As we begin to look ahead at the calendar to plan our summer escapes to Europe, we’d like to present a travel guide to the Italian region that is the home of the Fanuli family, Puglia.
1. As the region is quite large, rent a car so you can best explore the area.
2. Staying in a masseria (fortified farmhouse) in the surrounding countryside is a wonderful option, as most provide an authentic Italian experience, complete with great food and hospitality.
3. Temperatures in the height of summer – July, August – can be high, so be sure to pack your swimwear and base yourself close to the coast.
1. Polignano a mare
A shining gem on the coast of the Valle d’Itria, perched atop a 20 metre-high limestone cliff above the crystal clear waters of the Adriatic.
Polignano offers all the right ingredients for a perfect day out. The tiny old town, reached through the Porta Vecchia gate, combines charming, white-washed streets with beautiful old churches such as the Chiesa Matrice. You may find yourself getting lost in the winding streets, but you won’t mind at all. Before you know it, you will have reached one of three panoramic terraces offering breathtaking views of the beautiful Adriatic Sea and coastline.
After a stroll through the town and a coffee in Piazza Vittorio Emanuele II, why not pop down to the Blue Flag beach, just a few minutes’ walk from the old centre. A firm favourite with the locals, the beach has crystal clear waters and is flanked on two sides by cliffs from which children and teenagers dive all through the day until sunset.
2. Masseria Potenti – lunch, stay, cooking class
Lost among the olive groves and vineyards of the Puglian countryside, Masseria Potenti is a boutique hotel in a traditional fortified farmhouse. The original outhouses have been converted into 17 simple but chic rooms and apartments, each with their own fireplace, living room and private patio which overlook the lush gardens and swimming pool.
However long your intended stay here is, the entirety of the day will be characterized by the slow rhythm of the countryside. If you decide to have a meal here, all dishes are prepared following ancient recipes using a careful choice of fresh ingredients, which will have been grown on their land or nearby.
They offer cooking classes in Mediterranean cuisine. Those who love cooking and wish to discover traditional Italian regional cuisine can take part in our cooking classes.
Ostuni is one of Puglia’s most beautiful cities, a tumble of white-washed buildings perched strategically atop a hill with views of the endless olive trees in the Valle d’Itria countryside, and the glimmering Adriatic Sea just 8 km away, home to some of the region’s most exclusive resorts.
Eat at L’Osteria del Tempo Perso. It is perfectly inserted in this ancient location thanks to its traditions and its ancient rooms. The restaurant has been several times awarded by the most important restaurant guides. Make a reservation prior, as they get very busy!
4. Grotta della poesia
Deep in the Salento, the part of Puglia that shapes the heel of Italy’s boot, you will find incredible natural beauty, a mostly rocky coastline with intermittent sandy beach coves, incredibly clear water and many sea caves. One of the most majestic and compelling is the Grotte della Poesia (Caves of Poetry) in the small town of Roca, a 100 foot wide sinkhole at the edge of the sea.
Grotte della Poesia is said to have been a favourite swimming spot for an ancient princess, the sight of her swimming there inspired poets–thus the name Caves of Poetry. But visitors nowadays come mainly to take leaps from its 15′ cliffs into the clear waters, to scuba dive, swim from the sinkhole through an underground sea cave and back out to the sea. You can even rent a boat from nearby San Foca to get up close and personal to all the cliffs and grottoes in the area.
Grottaglie sits on a small hill a few kilometres from Taranto. Surrounding the lovely historic centre, itself characterized by winding alleys and low-ceilinged houses, is the pottery district, a creative place, where sophisticated terracotta works are produced. Potter’s wheels turn ceaselessly in more than 50 craft shops, where generations of artisans have worked and continue to give shape to plates, crockery, and much more.
Don’t go on a Sunday as most of the shops will be closed. The owners will be off spending the day off rest with their family.
Cisternino, boasts a small, utterly charming old town centre that has remained virtually intact for centuries. Its whitewashed houses, narrow, shady streets, historic churches and elegant central piazza open out onto a series of panoramic view points from which visitors can take in the surrounding countryside, with its rolling hills, dry stone walls and white-tipped conical trulli roofs piercing the green fields.
Cisternino is pleasant to visit at any time of day, though there is something particularly magical on a summer’s evening as the sun sets and the locals come out for their evening passeggiata (stroll).
You don’t need to go to a restaurant to eat in Cisternino, however, the town is famous for its barbecuing butchers! All you have to do is choose your meat – maybe the local speciality, bombette, which are little meat parcels filled with mince, ham and cheese. Take a seat outside with a carafe of local wine, while the butcher will then barbecue your chosen goodies and bring them out to you when ready. A truly local and delicious eating experience.
Locorotondo is one of Puglia’s prettiest towns with a proudly conserved, easily-walkable centre and a calm, laid-back atmosphere.
The historic part of town – the centro storico – is circular and perched on top of a hill. It’s a whitewashed maze of little lanes lined with historic buldings, some humble and faded, others retaining rather grand baroque archways and architectural details. As well as the little rural trulli houses, which you can see outside Locorotondo, this area is also notable for another unusual type of building. These are houses with pointed gable roofs – uncommmon in Italy – called cummerse. You’ll see whitewashed examples of these in Locorotondo’s tightly-packed centro storico.
Try to avoid going on a Tuesday, as like a lot of little towns in Italy, you will find most restaurants and shops will be closed. Italian’s like to have Tuesday’s off!