Located in southeastern Italy, Puglia or (Apulia) is known for being the heel of the country. It is a destination often visited by well worn travelers who are tired of tourist crowds and typically laid out sightseeing ventures. The Baroque architecture, traditional cuisine and lengthy strip of coastline all add to its allure and stunning beauty. If you plan on getting away from Italy’s beaten track for a more romantic side of the country, here are some suggestions for what to do in Puglia.
Bari is the capital of the region and it’s port makes it Puglia’s most important city. Visit the ancient area of the city, Bari Vecchia where you can see the medieval neighborhoods and the Basilica of St. Nicholas. There are plenty of other religious buildings to visit including Cathedral of Saint Sabino, Church of Saint Gregory, Monastery of Saint Scolastica and Palazza del Catapano. Take some time and go shopping for pottery, red wine, shoes and handmade pasta or wander around the eastern part of the city for the best restaurants.
Travel to Lecce
Considered to be the Florence of the south, Lecce is both stunningly beautiful and a fantastic choice for a foodie destination. Make sure to check out some of the religious sites that are scattered around the city like the baroque style cathedral, the Obelisk, Porta Napoli, The Holy Cross Church and the Paisiello. Taking cooking classes is a highlight of visiting the city so take some delicious recipes back home with you as a souvenir. Try the Stile Mediterraneo Italian Cooking School or the Awaiting Table Cooking School for one of the best experiences. While you are wandering around, make sure to taste the Lecce Cake and the delicious gelato.
Take a Tour
Wandering around the various destinations of Puglia on your own can be rewarding but joining a tour can also be a good time. They can be found all over the region and in all types of varieties and styles. Consider the Gravinia tour that takes you underground to visit old towns and the subway or the Discover Otranto and Countryside bike tour which allows you to get in a bit of exercise while sightseeing.
Check Out The National Parks
There are several national parks in the region but one of the top ones to check out is Gargano. This park includes multiple islands, has great coastal views and is home to protected forests. You can also visit Pollino National Park which was founded back in the early 90’s and includes interesting towns, pre-historic remains, flowing rivers and forests. Visit Sila National Park if you want to view a more mountainous landscape as well.
Shop For Traditional Souvenirs
You can buy a shot glass or key-chain in almost any destination so make your shopping in Puglia count by going for the more traditional souvenirs. Embroidery, pottery and woven baskets are some of the top handmade crafts to bring home to give to friends or display in your house.