8 Places Only Locals Know in Puglia

Puglia’s Secrets Revealed…well, some of them

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    Puglia is easy to spot on a map as it forms Italy’s ‘boot’ in the far south of the country. It’s an area of immense beauty, with quaint old towns, farming communities, and a seemingly endless coastline against the Mediterranean Sea. Life moves slowly in Puglia, and certain places feel as though modern life forgot about them.

    The regional hub of Lecce has as much grandeur as Italy’s more famous northern cities, but for anyone with an adventurous spirit, this list will get you in touch with the secret places in Puglia that only locals know.

    1

    Nardo

    Wander around a pretty Puglian town

    This ancient village in Salento has seen wave after wave of invasions by Europe’s empire builders, most notably the Romans, Byzantines and Normans. Each new conqueror brought new culture and technology, which can still be seen today in the design of the buildings and town layout.

    Head for Piazza Salandra in the centre of town to soak up the period charm. The finest buildings are designed in a grand and flamboyant style known as Barocco Leccese. You can visit Nardo on a daytrip from Lecce. It’s around a 30-minute drive from the regional hub.

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    Autor fotografií: Lupiae (CC BY-SA 3.0) upraveno

    2

    Alberobello

    Discover the unique tales of the trulli houses

    The houses of Alberobello look like a fantasy novel come to life. The cone-shaped, slate roofs are unique to Puglia, and are readymade for exploration. In truth, this town is firmly on the tourist track for Italians, but foreign visitors are fewer in number, so you still get a real sense of Italian life.

    These peculiar houses are known as trulli, and some of them have been turned into shops, taverns, museums, and even hotels. Spend a few hours exploring the streets, then head up to Piazza del Popolo for a great view over the town.

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    3

    Cisternino

    Eat fantastic Italian-style BBQ

    Cisternino is a village north of Salento that’s famous for its grigliata style of cooking. This Italian-style barbecue brings people from miles around to try the chargrilled cuts of lamb, veal, and chicken. For the bravest among you, some restaurants in Cisternino even serve donkey.

    The whitewashed houses and elegant piazza offer a beautiful snapshot of southern Italy, and in the evenings, the smell of the barbecued meats fills the air and locals head out to eat and socialise. You’ll also find some trulli-style buildings, with their iconic cone-shaped, slate roofs.

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    4

    Polignano a Mare

    See the crashing waves below the town and explore the caves

    This town is built into the rocks and caves above the Adriatic Sea. The town has been the staging post of several invasions over the centuries, and this has made the coastal town a fascinating place to explore.

    You must visit Lama Monachile beach and the nearby Roman bridge while in Polignano a Mare. Plenty of trattorias and cafés line the coast, which offer great views of the waves ripping into shore. Polignano a Mare is a 30-minute drive south from Bari, along a charming coastal road. It makes a wonderful daytrip, but it’s best on weekdays to avoid the huge weekend crowds.

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    5

    Ostuni

    Visit the ‘White Town’ on the southern tip of Pugila

    At first glance, Ostuni looks more Greek than Italian. The whitewashed houses are surrounded by the Mediterranean on one side and an ocean of olive trees on the other. In fact, this is one of the few places in the world where you can find olive trees more than 1,000 years old. They are considered monuments by the Italian government.

    This small, hilltop town has dozens of ancient landmarks to see. Walk the narrow streets and visit the citadel and the cathedral, stopping frequently at cafés. Fantastic seafood and some quirky hotels make it a great stopover when exploring Italy’s ‘boot’.

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    6

    Castellana Caves

    Descend into the largest karst caves in the world

    This underground network of caves is 3 km long and 70 metres deep, under the Itria Valley. You can see fantastical formations of rock, crystalline stalagmites, and underground lakes. Thanks to occasional breaks in the surface, sunlight streams in and makes pretty patterns. These karst creations are the largest of their kind in the world.

    Located in central Puglia, the Castellana Caves are 40 km south of Bari. Guided tours of the caves are given in Italian and English.

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    Autor fotografií: Alessandro e Damiano (CC BY 4.0) upraveno

    7

    Altamura

    Eat medieval bread

    Altamura is a beautiful medieval village on a hillside on the Murge Plateau. Grandmas in headdresses can be seen chatting loudly, in a timeless scene that could easily be from 100 years ago. The hilltop town is most famous for its iconic bread, pane di Altamura. Every family of the village used to have a unique stamp that was applied on the bread by the baker. Some families carry on this tradition.

    This area has been occupied for millennia, which was proven when the calcified remains of a 130,000-year-old human was found in a limestone cave close to Altamura.

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    Autor fotografií: Sailko (CC BY 3.0) upraveno

    8

    Gallipoli

    Combine culture with stunning natural landscapes

    This coastal town is the cultural heart of the Gargano region. The wild and rugged area is full of dramatic cliffs, unique rock formations, and sandy beaches. There’s even a beach right in the centre of town.

    Gallipoli Old Town is built on an island that's connected to the western side of Italy’s ‘boot’ by a 16th-century bridge. The newer districts have spilled onto the mainland and the two halves of the city make an interesting contrast. Visit the Castle of Gallipoli and Sant Agata Church, as well as some celebrated Renaissance frescos.

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    Written by Paul Smith and Francesco Foschetti

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