Discover Apulia: The Heel of Italy
Dominated by the presence of Federico II and by three artistic cities with a glorious past: Barletta, Andria and Trani, the landscape of the Murgia offers wide horizons and bold colours, sometimes harsh and a bit lunar. One of the most interesting places in the area is the enclosed Valle d’Ofanto where there is the longest river in the region, the Adriatic Sea and at the top of the hill lies Alta Murgia National Park, which stretches mostly into the territory of Bari. If you like good food, Imperial Puglia is the right place for you. Not only will you find DOC wines such as the red Canosa, Barletta and the sweet Moscato di Trani, but also authentic cuisine, featuring the wild vegetables of the Murgia, the Cardoncello mushroom, the lampascioni (wild onions) and mozzarella and burrata from Andria.
If you’ve ever dreamt of lying on an almost deserted beach in August or longed to eat fish right on the water, Gargano, the most northern part of Puglia is for you. But Gargano is not just sea; it’s a religious land full of Christian devotion, with the Sanctuary of San Michele and Monte Sant’Angelo and Padre Pio in San Giovanni Rotondo. For a little known route, head through the Monti Dauni, to a city with a fascinating past named Lucera, which continues on to one of the most beautiful villages in Italy known as Bovino and spectacular cathedrals such as the one at Troia.
Along the longest seafront in Italy, there are ribbons of golden sand, fishing ports and towns perched on steep coastline where the wind and sea caress the walls of the palaces. Most buildings date from the Umberto era and were designed in littorio style (the architectural style used during fascist times) or liberty style such as the Teatro Kursaal Santa Lucia, then there are eclectic buildings such as the Provincial Government building or the Albergo delle Nazioni monument.
The coastline is dotted with caves, coves and cliffs, along the bay, like in Polignano a Mare or Monopoli, famous for it’s long beach, Capitolo with its sand dunes and inlets. Here you can relax in the most exclusive beach bars and enjoy the excellent Pugliese sushi, grouper, shrimp and sea urchins.
Taranto – Magna Grecia
Taranto was the ancient capital of the Greek Empire. A swing bridge divides the Old town from the New Town, which lies on an island. Here, the rock is the absolute highlight.
Further south in Parco delle Gravine, which surrounds the Gulf of Taranto, Laterza is the largest canyon in Europe and is known for its tradition of Mottola bread. Then there’s the countryside of Crispiano, the town of a hundred farms and Castellaneta Marina, with its Aleppo pine forests, white beaches and crystal clear sea.
Itria Valley and Trulli’s Murgia
The countryside here is characterised by trulli and dry stonewalls that surround vineyards and olive groves as far as the eye can see. This area is the essence of the Itria valley. The scenery is magical – to enjoy it properly, visit Alberobello, a UNESCO world heritage site with its 1400 trulli.
The medieval centre of Cisternino, evokes the image of an oriental village with its lime coloured houses. Between July and August, take a trip to the beautiful baroque town of Martina Franca and attend the Festival of the Itria Valley, which offers many opera performances.
Along Torre San Leonardo and Torre Canne, you’ll find the Regional Park delle Dune Costiere, a surprising landscape that stretches for 1100 hectares with a variety of habitats: from the beautiful beach to the expansive farms with centuries-old olive trees. Enjoy the lovely Ostuni, the white city, which is a succession of arches, towers, palaces, courtyards, terraces, alleys, noble mansions and shops.
Salento is a borderland embraced by two seas, with miles of coastline and where white sandy beaches give way to secret coves and cliffs. The Adriatic coastal road to Brindisi, passes through Otranto and offers breathtaking views, but there’s a hidden Salento created by underground monuments, early Christian churches, caves and underground presses. Then there’s the visible Salento, distinguished by ancient sites that make this the largest megalithic garden in Europe.
Continue to Lecce to discover a beautiful Baroque city, filled with cloisters, palaces, papier-mâché shops, the Santa Croce basilica and Piazza Duomo. If you like good wine, take a trip around the winelands of Negroamaro and Primitivo.
At sunset, go to Brindisi where you can enjoy a drink overlooking the inner harbour, sitting at a table of one of the many cafes on the Regina Margherita waterfront. It’s one of the largest natural harbours in the Mediterranean, where two thousand years ago it was the major port for the Roman Empire and where the famous company Valigie delle Indie sailed direct to Bombay in the nineteen century.
Quirico is a member of cabin crew at Ryanair’s East Midlands base