This week I have chosen the heel of the beautiful Boot, a region called Puglia (Apulia). I spent my last family holiday here in 2002 and, although it was the beginning of the end as far as my marriage was concerned, those sad memories cannot erase the beauty and the perfect holiday I spent in these parts. We decided to hire a camper van and tour the area and it was the most amazing experience allowing us to visit many places in a two-week break.
Puglia offers far too much to be covered in one post so I shall take you along part of our camper van route which starts off on the ‘spur’ of the boot, the stunning Gargano promontory. A sailors paradise, full of culture, history and art.
The medieval towns like Vieste are a delight to discover and Mattinata can be traced back to 500 BC.
San Giovanni Rotondo, home of the infamous Padre Pio a venerated saint in Italy, is also home to an ancient round temple dating back to the 2nd century BC. Apart from the clear blue seas, Gargano is also a national park offering numerous treks for nature lovers and one last place that I must have a mention is the Tremiti Islands. A collection of five islands, two of which have been populated since ancient times and according to myth – the island was inhabited by Diomedes when he returned from the battle of Troy. We took the ferry over from the mainland and walked through the old towns. We had lunch in a tiny restaurant with fresh mozzarella and tomato salad served with capers foraged on the island and we hired a dinghy which we sailed around the island stopping off in the various bays to swim. I would thoroughly recommend a visit.
We drove through the province of Bari and enjoyed various beaches along our way towards Alberobello, an inland town home of the trulli. These cone-roofed houses are typical of the area, built amongst olive groves and used today as shops, bars, restaurants and villas to let. Each roof has a pinnacle or cross and strange stone markers said to have a magical significance. Walking through the streets is a surreal experience and a stop off in one of the stores to buy a ‘fischietto’ or whistle as a souvenir is another must.
Next mention must be Ostuni. An inland, white, medieval town which sparkles against the red, rich soil of the area. We ate at the Osteria del Tempo Perso in the centre of the town renowned for its excellent food and glorious wine list. The restaurant is separated into two areas, one with an oven dating back to the 1500’s, the other dedicated to the farming history of Ostuni. I ate the most delicious Buffalo mozzarella here, I can still taste the memory.
Castel del Monte, a 13th century castle standing high on a rock, is a UNESCO world heritage site and is also commemorated on the Italian 1 cent.
There is lots to be seen in Puglia. If you do decide to go then you must try the pasta of the area ‘Orecchiette’ with cime di rape (broccoli heads)
Delicious wines include Martina Franca and Locorotondo which are white and Primitivo, Malvasia Nera and Negromaro which are red.
Puglia is the major producer of olive oil in the country, try some on fresh bread and be sure to bring a bottle home with you.