Unique architecture in the region’s ‘white towns’
Puglia’s Valle d’Itria is a fertile valley dotted with picturesque towns. Ostuni, known as the ‘citta bianché’, or white city, is famed for the dazzling effect of its uniformly whitewashed buildings. Get lost in its winding streets and alleyways, and marvel at the unique mix of Byzantine and Gothic architectural styles.
One of the best places to stay in Puglia that’s close to the white city is Rosa Marina. Drive 10 minutes towards the coast and you’ll come across its olive groves, sand dunes and quality hotels.
To stay in the midst of white-washed buildings, Costa Merlata is a tiny resort, whose architecture displays just how close Greece is across the Ionian Sea. Instead, you could opt for the foodie city of Gallipoli, or stay in Otranto with its 15th-century, five-sided castle.
And in between these three resorts is Lecce, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, which is the architectural jewel in Puglia’s crown. This stunning city is famed for its unique Baroque buildings, and intricately carved limestone facades decorated with gargoyles, cherubs and unusual twisting columns.
Naturally beautiful landscapes and national parks
Puglia has numerous nature reserves and national parks, which have helped to preserve the region’s striking beauty. They hold several surprises, such as the Margherita di Savoia Saltpans, a lesser-known natural beauty spot. The saltpans are formed of white, man-made salt ‘mountains’, and a network of unique pink tinted lakes.
Meanwhile, in the Sentiero Airone Nature Reserve you’ll discover Europe’s largest colony of pink flamingos. And in Alta Murgia National Park is a limestone plateau encasing thousands of preserved dinosaur prints.
The largest protected natural area in Puglia is the Gargano National Park, which encompasses the ancient forest of Umbria. You can walk down hiking trails bathed in dappled sunlight, and visit the Tremiti Islands, untouched paradises surrounded by clear waters perfect for diving.
Miles of sun-kissed coastline
With the longest stretch of coastline of any region in Italy, Puglia is surrounded by two seas, the Ionian and the Adriatic. This means that there’s no shortage of Puglia beaches and coastal towns to explore.
The Salento peninsula in the south of the region contains some of the most beautiful beaches in Italy. One of these is Pescoluse, known as ‘The Maldives of Puglia’, as its white sands and sparkling waters mean it resembles this tropical paradise.
For a more laid-back beach, head to the locals’ favourite seaside resort, Polignano a Mare. This medieval town is perched on craggy limestone cliffs, surrounded by pebbled beaches and the calm waters of the Adriatic.
Exquisite regional cuisine
Puglia’s multicultural past is showcased in its food, which uses local, seasonal ingredients in simple, delicious dishes. In Puglia you’ll find pasta with a difference, such as *orecchiette* or “little ears” (named after their shape) which are often made by local women outside their homes. Or, try *ciceri-e-tria,* an Arabic-influenced dish made from fried pasta and chickpeas.
Visit a street-side*rosticceria* for the ultimate in fresh food – you choose a cut of meat and it’s cooked on a grill in front of you. Whereas, in the capital, Bari, locals adhere to *el crudo barese*, the tradition of eating sea urchins, octopus and other local fish raw and unseasoned. If you aren’t brave enough to indulge, Puglia has many other delicious seafood dishes. Their locally made cheeses are also famed throughout Italy – the *burrata di Andria*, a soft mozzarella, is best eaten in the first twenty-four hours after being made.