Italy’s rustic heel has been steadily creeping up the bucket list of savvy travellers for some years now but it’s still often overlooked in favour of its glitzy relations. Puglia (pu-lia) is THE place for sun, sea and seriously good food. Whitewashed hill towns, locally produced wine and kilometers of glistening coastline. Down at heel? Most definitely not.
WHERE TO STAY
A wonderfully tranquil setting and the perfect base for exploring the Valle D’Itria if you can tear yourself away from the stunning pool. At dusk, relax by the fire with a bottle of wine before dining nearby at Osteria Montegrappa. Breakfast is a feast, fresh goodies from the garden and pastries baked by your host Paola. Once you’ve been here, you definitely go back.
Gabriella and her sisters have a beautiful home and make you feel welcome the moment you arrive. Step back in time and enjoy the atmosphere of this old castle and its beautiful gardens. Choose from six exclusive suites, each with their own outdoor space (just don’t expect a power shower or TV).
A destination in its own right. Less like an Italian borgo (“village”), more like a film set – Justin Timberlake and Jessica Biel tied the knot here. Every detail is an ode to Puglia. If you are a foodie learn to cook like a local at their cookery school.
WHERE TO EAT
Dining alfresco here is a magical experience. Made even better by the knowledge that the wine is on the house. Our favourite was the Primitivi Quota 29. They sell their wines (and other local produce including olive oil) in a little shop on site so make sure you leave room in your suitcase.
Situated in a beautiful little cove overlooking the sea this is the perfect lunch spot. Nothing too fancy. They say they don’t speak English but with a little charades you can earn yourself a mouth-watering lunch. Feast on seafood spaghetti and so many antipasti dishes you lose count. Each is more delicious than the last.
This family-run trattoria serves up true Puglian fare with no pretences. Rosalba de Carlois, aka La Maestra di cucina, is the culinary genius behind many cookbooks. Make sure you leave enough room to enjoy a gelato in a cone as you wander the streets of Lecce.
WHAT TO DO
Set on a high fertile plain in the centre of Puglia, it is trulli wonderful. Saunterly drive through charming hilltop villages, stopping off to explore Ostuni, Locorotondo and of course the UNESCO World Heritage site of Alberobello (expect crowds). Cisternino is known for its barbecuing butchers – choose your meat and take a seat while they grill it for you.
Polignano a Mare
Crystal clear waters and cliffs pitted with caves carved by the sea give Polignano a Mare its uniqueness. It’s also home to the popular Ristorante Grotta Palazzese.
Home to some of Italy’s loveliest beaches (more rocky than sand) and towns alike. It goes without saying that Lecce, known as the Florence of the South, will be high on your list but don’t miss Otranto and Specchia. Enjoy a cocktail at Farmacia Balboa, and keep your eyes peeled for Helen Mirren.
When it comes to taking a dip, the stunning Piscina Naturale di Marina Serra is a must. Crystal clear water in a shallow natural swimming pool. Porto Selvaggio, a rocky beach in a nature reserve is also very pretty and full of locals.
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