Holidays to the Costa Merlata show you Italy’s Greek side. The architecture, the food and even the locals’ accents are influenced by their Mediterranean neighbour.
On a heel top
The Costa Merlata is found at the top of Italy’s elegant high heel. Along the coast, a clutch of biscuit-coloured beaches are lapped by the Adriatic Sea, while inland, acres of hilly countryside roll all the way up to the Alta Murgia national park. Everything from the food to the architecture is influenced by its neighbour Greece. Lamb dishes pop up on almost every menu, and sugar-white walls offset by bright blue shutters is the default design for many of the buildings.
The white town
A 10-minute drive into the countryside gets you to Ostuni. This centuries-old city takes pride of place on a hilltop – you can see it for miles around, all the way from the main road that runs along the shoreline. Whitewashed walls, churches and Gothic arches create an intricate web of white, and wandering through it is like stepping onto a Greek island.
Exploring the area
This part of the country is famous for its agriculture. Pasta, olive oil and wine are all in big production around here, and there are plenty of tours where you can get a closer look at how they’re made. Taste freshly-pressed olive oil on a farm tour, or sip the local tipple at a vineyard. Elsewhere, you can track down secret beaches at the Parco Dune Costiere nature park, or take the kids to see the zebras at the Zoo Safari.
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