Puglia has some of the brightest seas, most diverse art and architecture, most mouthwatering peasant cuisine, and kindest people in all of Italy
When I went to Italy for my citizenship residency, Mike and I decided to spend a week in Puglia, the southern/easternmost region on the Peninsula. Long and narrow, Puglia has about 500 miles of coastline that follow the Adriatic and Ionian Seas. Along the coast are beautiful sandy beaches, white limestone cliffs, and, believe it or not, a pine forest.
Bari, capital of both the region and the province (Bari), is second only to Naples in economic influence in southern Italy. For more than 2000 years, Bari has been an important seaport, and today it has both a new port to the north of the Old Town, and the Porto Vecchio (Old Port). There is a long walkway along the ports, and in addition to enjoying a view of the city from the observation wheel, you can sit and enjoy the sun or spend time kicking a ball around.
Also in the Porto Vecchio is a daily seafood market. Each morning, fishermen set up plastic tables, stacked boxes, and more from which they sell octopus, mussels, sea urchins, oysters, shrimp, cuttlefish, and any other fish they caught that day. People buy it and eat it raw right on the dock. No offense, but yuck.
Most people overlook Bari because it is a large, gritty, blue-color city, but we found it charming in its own way. I have to include a photo of one of my favorite finds—the walk signal on Corso Vittoria Emanuele. It almost summed up that lovable city perfectly.
About 35 miles southwest and inland of Bari is the small town of Alberobello which is famous for its conical white houses—trulli—that date to the 15th century. The ruler of the area at that time forced the peasants to build homes without using mortar, and the residents found that the round shape was not only easy to build but also able to support the conical roof.
While most of the small town has what we consider “normal” buildings, about 1400 trulli still exist (and people inhabit them). There are two districts that house the majority of the trulli. Rione Aia Piccola, the residential area is quiet and home to residents who still call the trulli home. Wander through the narrow, winding streets of Rione Monti, though, and you will find bars, cafès, restaurants, shops, B&Bs, and more. The main attractions, of course, are the trulli themselves.
Several of trulli call themselves museums, but they are, for the most part, shops. The main museum in town is Museo del Territorio. More than 10 trulli combine to display the ancient agricultural and building equipment as well as rooms decorated in period style.
I have yet to get to Lecce or Taranto, both of which are farther south on the boot. Taranto, birthplace of the tarantella, actually got its name from the tarantula. It is home to the main Italian naval base. Called the Florence of the South, Lecce has many Baroque monuments. In addition, it still connects to its Greek cultural roots. Many area residents still speak a particular Greek dialect.
Next time, let’s visit Venice.