the best cuisine in all Italy and of which the Pugliese are so justifiably proud.
The countryside changes with the seasons from the verdant lush greens of early spring, to a rampant kaleidoscope of incredible colour in early summer, as every area of land between fields of young crops, is inundated with carpets of multi-hued and coloured wild flowers. The dusky green leaves of the olive groves filter dappled patterns of sunlight onto the tender green growth below, interspersed with sheets of soft yellow and blue flowers mingled with red poppies.
May gives way to June and as the cereal crops are harvested, Puglia basks in exceptional sunny summers, “Il Solleone” (The Lion Sun) in August is well known and respected, as it bakes the landscape the locals finish work at noon, partaking of long languid lunches, often comprising the traditional “Antipasta Puglliese” followed by local freshly made “Orecchiette” pasta with fresh basil and tomato.
At 2pm the towns and villages slumber in the post lunch heat, the streets deserted during the sacrosanct Siesta time, as people doze to recoup energy sapped by working in the sun.
They come alive again at 4pm as people take coffee in the bars on their way back to work, honking Vespas and Lambrettas thread the traffic.
Autumn returns, massive fruit harvests fill trucks trundling northwards. Village markets are swamped as abundance causes a price fall to just pennies for watermelons, pomegranates, peaches and grapes, stalls of country cheeses and salamis colour the pavements as vendors call for customers and offer tastes and samples to prove their produce is the best.
Winter is the time of the olive harvest. From October to March the air is pungent with smoke, mingling in the groves with the early morning mists, as small fires of dry twigs and leaves burn the separated chaff from the gathered olives. Trailers drawn by mini tractors and laboring Api’s take the black harvest to mills in every small town, where viscous green gold is avidly inspected and bottled as the Olive Oil season advances.
Come and explore this timeless land. Festas and Fieras, processions and pageants, carnivals and celebrations abound in every settlement as each town and village celebrates a deication its very own special Saint and Patrons day. Bands and musicians playing in the Piazza entice locals into traditional dances, young and old alike cavort in the exuberance of the Pizzica and the famous Tarantella with swirling skirts and clapping hands.
Visit and experience Puglias rich culture and traditions.
The people of Puglia, friendly and welcoming, ever ready to smile, take delight in visitors enjoyment of their food, customs and history, of which they are so proud … and rightly so. It is impossible not to marvel at that special architecture, the incredible Barrocco Leccese the unique style of Lecce, causing it to be acclaimed as the “Florence of the South”.
Otranto on the sea, but even its massive fortifications were no defense against the agony of its capture by the Turks.
Ostuni the hilltop white city famed in Italy for the longevity of its inhabitants and the strange and endearing Trulli town of Alberobello.
Brindisi, in antiquity it was second only to the port of Ostia Antica in Rome itself for its importance and trade in the Imperial Empire. ln Medieval times it was the staging and port of embarkation for Europe’s Crusades in the Holy Land., today stroll along its tree lined avenues and Marina.
Taranto, originally a colony of Sparta in Ancient Greece awaits your discovery and exploration, Monopoli, Gallipoli, Manduria, the fascinating itinerary of places to is endless
Visit and tour hilltop towns with windy alleys, seaside stone towers still guarding little harbours against threats long since vanished. Elegant historic town centres and central piazzas rich with coffee aromas from brightly parasolled cafes. Long sandy beaches washed by waves of incredibly clear water, tinted turquoise by sunshine on sandy shallows. Rocky dry hillsides, tangy with the scent of wild herbs, tumble down into secluded coves.
Any of our Villas, all beside the sea, close to the airport, near the Superstrada and centrally positioned, are superbly located to discover this amazing region. When all the exploring and sightseeing gets to be too much, and you need a lazy day or two…, what better place to enjoy them than in the quiet, tranquil gardens and pool terraces of Villa Nicola, Villa Sun Beach, Villa Azzurra or Villa Suzannah ?
We hope that you will enjoy the pleasure and mysticism of this wonderful Puglia as much as we do.
Richard & Noirin Bates