Tonight it is my final night in Puglia and I am staying on the outskirts of Taranto. I have a love/hate with Taranto. Love it because Relais Histo is a wonderful hotel, with great style and position, and hate it cause Taranto has such potential and is really not worth a visit. Taranto was the principal city of Magna Grecia and claims a wealth of history, yet it is a difficult city for tourists to enjoy. The outskirts are industrial, and years of steel production and abandoned steel factories have ruined the surrounding land. Add to that,the city is confusing. For instance, it took an hour and a half instead of 15 minutes as it should, to arrive at The National Archaeological museum , which was the only valid reason I had to visit the city to begin with. The museum has been closed for years and has a wonderful gold jewelry collection, but only one floor is open. I had also been advised not to go to the "centro storico" historic center even in the daytime unless accompanied by a guide.
Puglia has great food and great wines. Wonderful shaped pastas such as minchialeddi, orecchiette, fresh vegetables like Cima di Rape, specialty cheeses such as burrata, pecorino stagionato and it is not unusual to find tables in your ristorante an entry table filled with lots of different antipasti. For wine lovers, there are hearty reds like: Alianico, Negro Amaro and Primitivo. With a bonus , since the area also produces fabulous rose` wines, (which I adore ) and they can drink them here for more months in the year then we can in our high elevation, since it is hot more months of the year in Puglia. During this visit the thermometer went to 26,27 C almost every day. I was told that in summer months they see days of 40C. Least we forget driving past miles and miles of olive trees, we passed thousands of them hundreds and hundreds of years old.
Select your towns carefully, when driving around Puglia, as not all are worth the stop, even if they are noted for their 5th C frescos. Here are the towns that made it to my list: Cisternino, Locorotondo, Castro, Gallipoli, Specchia, Leuca, Otranto, Ostuni, Monopoli, Manduria ( for the wine museum).
If you intend to stay on the secondary roads as I did, then full coverage on your vehicle is a must as every single road needs to be paved. Paving the roads would also help the cycle tourism that they are trying to encourage on the southern tip between the towns of Gallipoli, Leuca and Otranto.
During this R&D I have looked at 20+ Masserie and hotels and have found a great variety of accommodations and price points.Very few have baths. It is always a plus to be able to dine in your hotel for those evenings that you are to tired to go out again.