Holidays to Puglia reveal an untouched region of scenic Baroque towns, vineyard-sprinkled countryside and some of the prettiest beaches in Italy.
The Puglia region makes up the stiletto heel to Italy’s boot. It’s stretched over 19,300 square kilometres – with 800 of that devoted just to coastline. The Italians have managed to keep this place a bit of a secret, so you can expect some parts to come tourist-free. It’s all about wandering the Baroque churches, vineyards and fine-sand beaches completely undisturbed.
No spot of Puglia is the same. Gold-coloured wheat fields blanket the north, and sandy coves and sea caves take their place to the south. The coastline is punctuated with limestone cliffs, national parks and quaint towns. One of these is Torre Canne, which is worth a visit for its mineral-rich hot springs and dune-backed beach. Further along, Torre Guaceto’s wild beaches are all part of a beautiful nature reserve.
Puglia doesn’t fall short in the history department. Everyone from Greeks, Romans, Normans and Byzantines has left their mark on the region. Reminders of the centuries-old invasion threats still stand in the medieval watchtowers that dot the coastline. The city of Ugento houses some of the best ancient finds, including a 5th-century bronze Zeus statue. Then, there’s Fasano, just inland from the seaside hamlet of Savelletri, where you’ll find pre-Roman churches, palaces and crumbling walls.
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Marina Di Ugento
Marina di Ugento stretches along the southern end of Italy’s stiletto heel. Families have been flocking here for years for the beautiful Caribbean-like beaches, which back onto a huge nature reserve filled with marshes and fragrant pinewood trees. There are a couple of towns to explore, whether you’re looking for a lively atmosphere or somewhere a little more laidback.
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.
If you’re looking for a slice of traditional Italy, this is it. Most travellers head straight down into Puglia’s heel, which leaves places like Rosa Marina virtually untouched. Those in-the-know are left with secluded coves, rugged coastal parks and Medieval hilltop towns to explore uninterrupted.
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