For the ultimate off-the-beaten-track holiday you can’t beat the authentic southern regions of Puglia and Basilicata.
The best way to explore Puglia is by car and there’s plenty of countryside retreats you can use as your base. Must-see towns include Ostuni, known as the ‘White City’ where you’ll find boutiques, cafés and restaurants inside its walls. Osteria del Tempo Perso is worth a visit while you’re in the town and serves up classic Puglian feasts inside a cave. Alberobello is filled with trulli, the conical-roofed houses that are now a UNESCO World Heritage Site and Polignano a Mare is a fantastic seaside town that hosts the Red Bull Cliff Diving every year, but is perhaps more famous for its ice cream. Visits to these towns can be broken up by days spent on trendy beach clubs, eating in small seafood restaurants and discovering family-run olive oil farms that offer tastings.
Located next to Puglia, the region of Basilicata hasn’t hit the radar of most tourists yet, but with its capital Matera set to be the European Capital of Culture for 2019, that may be starting to change. This UNESCO-protected city is one of Italy’s oldest known settlements, with a sprawl of stone houses carved into the mountainside, known as sassi, giving it a unique landscape. This atmospheric city is perfect for a few days stay to immerse yourself in authentic Italy. Sample traditional cuisine, take walks along the ravines and discover hidden museums.
Add On: Cilento is around a two to three hour drive from Basilicata and it doesn’t get more authentic than this. Part of Campania, Cilento is known for its sandy beaches, national parks and mozzarella farms. You won’t find English widely spoken here but you will find friendly locals and beautiful seaside towns that will make you wonder how this region has remained undiscovered for so long.