Puglia is a region that is largely untouched by mass tourism. The towns are full of history and are truly off the beaten track. This Italian gem is perfect for a peaceful but still adventurous holiday and one that can be filled with fabulous experiences from bike rides to food tours.
Ostuni – ‘The White Pearl’
Ostuni is known as ‘The White Pearl’. This is because of its Trulli, the white washed buildings that are so characteristic in this town. Trulli are small, round, whitewashed houses that are a common feature to the Puglian landscape. The origins and purposes of the Trulli are unknown but nowadays they have been turned into shops and even B&Bs. The walls of the Trulli are decorated in beautiful hanging flowers from deep purples to vibrant pinks.
Take a walk through the winding alleyways and head to the towns main square, Piazza Della Libertà. This square is home to the 15th Century cathedral. The architecture and design of this cathedral has clearly been influenced by the Gothic and Renaissance periods.
If you are looking for a holiday trinket then the town’s authentic figurines, called fischietti. These figurines are a tradition of the area and are actually used as whistles.
Ostuni is also home to the Caves of Santa Maria Di Agnano. These caves host evidence of times long ago and are a true testament to Puglia’s history. The caves have even been excavated to discover the burial site that has been dated to 24,000 BC. The discoveries that have been made at the site have lead researchers to believe that for thousands of years the caves were the hosting place for cult rituals that celebrate women.
Santa Cesarea Terme
This town is most well known for its natural thermal springs. The water in the springs contains sodio-iodic which are claimed to hold healing properties. Spas throughout the town offer various treatments, from mineral baths to mud treatments.
Once you have relaxed in the spa, check out the rest of Santa Cesarea Terme’s sights. The Moorish Villa Sticchi resides on top of the cliffs and is an impressive building. The villa is a private residence but its far-Eastern style architecture can still be admired from outside.
If you are feeling adventurous and love a good water sport, Tremeti Islands are the perfect sport for scuba diving. The cluster of five Islands are part of the large Gargano National Park and as a result have been extremely well preserved. The waters a full of sea life, caves and even a Roman shipwreck. Only two of the Islands are inhabited which makes for a truly authentic Italian and slow paced way of life.
The islands hold particular historical significance. According to legends, the famous Greek figure of Diomedes is buried here. This is why you may here the Tremeti being referred to as the ‘Diomedee Islands’.
NotintheGuidebooks would recommend a visit to the Fortress on top of San Nicola as well as the island’s St Mary’s Abbey. The Abbey was once inhabited by Benedictine Monks and holds plenty of history to learn. If you are taking part in scuba diving then definitely head towards Padre Pio. Padre Pio is a 3 meter tall statue under water of St. Pio of Pietrelcina. The statue was placed there in 1998 in order to protect the islands.
To get to the Islands, catch a ferry from one of the mainland coastal towns in Puglia. Many of the towns in close proximity to the island will offer these boat rides for about €25 return. The atmosphere of this archipelago destination is once of peace and relaxation. Fill your sense with salty air and the intense aroma of Aleppo Pines.
Bari is home to the most spectacular Basilica Di San Nicola. The Basilica has been standing since the 10th Century and as a result its architecture is an amalgamation of different eras. This cathedral is especially important as it is home to the remains of Saint Nicholas… otherwise known as Father Christmas. He even has his own shrine where people from all over the world come and pay their respects.
Truly feel like a little kid again by riding on the towns Ferris wheel after celebrating St Nicholas. The Ferris wheel is located at the waters edge and is a perfect way to see Bari from a bird’s eye view.
Each day at lunchtime, when the fisherman come back with the morning catch, the coastal streets are lined with tables. Experience the freshest spread of seafood in this incredible and authentic experience. Get your plate for €5 and choose from a selection of prawns, octopus, mussels and oysters.
This is another island destination recommendation for Puglia. Gallipoli in Greek means ‘beautiful city’ and we can see why. Once a hub for maritime the trade, the island is now a slow fishing village. The island is dictated by the oceans around it and rightly has some of the best and freshest seafood throughout Puglia. This island is made for walking discoveries.
Get lost in the little alleyways and you will chance upon traditional shops and cafés that have seemingly been frozen in time. The sunsets in Gallipoli are second to non and should be enjoyed on the beach front with a glass of wine, Italian style. The main feature of the island, other than its crystal blue waters is its castle. Castello Angioino di Gallipoli is a 13th Century masterpiece. Its original purpose was outlook and defense of the island and is now a cultural hub of the island’s history.