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Where to go in Italy: Puglia | 5 reasons why

As Australia opens back up again, it’s time to start thinking about where to spend your travel dollars.

taly, with its high vaccination rates and low covid numbers, is generally a good option. But more specifically, you should turn your attention to Puglia.

The ’heel’ region of Italy was an undiscovered secret for decades until it exploded in popularity a few years back. But is it worth the hype? And is it a bit overrated? Yes, and absolutely not. 

See also: Italy bucket list: 7 pasta dishes you must try once

See also: I was one of the first to travel to Italy, and this shocked me

If anything, Puglia (also rather confusingly called Apulia by the Italians) has come into its own, and with its vast whitewashed cities, endless groves of olive trees and sparkling stretches of beach is the perfect post-pandemic travel destination.

What in particular makes it wish-list worthy? We’ll break it down for you.

Puglia has some of Italy’s top beaches. Credit: Massimo Virgilio

It has an incredible range of beaches

From intimate little coves surrounded by epic limestone cliffs to wild sandy shores, Puglia has it all.

Don’t expect a Bondi-style beach experience (there’s plenty of that back home). Instead come here for breathtaking rocky coastlines and dreamy blue water.

Don’t leave without taking a dip in the famous Polignano a mare, but Marina di Pescoluse (also known as the Maldives del Salento) and Torre dell’Orso are well worth a visit. 

Benissimo. Picture: Adrien Sala

Benissimo. Picture: Adrien Sala

The local food is rustic and delicious

If seafood is your thing, then Puglia will be your happy place. Freshly caught sea urchin goes for 1 euro a piece and can be ordered by the plateful at charming little restaurants just steps from the ocean, such as local favourite Alba Chiara where they also serve excellent mussels, clams and fried fish.

The pasta in this area is also famous across Italy, with orecchiette (little ‘ear’ shaped pasta curls) the top choice. Everything is finished with lashings of peppery local olive oil.

Now that's a beach. Credit: Hugo Zlotowski

Now that’s a beach. Credit: Hugo Zlotowski

The scenery is second to none

Rent a car and enjoy cruising along the beautifully maintained roads lined with endless rows of silvery olive trees, and drive between the towns that are each more beautiful than the last.

Ostuni, the white city, is blindingly magnificent in the strong afternoon sun and Alberobello is a must-visit with its streets full of ancient trulli homes, the stone huts with conical rooftops that are unique to this area.

Also well worth a spot on your itinerary is Locorotondo: wander through the whitewashed town centre and stop at Ai Tre Santi for a lunch you’ll never forget. 

Could stay here forever tbh. Credit: Andreea Petrut

Could stay here forever tbh. Credit: Andreea Petrut

The locals welcome you with open arms

The Italians are known for being warm, but this really goes to a whole new level in Puglia. Many of the locals here speak at least passable English, thanks to the uptick in tourism in recent years. But even if they don’t, they’ll do their best to communicate with you and make sure you know you’re welcome.

The best way to get a local feel for the region is to stay in a masseria, one of the local farmhouses that have been turned into hotels or B&Bs, such as Masseria Casina Vitale where the owners run a tiny restaurant on site each evening serving home-cooked dishes like marinated artichokes and meatballs in tomato sauce.

Enza Fasano herself.

Enza Fasano herself.

It has the best locally-made homewares in Italy

If you like shopping (and even if you don’t) you’ll find so many tempting locally-made handicrafts you’ll wish you had more room in your suitcase. The Pugliese are famous for their artisanal talents and they demonstrate this in many ways, from linen to carved olive wood kitchenware.

Ceramics are also popular here, and the place to go is the town of Grottaglie that is filled with workshops including the beautiful studio of Enza Fasano, who makes such beautiful plates, jugs and decorative pieces that you’ll struggle to leave empty-handed.

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