Puglia is the region in the heel of the boot of Italy. It is now being discovered for its beautiful beaches and simple way of life by the tourists who want to escape the crowds of Tuscany. Most of the beaches are wide and sandy, giving way to attractive rocky coves, some with magnificent sea caves, in parts of Gargano and the Salentino peninsula.
The old towns of the Salento coast are gems, teeming with Baroque architecture, desconsecrated chapels and palazzi that have fallen into disrepair. These are is a veritable treasure trove for those in search of character, space and beauty. Towns such as Nardo, Galatina and Gallipoli are divine finds.
Winding cobbled streets, lapped by septuagenarians on scooters, hide themselves away from the outside world. Many of the inland villages possess artistic or scenic interest, often with important historical remains.
See the villages of Monte S. Angelo, standing in a panoramic position on the Gargano hills and Alberobello, with its extraordinary Trulli, stay in one of the conical stone houses which are still used today. The elongated region of Puglia (Apulia) forms the south-east part of the peninsula, on the Adriatic and Ionian Seas, delimited by Molise to the north-west and by Campania and Basilicata to the west.
As far as size and population are concerned, it is the seventh largest region in Italy and its population density is above the national average.
Puglia is made up of five provinces: Bari, Brindisi, Lecce, Foggia, Tartanto.
The influx of tourists in Puglia is linked to the numbers of beach resorts along the Adriatic and Ionican coasts. Most of the beaches are wide and sandy, giving way to attractive rocky coves, some with magnificent sea caves, in a few parts of Gargano and the Salentino peninsula. Taking the Gargano promontory as a starting point, the most important centres are Rodi Garganico, Peschici, Vieste, the elegant Pugnochiuso and Baia delle Zagare, where numerous sea crags give added beauty to the scenery.
Farther south lie Bisceglie, Polignano a Mare, Torre Canne, Marina di Ostuni, Roca Vecchia, Castro Marina and Leuca, at the tip of Salento. Along the Ionican coastline, Gallipoli is followed by S. Mari al Bagno, Porto Cesareo, Marina di Pulsano, Riva dei Tessali and Marina di Ginosa. Unforgettable is the rocky little Tremiti archipelago, off the Gargano coast, where the beauties of Nature still lie intact.
Many of the inland villages possess something of artistic or scenic interest, often with important historical remains. The visitor would do well to see the villages of Monte S. Angelo, standing in a panoramic position on the Gargano hills, Lucera in Capitanata, with the remains of a Roman amphitheatre, Troia, which has a Romanesque-Pugliese cathedral (11th-13th century), with a magnificent rose window.
In the Murges area, lie Canosa, with a 11th century cathedral and the beautiful isolated octagonal Castel del Monte, built by Frederick II, on a splendid panoramic site, Ruvo di Puglia, with one of the most important Romanesque-Pugliese cathedrals (13th century); Alberobello, with its extraordinary trulli; Gioia del Colle, which has a great castle (11th-13th century); Altamura, with a Romanesque-Gothic cathedral (13th-15th century), Grottaglie, a pottery craft centre; Manduria (megalithic walls and necropolis).
Some of the coastal towns also attract large numbers of tourists. Barletta, famous for the Disfida in 1503, with a giant bronze statue of the Colosso (4th century); Trani, with a fine Romanesque cathedral (12th century); Monopoli, dominated by its 16th century castle, with nearby ruins of the pre-Roman city of Egnazia; Otranto, with its characteristic historical centre and beautiful cathedral (11th-12th century). In the immediate Bari hinterland lies Bitonto, whose 13th century cathedral is probably the finest example of Romanesque-Pugliese architecture.
Photos by Stefano Giacomelli and Sabrina Barro