PUG (LIAN) LIFE

TORRE SANTA SABINA (has a great restaurant, 15 minutes from Ostuni).

TORRE SANTA SABINA (has a great restaurant, 15 minutes from Ostuni).

When it comes to visiting Italy, many of us have been to Rome or Tuscany since the boom in city break budget flights back in the early noughties. Indeed, a lot of us probably have that HILARIOUS shot propping up the Leaning Tower of Pisa. But how many of us have been to the lesser known, but perhaps more beautiful region of Puglia?

I’ve been lucky to have visited Puglia on a number of occasions now. My wife’s parents own an old barn, surrounded by olive trees, that’s been refurbished and extended to make a beautiful family home hidden away in the Apulian countryside. I’ve got to be honest though, before I met Georgia, I’d never even heard of Puglia. Fast forward ten years, it feels like a second home.

After inspiring my sister and her husband with millions of Instagram posts over the years, they travelled to Puglia last year for a holiday. After falling in love with the area, they made it the location for their recent wedding. Since the wedding, and another million Instagram posts, I’ve had LOADS (okay, maybe six) messages asking about Puglia: where to stay, nearest airport, what towns to visit, and one person even asked for my sister’s wedding planner’s details.

OSTUNI, SUMMER 2018

OSTUNI, SUMMER 2018

I’ve detailed as much as I can below for those that might be considering a visit. It really is a beautiful part of Italy that provides a completely different and perhaps more authentic experience to the larger, wealthier cities in the north.

Flights:

We tend to fly to Brindisi (from Stansted) but Bari is a good option too. The flight takes just under three hours (Ryanair dependent of course).

Towns:

Ostuni is very close to where my in-laws’ are and it’s a beautiful white town sitting proudly on top of the hills. The main square in the old town is lovely, especially in the summer evenings when it sparkles under the never-ending trail of festoon lamps. It’s the perfect place for a post-supper gelato, and a walk up the hill from the main square leads to the cathedral plus a wonderful countryside view that goes all the way out to sea. There are also some cool bars hidden away down windy white alleyways behind the hill which are worth checking out for a late-night Campari. The new town, like a lot of Apulian towns, is scruffier, but does have a couple of great coffee shops and a coffee seller who’s housed in the tiniest of shops selling the most amazing beans. The traditional Saturday morning market also offers lots of great fresh food if you’re self-catering.

Being close to the airport, and well-placed to reach other towns, Ostuni might be a good base to stay if you want to remain in one place.

POLIGNANO A MARE

POLIGNANO A MARE

Polignano A Mare is probably my favourite town in Puglia. It offers a stunningly beautiful pebble beach nestled between the rocks and there’s also the ridiculously wonderful restaurant, Grotta Palazzese, located in a natural cave that looks out to sea.

Alberobello is a town known for its mass of trulli (typical Apulian conical stone huts). Trulli are dotted all over Puglia, but Alberobello is the place to go to see how unique they are in one place (I think there’s 1500 of them!). I’m not sure if I’m 100% correct here, but the idea behind the design of the trullis is that they were inhabited by the poor, and if they ever committed a crime, because of the way the stones were stacked, one stone could be pulled out and the whole house would collapse. Harsh. Very, very harsh. Nice to look at though.

Other towns that are worth visiting are: Lecce, Martina Franca, Monopoli, Bari (old town) and Brindisi (port). If you’re into your ceramics, also visit the ceramics quarter of Grottaglie. The are lots of beaches worth visiting up and down the coast but my favourite from the ones we visit is Torre Pozzella.

MARTINA FRANCA

MARTINA FRANCA

You might want to also check out the towns of Gargano and Otranto - I haven’t been but I’ve heard good things.

MASSERIA CELANO

MASSERIA CELANO

And finally… a special mention for the Masseria Celano. This beautiful masseria is where we stayed for my sister’s wedding. Located about 10 minutes outside of Grottaglie, this old farm is surrounded by wonderful countryside, it’s finished to a high standard and it’s traditional yet incredibly comfortable. But the thing that made our stay so great was the service and friendliness of owner, Andrea and his colleague, Tiziana. They are two of the most charming and helpful people I’ve met in recent years. They both repeatedly went out of their way to ensure our stay was unforgettable and went above and beyond during an unexpected emergency. Thank you, Andrea and Tiziana.

Do check the Masseria Celano out

(here’s their Insta too @masseria_celano).

MASSERIA CELLANO

MASSERIA CELLANO

Also, have a look at the masseria where my sister got married, which is just down the road, Masseria Angiulli Piccolo.

I hope all that helps. It’s a large area so I’ve probably missed loads of places that we’re yet to discover, but because of the slower pace of life, plus the 30° heat, just taking it easy with a morning coffee and a stroll fuelled by gelato with a backdrop of beautiful architecture is a lovely way to spend time in Puglia.

LECCE

LECCE