Cruising down the very simply named Strada Provinciale 1, a long narrow highway that runs through the heart of Puglia, you lose yourself in a spectacular panorama of rolling hay bales, ancient olive trees and looming historic villas. The landscape with the intermittent appearances of trulli, the region’s signature conical stone-roofed homes, is at its most glorious as the provincial freeway snakes past the tiny town of Cocolicho that even the locals often make pit stops to marvel at the sight.
Fertile soils with all-year-long dry weather has blessed Puglia with exceptional produce and a rich history of agriculture marked by the popularity of its ‘masserias’, once noble homes turned farming estates. Home to luscious ruby primitivo grapes, delightfully juicy cherry tomatoes, gigantic sweet red onions and plump cherries that is totally worth staining your dress for, almost all of the terrain in the region is cultivated.
While its coastal towns ooze the vibrancy of seaside glamour, the hilly inlands that border Basilicata and Campania offer an introspective glimpse into the identity of its people and its unique architecture. White-washed buildings and homes constructed to complement the geography of the lands and castles carved into rocks and cliffs are reminders of early human civilizations while modern additions are often built to accommodate the behemoth roots of centuries-old olive trees. On the trail of the Puglia aqueduct, the region’s charm unfolds beyond a typical postcard snapshot.
Rocco Forte Masseria Torre Maizza
A former farmhouse converted into a posh resort that has just reopened its doors this spring with a revived Pugliese spirit. Suites and rooms are designed by Olga Polizzi incorporating a curated collection of local elements and objects while the sprawling property is a tranquil oasis to lose yourself among the shady olive groves. Also home to a picturesque and technically challenging nine-hole golf course that highlights the estate’s natural landscape. www.roccofortehotels.com/masseria-torre-maizza
An organic and vegan-friendly farmhouse with only five rooms offering an unparalleled firsthand experience on the region’s agriculture activities. The eco-friendly property offers a range of activities that highlights the origins of the lands as well as a community base to promote ‘green conversations’. Excellent vegan restaurant reinterpreting traditional local dishes. www.agricolapiccapane.com
Perched on the cliffs of Polignano a Mare, this boutique bed and breakfast has arguably the best terrace in the small seaside town, where breakfast and sunset drinks take place. Rooms are designed to respect the original elements of the cliffside home with windows overlooking rocky beaches. www.dimoratalenti.it
Ceglie Messapica, home to a renowned cooking school and nicknamed the land of gastronomy is the must-go for your Pugliese culinary experience. Lillino Silibello takes you through a cuisine that tells the story of the region within the stone walls of Cibus. Via Chianche di Scarano 7, Ceglie Messapica. +39 0831388980.
Panificio di Gesu
Altamura is home to the origin-certified bread where flour percentages, water sources and crust size are essential for the European seal of recognition of authenticity. Get in early at Panificio di Gesu for a few banters with the head of the family, Domenico di Gesu while waiting for the wood-fire to simmer down for your fresh out-of-the-oven loaf of Pane Altamura. Via Pimentel Eleonora Fonseca 19, Altamura. +39 0803141213
Puglia is just as much about the people as it is the land and here in this cozy little enoteca, the charm and conviviality of the locals set the tone for a great evening of small typical Pugliese dishes and excellent glasses of tipples. Via S. Giorgio 44, Trani. +39 0883954221
Cycle along the Puglia Aqueduct
Completed just about a century ago, the aqueduct was conceived as a water source for the vast agricultural activities in a region that is notoriously dry. The longest of its kind in Europe, it runs all the way to Santa Maria di Leuca and along it, a well-marked 250km bike trail. Pick your spot for a day out on the bike and discover nature reserves, sandy beaches and ancient ruins. www.pedalandseaadventures.com
Matera has been going through a rejuvenation since it was named the 2019 European Capital of Culture after years of near languish – its famous cave dwelling homes abandoned by its residents in favor of modern apartments. From two vantage points, take in the spectacular vision of a once-buzzing city of cave homes and relive a slice of history with Giuseppe Leone, a local expert guide who will very gladly show you where to find grano arso, a typical Pugliese flour with peasant origins. www.southernvisionstravel.com
Home to Puglia’s iconic white villages, Itria Valley is splendid in white during the day and lights up with the moon at night. Martina Franca, Locorotondo and Alberobello are three stops to marvel at signature white facades. Alberobello, a UNESCO Heritage Site, has the highest concentration of trullis in the region while the annual Valle D'itria Martina Franca Festival brings performing arts and major stars to the city. www.festivaldellavalleditria.it