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TRAVEL IN PUGLIA

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Make no mistake Puglia is hot.  And where is it you ask? The heel of Italy is where one finds the region of Puglia, once part of Magna Grecia as Sicily was  but with less evidence of that occupation apart from the grand centuries old olive trees that line the highway as you drive from Bari  to Otranto.  Many of these trees are 800+ years old and seem to have personalities of their own. Puglia is so hot that the olive presses are often found under ground  as evidenced when you wander the promontory of Gallipoli and can visit one. 

But Puglia is hot because  they have masserie.    What is that you ask? Masserie once fortified  farm structures  dating from  15th-18th C   are constructed of limestone  and often painted white or are  left to yellow golden  color with age.  To the benefit of travelers  today many of them have been turned into delightful  accommodations in all price points.

The architecture of a masseria  is a mix of Greek, Moorish and Spanish influences and no two are alike.  Built with protected inner courtyards they were designed to house families of workers and animals together and to protect them from the raiders.  Remember,  Puglia is surrounded by water as both the Adriatic and Ionian seas circle this region and it was not uncommon for raiders and mauraders to arrive, take, pilage,  and often  mix with the populations and stay. Protection  from the masserie was paramount  to survival, which is why no masseria worth its masonry was build along the coast.  

As you wander these beautiful and intrequing structures you find niches and stone walls all wrapped into a safe haven with shade and privacy.  Colors range from    tans to  beiges, whites and neutrals and  with accents of bold spice and brillant pinks and turquoises.  Styles change as you switch hotels from bohemian chic to sophisticated even down to a  maitre in a tux.   But for most it is a relaxing environment, casual and cool, so just pull up a pillow and relax.  

Which brings me to how long to stay? For me one week was enough to cover  the historical visits required while visiting Puglia.  I suggest  a stay of just a  few days in the Lecce area and then spend a few days further north.  If your vacation is about  rest  and recharge, and  beach then  add as many extra relaxing days  as you see fit.  I need to mention the other architectural structures are  trulli - those wizard of OZesque structures with low  entry clearence  and a pointed roof which are found in the val d' Itria,  which  includes Alberobello.  This is a Unesco world heritage area  enchanting yes,  but once is probably enough. 

As a region it is easy to drive around in  as long as you stay along the Adriatic side and follow the highway from Bari  as the infrastructure is good all the way to Otranto. The roads in the Salento province need a bit of work  but that is part of this territory.  Villages are sweet and sincere , and people gracious and welcoming.  And the foods and wines are so  very good and worth the trip .  Negroamaro is an indigenous grape which  produces a  full bodied red and has been  growing there for 1500 years.  Primitivo is the other primary  red grape ,  possibly related to Zinfendel.   Puglia produces renown rosati  and we all know drinking rose` goes with heat.   Whites are produced  in Puglia but here  it is really about the reds and rosati. 

image.jpeg Puglian cuisine is heavy on antipasti so try not to over load on that course ( but you could and would).   By now we all are familiar with burrata what you thought was mozzarella, we now know is really much more flavourful and delicate with all that cream inside.   Orecchiette ( little ears) pasta with sausage and broccoli rabe as THE classic plate.  

One more thing I would like to add;  I would not go  all the way to Puglia and miss going to Matera in Basilicata. Matera is one of the most unique places I have been to in Italy.  More on that later. 

 

 

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Guest Saturday, 08 August 2020

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2008 - 2012 CONDÉ NAST TRAVELER ITALY SPECIALIST

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