The coastline of Puglia stretches from the inland lagoons of the Lesina and Varano Lakes in the north. It then extends south-easterly to the meeting of the three seas of the Adriatic, the Aegean and the Ionean at the headland of Santa Maria di Leuca at the extreme tip of Italy’s heel.

From that promontory it runs north-westerly up the Ionean coastline, past Taranto, to mountainous Basilicata.

South from the bulging hills of the Gargano which thrusts out into the Adriatic, this whole area is predominantly porous Karst limestone.

Rainwater is greedily swallowed by the dry earth and sponge-like bedrock, thus resulting in a scarcity of surface water.   Underground aquifers allow this water to trickle and flow through fissures in the lime and sandstone base. Over time this action has slowly eroded huge and complex cave systems.

Wherever these underground aquifers rise to the surface they have formed fresh water wetlands. Good examples are the  marshes of Torre Guaceto nature reserve, the lagoons in Torre Chianca and the Alimini lakes. Elsewhere the caverns have been exposed by wave erosion from the restless seas breaking into and widening the cave mouths.  The seas action has thus opened up and revealed the cave systems of Zinzulosa, and the Grotta Verde. The caverns under the cliffs above Santa Maria di Leuca and the half-submerged caves under the bridge at Ciolo are also good demonstrations.

Low cliffs and rocky strata along this entire coastline are honeycombed with caves both great and small. Many of which are completely submerged under water, whilst others are half filled by the sea – allowing swells and surf to crash into them only to immediately swirl backwards in a frothy exuberance.

The Gargano and Tremiti Isles in particular and also the Southern Salento have rocky contorted coastlines sculpted by nature. Small inlets and fjords twist into the rock formation until they finally end in small coves and little beaches. So sheltered are they by their protected location that they provide refuge from all but the most violent weather assaults.

Shrubs and small trees, riots of flowers and aromatic herbs top the headlands. They manage to cling onto stony hillsides which tumble into the foamy, white edged blue depths below.

Incredible rock formations, defying gravity and balance, lean out over the waves or hang from steep cliffsides at impossible angles. The grasping roots of gnarled pines suck the last drips of the winter rains from cracks and splits in the dry stone that nurtures them. All of which is framed against the two tone background of sky blue and warm sunlit seas.

Currents and tides have formed great underwater plains of sand between outthrusting rock formations. Gleaming turquoise and vivid aquamarine colours, these rise from the shallowing waters to form glistening beaches. Some strands are many kilometres long, lapped by the waves and are summer playgrounds for holidaymakers and locals alike. Behind the beaches, tall pinewoods and lush waving palms form green hedges as the sands merge into the litoranea inland.

Other beaches are tiny, just a few metres wide, miniature sandy slashes amongst the dry scrub and fractured rocky backdrop. These coves peep from hidden crevices waiting to be discovered like pearls amongst stones.

Towns of all cultures are studded into this coast, containing Saracen and Turkish architectural influences. This is evident in examples at Cenate in Nardo, Villa Sticchi in Santa Ceasareo Terme, and the stunning Villa de Francesco in Santa Maria di Leuca.

Heavy Aragonese fortifications stand over the seaside ports of Otranto, Monopoli, Taranto and Trani. These protective walls still circle around towns and harbours and were coveted by defender and invader alike.

Strings of little seaside villages, mostly with a silent stone watchtower and a cluster of brightly painted wooden fishing boats crowding their small harbours adorn the coastlines.

Fresh looking marinas are crammed with neat rows of pleasure boats which jostle for space at the straight wooden quays.

This is your coastline to explore and to find your own favourite places and times. From dawn when the pale globe of the sun starts to lift into the horizon, bathing the eastern skyline with the pastel-hued iridescence of dawn over the Adriatic. Until the dusk when a multicoloured kaleidoscope of all shades of gold, purple and reds, finally slips as a great molten ball into the distant dark waves of an Ionean sunset.

This is Puglia, come to us and enjoy it.