(age at the date of return)

Puglia

An unspoilt paradise

The perfect holiday destination, with over 800km of pristine coastline, vineyards and olive groves, pretty villages and a wonderfully mild climate.

In the far south of Italy, Puglia is a region still unspoilt by mass tourism, despite its wonderful sandy beaches and turquoise seas. It’s famed for its exuberant baroque architecture but don’t expect the smart Renaissance towns of Tuscany; Puglia definitely has a more relaxed atmosphere.

One of the highlights is the village of Alberobello with its strange, conical-roofed dwellings called trulli, throwbacks to ancient construction methods but ingeniously adapted to modern-day living. The countryside of Puglia is littered with masserie, a sort of fortified farm typical to the region. Many of these are now hotels but you can still find working farms and wineries where you can drop in and sample the delicious local produce.

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Polignano a Mare

The centre of this large region is characterised by the fertile Murgia plateau which forms a gently rolling landscape dotted with olive groves.

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City of Lecce

Salento is the name given to the southernmost peninsula of Puglia where the Itria Valley ends and is home to some pretty whitewashed towns such as Gallipoli and Ostuni.

Places to see in Puglia

The Gargano Peninsula, known as the 'spur' on the Italian boot, is a mountainous promontory with a beautiful coastline and clear blue sea. The Gargano National Park covers much of the peninsula which is also home to the Foresta Umbra, woodland composed of oak, beech and pine trees. It's an area that's very popular with Italian tourists as there is a wealth of lovely sandy beaches near Vieste. Many also flock here to the oldest shrine in Western Europe dedicated to the Archangel Michael, who was said to have appeared here in 490 near a cave.

Just over the border in the region of Basilicata lies the fascinating town of Matera where the ancient district of the Sassi (meaning the stones) is home to hundreds of cave dwellings, thought to be some of the earliest human settlements in Italy. These caverns were inhabited until quite recent times until the population drifted towards the modern town. Now the area of the Sassi is being regenerated and there are many lively bars and restaurants, and indeed many of the caves have been turned into hotels. Now the Unesco World Heritage site of the Sassi and its churches carved in the rock and decorated with important wall paintings draw visitors from around the globe. Nearby are the Lucanian Dolomite mountains where there are some lovely walks and also one of the longest zip-lines in the world, the Volo dell'Angelo, where you can reach speeds of up to 120km an hour!

Castellana Caves

Situated in the limestone plateau of the Murge, these are some of the largest caves in Italy. Guides will accompany you underground to admire the huge caverns..

Trani

The cathedral on the seafront, a wonderful example of Romanesque architecture, and the Swabian Castle are well worth a visit, as is the colourful little fishing harbour.

Gallipoli

A small seaside town on the Ionian coast, which has become a popular destination mainly for its fantastic sandy beaches. Stroll through the pretty, narrow streets and watch the sun set from the port, before enjoying a wonderful fish supper in the open air.

Puglia Festivals

The Assumption if the Virgin is celebrated on the 15th August. Santa Maria di Leuca, on the tip of the peninsula, celebrates the Festa della Madonna di Leuca on the 15th when their statue is paraded across the harbour in a brightly decorated fishing boat.

In Locorotondo in the Itria Valley there’s a spectacular firework display on 16th August to celebrate their patron saint San Rocco. La Notte della Taranta is a 2 week long music festival that takes place in the towns near Lecce to celebrate the local traditional folk music and its fusion with other music from all over the world. Their traditional dance, the tarantella, known here as the pizzica, is an important part of the festivities.

Otranto Jazz Festival takes place in July with concerts in Lecce and Otranto by international artists and La Notte Bianca di Lecce, also in July, is a night when the town stays up all night to enjoy the entertainment.

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